Stunt pilot Bill Finagin fires up his Pitts S-2C plane as he
prepares to take a brave TV reporter for a spin, and a flip, and a roll above
the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.
Finagin is one of several pilots who will demonstrate
aerobatics at next month’s Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show.
The retired dentist from Annapolis, Md., has been a pilot
since 1955. Finagin began flying aerobatics at shows in 1981 and said he’s
looking forward to next month’s performance.
“We’ll show people what spins are like, loops, rolls, hammer
heads where we go straight up and then straight down,” Finagin said. “And fly a
little upside down and a little low level inverted flight so that it should
prove interesting to anybody that likes flying.”
Finagin said he enjoys all kinds of flying but find
aerobatics particularly fun.
“Well even today I find it difficult to fly 100 miles
without at least rolling the airplane once,” he said. “I guess the parallel
would be if you own a sports car once in awhile you just have to press down on
the accelerator, it just gives you that good feeling.”
Finagin’s airplane looks old, like something Snoopy on his
dog house battled as he fought the Bloody Red Baron in the old cartoon.
It’s a biplane, painted red, with blue detailing and a front
and rear seat. But the plane is relatively new. It was built in 2009 and
Finagin calls it the Porsche of aerobatic planes.
It sits next to a yellow biplane that really is old. Jerry
Wells is the chief pilot at Aerosmith Aviation in Martinsburg. When he’s not
flying a corporate jet he’s in his bright yellow Bucker Jungmeister, a German
World War II trainer plane.
“They were used by the Swiss Air Force, which is the
markings my airplane carries at this point,” he said. “They flew them until the
late 60’s as military trainers.”
Wells said the Spanish Air Force used the planes until the
“One of the best known things of the Bucker Jungmeister is
in 1936 it was part of the Berlin Olympic Games and they flew Jungmeisters as
an aerobatic portion of the Olympics,” he said.
Wells, who has been doing air shows about 12 years now, said
his Jungmeister has been updated with a modern engine.
Col. Roger Nye, 167th Airlift Wing commander, said
this year’s open house will not feature as many flying acts as it has in the
past two years because its been harder to raise sponsorship money.
Nye said there will be plenty of planes on display for the
public to look at.
“We know we have a couple of F-16’s coming from Hill Air
Force Base,” he said. “They’re not going to fly but they’ll be here for us to
The C-130 Hercules and other military aircraft will be on
display and one hanger will be full of civilian airplanes.
Last year’s air show was cut short after a World War II era plane crashed
while performing a six plane demonstration, killing the pilot. Nye said the air
show will have the same Federal Aviation Administration procedures in place
this year to protect the public.
“The only thing that that crash did for me last year, the only thing that’s
changed, is it convinced me that we had to do another air show this year
because flying is such a wonderful thing, such a wonderful spectator sport as
well as those of us who get to do it that we didn’t want to go out on a bad
note,” he said.
The Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show takes place
September 15- 16, 2012, at the Air National Guard Base in Martinsburg.