Long Island is beautiful upside down. Thanks to Lt. Col. John Klatt, I can say that with certainty.
“I’ve always enjoyed airplanes,” says Klatt, who began flying at 17. “My dad used to take me to air shows as a kid and I was always excited about it. That kid over there washing air planes, pretty soon he’ll be taking flying lessons, too.”
Klatt, who earned money for flying lessons by washing airplanes as a kid, will be performing at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Air Show at Jones Beach as a member of the Air National Guard, a reserve component of the United States Air Force. But first, he took me for a spin in the front seat of his red, white and blue two-seater Extra-300L aircraft, with only a plastic canopy between us and the wild blue yonder.
Now, when I told people I would be taking this flight and that I’d have to wear a parachute while being strapped into the front seat of a plane the size of a mid-size SUV, they started looking at me like I was not too long for this world. But all I could think of was: I’m going to visit the sun. And that I did.
Strangely enough, dangling upside down over Long Island seemed very natural. Things don’t look real from up there, where the tide is coming in above and the sky is at your feet.
But for Klatt, a veteran of three combat tours in Iraq, who has logged more than 2,000 hours at the controls of the F-16 alone, this was just another day in the sky.
After a few loops, a few rollovers and a hammerhead or two, it was time to head back down to Earth.
“The whole reason for me being here this week is really for me to connect with the kids. The Air National Guard lets you get out and meet people, have a job and get training in different fields. It’s fun to be able to provide positive entertainment.”Visit Klatt, his plane and the Air National Guard on May 28th and May 29th at Jones Beach State Park from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. www.jonesbeachairshow.com; www.johnklattairshows.com