Guide to the Great

A performer searches the airshow circuit for this season’s top acts.

Erik Hildebrandt (Erik Hildebrandt)
Air & Space Magazine

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Steve flies the aerobatic acts in the Super Chipmunk, which was built as a basic Canadian military trainer in the 1950s. The team shortened its wings, re-skinned them with metal, enlarged the control surfaces, and super-sized the engine to 385 horsepower to get more performance out of it, but the craft still has the charm of the era in which it flew.

Steve makes the most of that look by turning his airshow into a toe-tapping 1950s Sock Hop. His pre-recorded narration begins with a guitar riff, then the voiceover says, “Come on, Steve, let’s rock and roll.” Bill Haley and the Comets respond in song with “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock,” and the Chipmunk pulls up into its first vertical dance move. The upbeat music includes crowd favorites like Elvis and Chubby Checker.

At night, Steve’s airplane becomes the Fire Dancer, looping and twirling thousand-foot streams of fireworks off its wingtips, while a Bob Seger soundtrack thrums in the background.

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