Page 14 - World Airshow Nov-Dec-2018
P. 14


                          Don’t Read Greg’s Column

                          R      eading Greg Koontz’s column   a somber phone call.

                                                                 This magazine reported, in our September/October issue,
                                 in this issue depressed me. It re­
                                                               Julie  Clark’s  decision  to make  2019 her  “Farewell Tour,”  after
                                 minded me that I have rare­
                                 ly witnessed the annual ICAS
                           Convention’s tribute to those Gone West.   41 years of performing. Certainly she could continue for a year
                                                               or two, right? Sure. But I applaud her for making the decision
                           As soon as I suspect the video is ready to   to wrap it up, rather than potentially wrap it up by accident.
                           roll, I feign the need to immediately get   Congratulations, Julie. You’re getting out while you’re on top of
                           to a restroom. I know it is the right thing   your game. Kind of a Johnny Carson decision.
                           to honor our lost friends, but I need to   One  chilling  memory  I  have  is something  Jimmy  Franklin
                           mourn in private, lest I upset everyone   said during a performer/VIP dinner. We were in a hangar dur­
                           seated nearby, as I wail like a moirologist.  ing a show in Georgia. Kyle was at the table. Jimmy mentioned
                             What’s a moirologist? It’s a person who   there was one thing he would never do: get old and sit in his
        is paid to mourn (loudly) at a funeral. Other terms that denote   wheelchair, drooling. He said, “When I go out, I want to go out
        this profession are sobber, wailer, or crier. I couldn’t make money   in a ball of fire.”
        doing that, because I very rarely wail, and I can’t cry on cue. I can   I am sure he was just making a point, as we’ve all done on oc­
        muffle a cry in a restroom if necessary, but prefer solo crying if   casion. But I awoke at 2:00 a.m. one morning during a TV news­
        it must be done at all.                                cast, and viewed footage of an accident in Moose Jaw, Canada.
           I also have the irrational expectation that the next time the   An airshow accident. It was bad enough to see any airshow ac­
        “bag of hammers” comes down, it will be associated with some­  cident on TV, but simply devastating when I realized who were
        one else. Not me (in my Cub, the airplane that almost can’t kill   involved – Jimmy and Bobby.
        you), not an acquaintance, and certainly not a good friend. Just   In my opinion, Jimmy was too young to call it quits. Had he
        someone who, unlike a reasonable person, did something he or   walked away at 57 years old, I think he would have been miser­
        she should not have done, and paid the price.          able. So what took him down? Again, and only in my opinion:
           After calming down about Greg’s column, I noticed the cap­  This business involves the inherent risk­vs.­entertainment ratio
        tion for a photo of Bill Leff in this issue’s Snapshots section. Bill   which, according to John Mohr, is difficult to calculate. And if
        has been in the airshow business since 1976. He has more than   the R/E calc doesn’t get you, how about admitting that all are
        4,000 hours in the T­6. After 42 years of performing in airshows,   susceptible to (ta­da): mistakes and accidents?
        Bill’s photo in this issue shows him waving goodbye. He’s retiring   Jim “Fang” Maroney lived about 30 miles from my home air­
        from airshow flying.                                   port. He flew out of Watertown, Wisconsin. I flew out of East
           That made me smile. I recalled the time he had an engine out   Troy. When I was recovering from some surgery and hadn’t
        over a Wisconsin freeway, and decided the four­laner was his   flown for a few months, Fang stopped by in his Li’l Stinker to
        best available “runway.” He touched down behind a police car,   help me get some  time in my Skybolt. He asked what I wanted to
        and bounced – right over the squadcar, landing in front of it.   do in the airplane. I said, “Show me how any basic aerobatic ma­
        Wow. How can a guy like that walk away from flying airshows?   neuver can result in an inadvertent spin.” True, that was a rather
        (My guess: He simply walked away when it was his time for him   naïve request, but he amazed me by instantly flying a sequence of
        to do so.)                                             maneuvers that would qualify as an airshow act – an act with an
           A few days ago I got a call from John Mohr. Someone told him   idiot at the stick, resulting in an incipient spin at the end of each
        to check out AvWeb, which is fairly easy to find at   maneuver in this improvised performance.
        He checked it out and found that I had written a piece about air­  Fang didn’t die in an airshow. He was simply on his way to
        show pilots, in which I prominently bragged about John’s 30+   an airshow. His aviation credentials were amazing, including his
        years of flying his unique act in a 220­hp, non­electrical, non­  graduation from Top Gun as the #1 Top Gun, and (at the time he
        inverted, stock, Stearman. John congratulated me for not sugar­  passed away), serving as chief pilot of Delta Airlines. I can’t get
        coating the inherent dangers of airshow flying. And he humbly   it out of my mind that we spent hours together flying in his or
        said it was good to know that he is not totally forgotten in the air­  my airplane, including to and from another airshow performer’s
        show world. (If you ever saw him fly, you haven’t forgotten John.)  funeral.
           What I enjoyed most about that phone call was simply hear­  So, I’m happy and sad. Happy for those who continue march­
        ing the instantly recognizable voice of now­retired John Mohr,   ing toward an uneventful conclusion to the life of an airshow pi­
        who mastered a most amazing airshow performance, and   lot, and sad that such an outcome is unpredictable.
        walked away from it after more than three decades. His decision   At this year’s convention, there will again be the ritual of hon­
        was logi  cal and practical. I presume he knew there would come a   oring the lives of those we lost in the past twelve months. It is
        time when he’d simply be incapable of flying such an outrageous   the right thing to do. We won’t need to hire any moirologists.
        routine, and he made his choice.                       We know how to mourn. I’m just not good at doing it in public.
           However: Some difficult­to­handle memories came up as we
        spoke. We talked about Jim LeRoy. We talked about how we had   P.S.: Greg’s column? You have been warned.
        often talked about entertainment vs. danger. It was, in some ways,

                                 14  November/December 2018
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