Lake Winnebago sprawled out above the plane as aerobatic pilot Jeff Boerboon flew the aircraft upside down before suddenly righting it, causing my head to spin.
I was strapped into the front seat of the red Jack Links/John Klatt Airshows Extra 300L, holding onto the plane’s frame for dear life.
After taking off around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday from the Kermit Weeks Hangar at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, we played parkour as we raced toward the fast approaching storm clouds, rolling over, flying vertically and suddenly dropping along the way.
Before the flight, I had asked Boerboon if flying in a stunt plane was like riding a roller coaster. He just laughed, saying I’d have to tell him once my feet were on the ground.
“OK, that wasn’t similar at all,” I told him once we landed.
“Thanks for saying that,” he said with another laugh.
Boerboon, 47, has been flying with John Klatt airshows for five years.This is his second year flying the Extra 300L, and the Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco, at AirVenture.
The Jet Waco, a custom-built aircraft that flies during AirVenture airshows, looks like a 1929 taper wing biplane but is complete with a CJ610 jet engine from a Learjet 24, Boerboon said.
That combination is very unique he said. When the plane takes off, it looks just like other biplanes out at AirVenture, he said. But then, all of a sudden, there’s the sound of a jet engine. And when the crowds realize the jet sound is coming from the biplane, the laughter starts, he said.
“It’s quite a play on your senses,” he said. “Cartoon aerobatics, that’s what we call it sometimes, because it just doesn’t look right.”
The Jet Waco flies 250 mph, but it only has enough fuel to complete a 12-minute airshow, so to transport it from site to site, it has to be disassembled, which the crew can do in 50 minutes, Boerboon said.
In addition to the Jet Waco and Extra 300 L, Boerboon has a two-seat Cessna 340 and his competition aerobatic plane, the Extra 330 SC. He also flies Boeing 757s and 767s commercially. When he’s not flying as an aerobatic, competitive or commercial pilot, he works on restoring his military fighter plane.
But he enjoys flying in airshows, especially AirVenture, because the spectators are often aviation enthusiasts, he said.
“The crowd really understands airplanes, so it’s special in that respect,” Boerboon said.
For Boerboon, being at AirVenture is also special in another way. Boerboon first came to AirVenture when he was seven years old. It was the first time he got to see aerobatics live, and now when he flies the Jet Waco during air shows, he can’t help but feel honored.
“It’s a privilege to go into the crowd and see all the young kids,” he said, some of whom may grow up to be aerobatic pilots too.