Lt. Col. John Klatt said he was going to start easy in our two-person Extra 300L aerobatic plane. Though the idea was to show me first-hand what his performances are like, he wanted to take baby steps before subjecting me to upside-down tailspins and loops. Turns out, I didn’t make it very far.
It took us about 10 minutes to get from Republic Airport to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and for me that’s where it went downhill. I didn’t get the chance to see how fast we were going, but as the bridge’s arc filled the window, my head was in a white paper bag.
Klatt, a 21-year veteran of the Air National Guard who has done three tours in Iraq, is a star in the 2011 Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, where he has performed for the past six years. The 44-year-old has been flying since he was 17.
After my stomach settled a bit, Klatt lowered the plane so we could get a bird’s-eye view of Ground Zero, passing the Statue of Liberty on our left. Then he turned the prop-driven craft, banked hard and took two laps around Lady Liberty before zeroing in on a small group of Navy ships in the water, lowering me down there for a view. I watched our shadow thin as the right wing grew closer to being perpendicular with the water. He pulled up, realizing how sick it all had made me, killed the stunts and took me home.