Reporter takes acrobatic flight in Air Show planes

Cincinnati-based aerobatic team Redline knows how to “tear up the sky.”

The duo, known for their acrobatic flights, will perform Saturday and Sunday at the 2016 Vectren Dayton Air Show. On Friday, I hopped into the backseat of Ken Rieder’s experimental aircraft.

At the Dayton International Airport, the two Redline planes sit next to each other on the tarmac. Rieder performs with Jon Thocker, a retired airline captain who flew jets for worldwide cargo service. The two have been flying in tight, aerobatic formation for more than 10 years, and they are a well-oiled machine by now. They even built the aircraft themselves.

The Redline duo specializes in opposing, inverted formation maneuvers — weaving in and out of each other and perfecting sharp turns. They will perform every day at the air show, and intend on giving the crowd a display of daring skill.

Rieder’s calm demeanor dissipates any of my remaining anxiety as we prepare to enter the aircraft. Passengers of this small aircraft must attempt to clumsily get into the cramped cockpit.

With one foot on the right wing of the plane, I swing my other leg into the cockpit and slide down into the seat.

“There’s no easy way to enter a small plane,” Rieder said.

The Redline aircraft are Van’s RV08s, and go as fast as 280 miles per hour. With a 200 horsepower engine, the plane is small in size but capable of swift and sharp maneuvers in the air.

Thocker’s plane drives next to us as we head onto the runway. We quickly accelerate and take off into the sky. The ride is smooth and calm, and we head away from the airport. Looking over downtown Dayton, the buildings stand out in contrast to the outlines of rivers and streets.

Our flight lasts about 25 minutes altogether.

With low-hanging clouds, it’s hard for the pilots to show the true capability of the aircraft. The conditions are not ideal for their thrilling maneuvers. But skies clear up just for a moment, and we have a short opportunity to pull two or three G’s. G-force stands for the force of gravity on a body or the force of acceleration. The plane swings completely sideways, and we level out seconds later.

It’s an exhilarating feeling, prompting all the blood in your body to rush to your feet. Suddenly, I understood why Thocker and Rieder are addicted to the sharp excitement of aerobatic flight.

“You can just imagine what we’ll do tomorrow,” he said.

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