High Flyer

Ohio-based pilot Hunter
to perform for Regatta crowd

He flies an American-made,
experimental ‘hot rod’ airplane

By Vanessa Torline
Contributing Writer

(July 2012) – Brett Hunter’s earliest memory is sitting on top of a stack of phone books in order to fly his father’s Piper Tri-pacer airplane. Now 43, the Waynesville, Ohio, aerobatic pilot has 25 years of flying experience under his wings. He no longer needs the phone books.
For the second year in a row, Hunter is set to perform during the Madison Regatta on July 7-8. He will entertain crowds on the river with the Grote Industries Air Show between races throughout the day. Each show will run approximately 10 minutes.

Brett Hunter

Photo provided

Aerobatic pilot Brett Hunter
says his “hot rod” plane
fits his flying style.

From deciding he didn’t want a “real job” to building his house next to a runway, Hunter has made a career and a lifestyle out of flying. In the summer, air shows are popular at events, like airport openings and fireworks displays, giving him plenty of opportunity to get up in the air. He performs his aerobatics routine at air shows and airports around the country. He also flies a corporate airplane for a real estate company in Ohio.
Hunter flies an Experimental Pitts airplane based on a design from 1947 and built in 2000. The equivalent of a 1942 Hot Rod, the American-made muscle plane complements his style of aerobatics.
“I’m geared toward high-energy and a thrill factor,” he said. “I try to give people something they haven’t seen airplanes do before.”
The Pitts houses an engine built by Magnum Engines. As far as Hunter is concerned, it is the heart and soul of his airplane. “Engines bring a plane to life,” he said, “and people are going to feel it shaking through their bones.”
But the action takes planning. Hunter designs his own flight routine and modifies it based on the location. For the Madison Regatta, he has to adjust his flight pattern and turnarounds allowing for the span of the river, the Milton-Madison Bridge and the crowds in Milton and Madison. However, Hunter said his familiarity with the Ohio River area should make for a satisfying flight.
“There’s a danger element,” Hunter admitted, “but it’s showmanship.” He said he always tries to inspire an interest in aerobatics in someone watching from the ground. Like any other kind of performer, Hunter still likes to watch air shows and learn from the different techniques of other pilots.
One other pilot is Madison’s Cliff Robinson, who has performed an aerobatics routine for 10 past Regattas. He said he enjoyed the experience of performing for his hometown and hopes to do so again.
Robinson, 63, learned how to fly airplanes from his father, a World War II flight instructor. His father’s farm near Vevay, Ind., featured an airstrip that made flying easily accessible to him from a young age. He began flying solo when he was 16 years old.
When Robinson originally learned aerobatics, it was not a matter of providing entertainment but a matter of efficiency and safety. His father believed that all pilots should know how to do aerobatics in the event they found themselves flying at an unfavorable angle. If one knows aerobatics, Robinson said, “then whatever position you get that airplane in, you can recover.”
Flying does not completely monopolize Robinson’s professional life. He is a real estate broker and owns Hoosier Hills Realty, but he has been in the aviation business for more than a decade. He performs air shows in a “big and noisy” Boeing biplane. He also pilots a Super DeHavilland (a faster airplane used to supplement his air shows), an aerobatic training airplane called a Decathlon, as well as a standard traveling airplane.
Robinson has worked in virtually every capacity a pilot can work, including commercial flights, crop dusting, aerobatic showmanship and flight instruction. Operating out of the Madison airport, he often takes passengers on rides over the Jefferson County area in his biplane. He has given more than a thousand rides in the last 12 years.
Robinson has been flying for more than 40 years. In that time, he has spent more than 8,000 hours – almost a full year – in the sky.
At least he gets his exercise at the same time. “There is lot of physical work involved,” he said. “From the ground, it probably looks graceful, but in the cockpit there’s a lot of effort going on – steering and pushing and pulling. It’s like working out in the weight room.”
It is clear that piloting is important to Robinson. The same is true for Hunter, who does not think of flying as a mere form of entertainment. It is even more than a way to make a living. To him, flying is freedom.
“Aviation is one of the last forms of real freedom that you can enjoy in the U.S.,” he said. “When you’re on the highway, you stick to the pavement. In the sky, I can do what I want. I can wander.”

• For information on Brett Hunter, visit bretthunterairshows.com. For information on Cliff Robinson, visit cliffrobinsonaerobatics.com.

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