Best seat in the house

Your insides might protest, but a flight with an Air National Guard aerobatic pilot is far from ordinary.

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PASCO -- "Looks a lot different from this perspective, doesn't it?" Lt. Col. John Klatt asked.

"This perspective" referred to flying upside down high above the green farmlands not far from Tri-Cities Airport. Airplanes don't normally fly upside down, but then Klatt isn't your normal pilot.

Ripping around in the sky like a nitro-fueled hawk is all in a day's work for Klatt, a pilot for the Air National Guard and one of the stars of the Tri-City Over the River Air Show today through Sunday. This year, reporters were invited to let themselves be strapped into an Air National Guard Extra 300 aircraft for a ride-along with Klatt to see what it's like to perform "exciting aerobatic maneuvers in the sky."

Speaking from a first-person perspective, the "exciting" part is definitely right on. "Head-spinning" works great too. "Vertigo-inducing" could be worked into the mix as well, especially after maneuvers which Klatt laconically said "pulled five or six gees," something that really gets the attention of both your head and stomach.

One stunt in particular involved going straight up until the plane stalled. At that point, the aircraft turns around and plummets straight at the ground until Klatt pulls it out of the dive.

When I asked him later what the maneuver was called, a questionable cell phone connection made it sound like it was a "porque roll," which, in turn, made me wonder if that was something dreamed up by Roland Garros, a French daredevil World War I pilot.

"No, it's a called a 'torque roll' with a 'T'" Klatt said when I read that spelling back to him.

"It's called that because when the aircraft slows down enough, the ailerons stop working and the engine's torque turns the plane around ... ."

Klatt has been flying air shows since 2001 in addition to serving as an active member of the Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn. During the show season, which usually starts in March and goes through October, he said he flies about 300 hours between training, flying to locations and then actually flying in the shows themselves.

Does he follow any special workout routine to ready himself for the stomach-twisting maneuvers he performs? Not really.

"I try to get to the gym and work out. I eat right and make sure I get enough sleep," he said. But on the other hand, putting an aircraft through its paces while being watched by the crowds below never becomes routine.

"That's the unique aspect of being in an air show," he said. "Every flight is special. That's the fun part of the job."

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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Weekend air and water show schedule

Air Show Schedule

(All times for today through Sunday)

11:35 a.m. -- Bad Yak!

11:47 a.m. -- Commemorative Air Force B-17/B-25 flyover

12:02 a.m. -- U.S. Coast Guard rescue demonstration

12:22 p.m. -- Bill Stein airshow

12:34 p.m. -- John Klatt, Air National Guard airshow

12:46 p.m. -- Huey/Cobra helicopters flyover

1:05 p.m. -- ACC F-15E Strike Eagle flyovers

2011 Water Follies schedule

FRIDAY AFTERNOON

1:50 p.m. -- Unlimited Qualifying - H1 Unlimited Fast Lap Friday

4 p.m. -- Vintage Unlimited Hydroplane Exhibition

4:40 p.m. -- Grand Prix West Challenge Race

5:10 p.m. -- Western States Insurance Unlimited Hydroplane Dash for Cash

SATURDAY

8:15 a.m. -- Grand Prix West Testing

9:10 a.m. -- Unlimited Hydroplane Testing

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. -- HAPO Community Credit Union Over the River Air Show

Noon -- Hydro Drivers Autograph Session

1:50 p.m. -- Legends Casino Vintage Heat 1

2:20 p.m. -- Babcock Services Grand Prix West Heat 1

2:30 p.m. -- Air Show Performer Autograph Session

2:50 p.m. -- Cascade Natural Gas Unlimited Hydroplane Heat 1A

3:10 p.m. -- Plumbers amp; Steamfitters UA Local 598 Unlimited Hydroplane Heat 1B

3:40 p.m. -- AHBL, Inc. Grand Prix West Heat 2

4 p.m. -- Legends Casino Vintage Heat 2

SUNDAY

8:15 a.m. -- Unlimited Hydroplane Testing

9:30 a.m. -- Grand Prix West Testing

10:15 a.m. -- Vintage Hydroplane Testing

11 a.m. -- Opening Ceremonies

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. -- HAPO Community Credit Union Over the River Air Show

1:50 p.m. -- Connell Oil Unlimited Hydroplane Heat 2A

2:10 p.m. -- American Family Insurance Unlimited Hydroplane Heat 2B

2:30 p.m. -- Legends Casino Vintage Heat 3

3:10 p.m. -- Plumbers amp; Steamfitters UA Local 598 Unlimited Heat 3A

3:30 p.m. -- Cascade Natural Gas Unlimited Heat 3B

3:50 p.m. -- Atomic Screenprinting Grand Prix West Final

4:30 p.m. -- Lamb Weston Columbia Cup Unlimited Final

4:45 p.m. -- Awards Ceremony - ANG Stage

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