Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Greatest Show on Turf, 2011 - Jelly Belly

Kent Pietsch, a newcomer to Geneseo, stole the show in his 1941 Interstate Cadet. The Cadet was made for a limited time by the Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Corporation to train primary military pilots. It's a tandem two-seater comparable to a Piper Cub or Aeronca Champ.  According to the announcer, this Cadet had a 90 horsepower engine.

The Jelly Belly Cadet first appeared in the middle of an aerobatic routine flown by Rob Holland and Rick Volker. One of the aerobatic aircraft appeared to clip the Cadet, and a yellow aileron fluttered to the ground.  Ah, forced perspective - a trick used so effectively by airshow pilots and Peter Jackson.

Pietsch flew a drunken newbie aerobatic routine on a single aileron while the show announcer played up the "who is this yahoo?" bit.  Later, a wheel was observed to fall from the airplane (though both mains were obviously still attached).

Pietsch performed a second routine in the middle of the show with an objective of landing on the roof of a moving RV.

To my eye, this looked completely insane.  The winds at Geneseo were variable and gusty.  The RV was driving on grass, trying to match the Cadet's speed.

Owing to the unpredictable winds, it took three tries.  The first time, the Cadet slipped off the left side of the platform, veered toward the corn, and seemed to clip some of it as he struggled back into the air.

On the third run, Pietsch planted the wheels on the platform.  We could see him vigorously working the rudder trying to keep the still-flying tail aligned with the direction of travel in the variable crosswind.  He then applied power to crawl along the platform and worked the main wheels into indentations placed near the front.

Success!  Looks like that RV needs some enhancement to the front suspension.  I'll bet that Pietsch needed that toilet paper lying at the base of the RV when this routine was done.

Of course, the next question becomes: once you have an airplane on the roof, how to do get it off again?  The RV drove back to the approach end of the runway, turned around, and accelerated.  Pietsch got the tail flying and...

...launched the airplane back into the sky.  This was simply incredible to watch.  Sure, the raw power of the Viper West F-16 demonstration was impressive, but the airmanship we saw Pietsch demonstrate that afternoon was truly amazing.

Pietsch parked the Cadet close to where we were standing and emerged.  Not some aeronautical deity, but just an ordinary looking guy.  The woman next to me gushed, "that was so, so, so, so, so AWESOME!"  Pietsch laughed.

"What she said!" I added, and earned another chuckle.

Jim commented, "I can't believe you're not sweating more!"

"I don't know about that," Pietsch replied.  He pulled his hat off of his head and displayed a moist pate.

"Did you used to be a crop duster?" asked someone next to us.

"Yup," Pietsch answered him with a modest smile.

After all the warbirds, the aerobatic acts, the C-130 and Viper demonstrations, Pietsch closed out the show circling the field at 6000' while Enya's "Sail Away" played over the sound system.  He shut down the engine and performed a gorgeous dead-stick aerobatic routine with cotton-candy smoke streaming from the Cadet's wingtips.

Below, Pietsch's RV driver stood in the middle of the runway waiting patiently.  When it finally ran out of altitude and energy for aerobatics, the Cadet slipped to the turf and rolled down the runway.  The Cadet rolled slower and slower, finally stopping just as the hub of the prop made contact with the palm of RV driver's outstretched hand.


What an amazing, quiet, dignified end to an afternoon dominated by the roaring of propellers and the shriek of turbine engines.  And to think, I actually considered not going this year!


  1. Sounds like a fun day at the airport! I have only seen you tube videos of that routine, hope to one day see it live. Great photos!


  2. Wow, looks like an awesome routine. I would've loved to see that! Emerson does something similar - the dead stick part - at Stewart every year (they have an annual free airshow every Labor Day weekend) in the Decathlon.

  3. It was definitely worth the price of admission to see all three routines. The rest of the stuff in-between wasn't bad, either!