Seeing the world upside down for the Princeton International Air Show
Having his world turned upside down is not unusual for Paul Dumoret.
In fact, over the years from an inverted position in the forward cockpit of the green Chinese, gull-wing Nanchang CJ-6A aircraft, he’s grown quite accustomed to looking up to see the ground.
Today (June 28) is Media Day at the Princeton Airport to showcase the town’s upcoming International Air Show on July 21 and Dumoret will be one of the aerial chauffeurs for attending journalists.
As experienced organizers of such events well know, two of the things reporters like most are free meals and a ride in an airplane.
After signing waivers absolving most people and agencies in the known world of any responsibility should the unthinkable happen — and a quick nod in the direction of the large contingent of firefighters — it’s off to the waiting 50-year-old aircraft.
Sliding into the Nanchang through the open canopy into the battered cockpit is like stepping back in time or at least how it’s portrayed in the old war movies.
One can easily imagine the aerial dog fights, the rolls, evasive and attack strategies used by the pilots but the only shots that will be fired today will be from a camera.
Once snugly strapped, harnessed and bolted into the seat Paul goes over some of the dos and don’ts for the flight.
Those mainly centre around not touching anything that moves, including the control stick, rudder pedals and throttle.
Because this warbird was used for training, there are dual controls in both cockpits and any interference could well be - to put it mildly - fatal.
Once inside, the veteran Osoyoos pilot fires up the nine-cylinder, 285 horsepower piston engine and with a puff of smoke we’re taxiing down the runway in preparation for take off.
“All set Mark?” I hear on the headphones.
“10-4,” is my crisp, military response.
Already waiting for us at the start-up point was Bill Findlay in his bright yellow Harvard warbird.
For our photographic pleasure today the two pilots along with a third plane plan to do some formation flying which, to the inexperienced, appears to simply be getting as close to each other as possible.
At an airspeed of about 120 mph and a slight buffeting from the winds as the sun warms the green valley below the pilots put their skills to the test.
Riding in the Harvard’s rear seat is Mike Roberts of CHBC Television and I can almost read his lips as his eyes follow the up and down movements of the nearly conjoined wing tips.
But all too soon our 30-minute demonstration flight is coming to a close as we head back in the direction of the airport.
After the obligatory high-speed, low-altitude fly past (times two) it’s back up in the air for the final approach.
There is a slight delay however as we have to wait for a lagging Cessna who is in line ahead of us and is taking a little longer to set down.
I hear a few mumbled words over the headset from Paul about taking all day but not long afterwards we are safely on the ground.
Like similar Media Days this one has been a great adventure, not only for the flight and chance to talk to the pilots — lunch was free too.