I wrote in Light & Shadow #15 about my love for airplanes and how being affiliated with the media provided unique flying opportunities.
To promote Red Baron pizza and raise money for charities, the Red Baron Squadron formed in 1979. The team flew open-cockpit Stearman biplanes — once used to train military pilots. In addition to performing in airshows, the team often stopped in communities for a little barnstorming.
On several occasions, I donned a skullcap and goggles for a bug-eyed flight with the Baron.
“If we have a problem and I say ‘bail out’ — jump.” In reality, one places a great deal of trust in their pilot, especially if the idea is to divert from straight and level flight to aerobatic maneuvers. I believed the odds were pretty good that I’d return to terra firma without the aid of a parachute.
Sadly, the Red Barons would suffer tragedies in the late ‘90s and finally met their end when the pizza company restructured their marketing program.
My buddy Chuck is a pilot. I had a project that required aerial photography and hired him to fly me. Afterward, we landed at an airport nearby for some breakfast. When we got back in the airplane for the flight home, he reached behind the seat and pulled a harness over my shoulders. “Hook this to your lap belt,” he said.
Chuck turned me every way but loose that day in his aerobatic airplane. As fun as it was, my equilibrium was such a mess when we finished it was all I could do to get home. I spent the whole afternoon on the couch.
I think any flying henceforth will be the straight and level kind.