Acrobatics for breakfast: reporter gets awakening in the sky (with video)

News reporter Kelvin Gawley goes for a ride in a stuntplane prior to the Abbotsford Airshow

Abbotsford News reporter Kelvin Gawley rides in a Extra 300 stuntplane.

Abbotsford News reporter Kelvin Gawley rides in a Extra 300 stuntplane.



I have experienced the ultimate solution to morning fuzziness: looping, diving and rolling through the skies in a tiny stunt plane.

Shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday, I was outfitted with a parachute and strapped into a small two-seater stunt Extra 300L, sponsored by beef jerky brand Jack Link’s. I had only met pilot Jeff Boerboon moments before, and my life was now in his hands.

We picked up speed down the runway, gradually gaining altitude.

And without warning, we pulled nearly straight up. I could feel the G forces pulling downwards on my face and my eyeballs migrating to the back of my skull. We hurtled towards the sun and I made an involuntary noise I hope never to repeat.

Just like that, I was awake.

The Fraser Valley stretched beneath us – farmland specked by trees, roads and homes, with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

The view was that much more breathtaking after Jeff flipped us upside down. I could see for miles in every direction, as I looked up at the ground, with my stomach in my throat.

After a few big loops, some barrel rolls and something called a Cuban eight, my brain was scrambled like the eggs I skipped this morning.

Jeff would later tell me these maneuvers were “some nice light stuff to begin with.”

“Then we stepped up to the 200-level classes,” he said later.

The next moves were an ungodly combination of loops, twists and stalls. At one point, we were falling backwards through our own “airshow smoke.”

After all that, Jeff told me it was time for me to take the reins, directing my attention to the stick in front of me. And just like that, I was the pilot and Jeff the passenger.

Tentative at first, only daring to make the slightest movements left and right, up and down. Before I knew it, after gaining a bit of confidence, and with some coaxing from Jeff, I was pushing the plane into a hard left and executing my very own barrel roll.

Not bad for someone who only moments before had only ever boarded a handful of commercial flights.

It’s probably a good thing Jeff doesn’t serve pretzels or nuts on board, because after all the early-morning acrobatics, I began to feel a bit queasy.

Jeff steadied the craft, allowing me to take some deep breaths and win a serious wrestling match with nausea.

In the end, it turns out we pulled as much as 6 Gs, or six times the usual force of gravity – which sounds impressive until you hear the plane is capable of as much as 8 G, with two passengers, and 10 G, when Jeff is flying on his own.

Back on the ground, with an entirely new appreciation for the terrestrial lifestyle, I was fully alert and ready to tackle my day.

The Extra 300 most likely won’t perform in this weekend’s Abbotsford Airshow, but Jeff will be flying a one-seater craft he says is much more impressive – the Screamin’ Sasquatch – the world’s only biplane powered by both a propeller and jet engine.

The plane will be performing on all three days of the airshow.

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