Oh crud. We haven’t even left the ground and I’m already biting my bottom lip, trying to ignore the sickening pit in my belly.
Dave Mathieson has just outlined ‘Plan B’ for me. And while a backup plan in most situations is a good thing, maybe not so in a high-flying, stunt-performing, aerobatic plane.
Mathieson – known in most circles as Super Dave – has been flying planes for 25 years. He has 15,000 hours of commercial flight experience, but only two years aerobatic experience. Can I really trust him? His mom says so.
On the back of Super Dave’s black coveralls is his mom’s stamp of approval: Voted #1 Aerobatic Pilot in Canada (by his mom).
Back to Plan B.
A heavy red parachute kit is strapped over my shoulders and up through my legs. In the event of a “catastrophe,” I am to pull the metal lever positioned to the left of my breastbone. It’s important, he says, that I look at the lever first, then pull.
Apparently other passengers (not on Super Dave’s watch thank goodness) have gotten overly excited and tried pulling the parachute right off instead of the life-saving lever.
We board the two-seater, custom-made, light, aerobatic biplane. I’m in the front. Super Dave is in the back.
As he zig zags down the runway, he asks if I like roller coasters. Sure, I say, who doesn’t?
“You’re going to love this,” he says, revving the engine and speeding down the tarmac.
Seconds before my body is flung to the back of my seat, my eyes linger on a warning to passengers posted below the dashboard: This aircraft is amateur built and does not comply with federal safety regulations for standard aircrafts.
Flying high through the Chilliwack sky, with Mt. Baker on one side of me and the Fraser River on the other, I start thinking this isn’t so bad, it’s actually quite beautiful. I briefly unclench my fists, and relax my belly.
The air cools. The plane speeds up. We’re heading straight into the face of a tree-lined mountain. Does he even know? Can he see the mountain? How can he with me in the front? I grab hold of the lever. I squeeze my eyes shut. I make promises to every god I can think of as long as they keep me alive. The world is spinning, my guts are stuck in my throat, oh crud, this is it. I open my eyes.
“How did you like that?” Super Dave laughs into the microphone. “Want to go again?”
He does a 360 roll with the plane, then flips it to one side, then quickly reefs it over to the other. My stomach flips and lurches right along with it. I love it.
The 20-minute flight I had is only a small glimpse into what people can expect to see from Super Dave this weekend at Chilliwack Flight Fest.
His scripted routine features continuous rolls, vertical moves, tail slides – all fast-paced and aggressive, he says.
Super Dave has been flying since he was 15, and been dreaming of it for as long as he can remember. While commercial flights are his roots, aerobatic flights are his passion.
For the past two years Super Dave and his yellow and black checkered Pitts Special X2C have been performing in airshows all over North America.
Not once has he had the feeling of motion sickness, or of his stomach up in his throat, or the onset of dry heaves.
“I’ve loved it right from the start,” he says.
Chilliwack Flight Fest begins on Saturday at 6 p.m. with a dinner and dance at Firkus Aircraft hangar. Tickets to the dinner are $25, available at the Airport Coffee Shop.
On Sunday, the free event begins at 10 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m.
For more information, visit the website www.chilliwackairshow.ca.