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Making it ‘look easy’

Aerobatic planes buzz above Canby Air Show crowd

Photo by Mike Lamb Craig Gifford maneuvers his stocker 300 plane for a flyby so spectators at the Canby Father’s Day Air Show got a good look a the aerobatic aircraft.

CANBY — The Van’s RV-8 buzzed above Myers Field Airport with as a line of spectators gawked at the aerobatic machine in a sky full of clouds.

“He’s going to stop the aircraft from flying, have it twirl and come down like a dead leaf straight out of the sky,” explained announcer Aaron McCartan. “I assure you he did not shut the engine off. Just got it idle. And here comes the spin. Straight down, two-and-half-times spin straight down — going to set up a loop.”

Ten minutes later, the plane headed toward the landing strip.

“That was a beautiful landing,” the announcer said. “He made that look easy.”

The aerobatics and landing was part of three performances during the Canby Father’s Day Air Show on Sunday. The show returned after being postponed in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic.

“It’s wonderful to see people out here,” Galen Killam, the pilot, said after the show. “Amazing, especially, after last year and everything we all went through. It was awesome to see everybody, enjoying each other and I just love to do this.”

Killam has been flying aircraft since the 1980s as a commercial airline pilot. The Neenah, Wisconsin, resident left aviation to earn his chemical engineering degree. But he later returned to being an aerobatic pilot. His wife bought the experimental aircraft as a Christmas gift.

The plane has two seats so his wife can accompany him to the air shows.

“She will get in with me and we’re going home today. So I can take two people to the show and I can give rides. I love to give rides to kids because seeing their expression is priceless. It’s awesome,” he said.

Killam said he likes to do hammerheads,

“The first thing, I spunned into the box, so that’s a spin. After the spin, I came down. One wing is flying and the other is not flying. And the flying wing just rotates around the other wing. So it’s a pretty cool maneuver. So I did two-and-half turns spins coming in, then I was doing loops,” he said.

Grant Neilson showed off his CAP 232 during his aerobatic display. He bought the aircraft in France and had it shipped to the U.S. five years ago.

“It’s a great airplane,” he said.

The Sarasota, Florida, resident’s aerobatic experienced goes back more than 20 years

“My first airplane ride as an adult was an aerobatic ride when I went to air show like this and I just loved it. I had so much fun that a month later I was taking flying lessons. I knew I wanted to do it,” Neilson said.

He loves the torque roll, which is advanced aerobatic maneuver that is considered demanding on the pilot and airplane.

“When you go up and then you pull backwards out of the sky, that’s always thrilling,” Neilson said.

“I go out and practice at altitude that is pretty high, not like I do in the airshow,” he said.

“Every spring — many, many hours of practice before I go in start in lowering my altitudes. I have flown enough and good enough and with enough advanced training that I’m sure I can get out of any adverse situation if I have enough altitude.”

Craig Gifford performed in his stocker 300.

“It’s got 330 horsepower, 530 cubic inch engine,” Gifford said. “It burns way too much gasoline, but it has a lot of power and it goes straight up. I always liked the shape of this airplane. I like the way it flies. It’s got incredible performance. Great overall airplane.”

He bragged about all the smoke and noise during his performance.

“I was doing what’s called aileron rolls. Every orientation I do, I’m flying straight level. I do 45s — I fly straight up and I do them straight down. Snap rolls, aileron rolls in every direction,” Gifford said.

His love for the aerobatics started as kid going to air shows with his dad, who was a pilot.

“I’ve only been flying air shows for about a decade or so, but I grew up going to them as a kid,” Gifford said.

“I like it all, but the stuff that I do vertically because this airplane shows so well vertically. Going straight up with the tumbles. I enjoy that.

“In the air show environment, it’s freedom.”

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