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Stunt pilot can't wait to roll his plane past the Ocean City Boardwalk - Ocean City Sentinel: Arts & Entertainment

Stunt pilot can't wait to roll his plane past the Ocean City Boardwalk

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Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2010 1:00 am

Michael Wiskus logged onto eBay in 1999 and placed a bid for a destroyed orange PITTS Model 11 aerobatic plane. “I knew the plane would change my life,” said Wiskus, an aerobatic aviation performer. “And it did.”

Whether it will help Wiskus break a personal record to roll his plane 16 times consecutively at the 2010 Ocean City Beachfront Air Show Sept. 19 is still up in the air.

“The first time I rolled it, it shocked me. I never saw the world go round that fast,” Wiskus said.

Wiskus might have the experience to accomplish this. In his 30-plus years of flight experience, Wiskus has gained honors such as the bronze medal in the 2004 World Aerobatic Competition, a first place win in the 2003 North Central Regional Aerobatic Competition and he was named to the 2002 United States Aerobatic Competition.

But to pull off the record, Wiskus said, will be a combination of power and strength, a feat he likened to balancing on top of a basketball. “You can only do it for so long before you lose balance,” he said. The plane has a rolling rate of 400 degrees per second.

“I do love running that razor’s edge,” Wiskus said. “I love taking an airplane right to the extreme.... There’s a real passion in that.”

By extreme, Wiskus means steering a tottering plane at 250 mph overtop of a body of water. While the plane is upside down. Maneuvers like this one are particularly dangerous because of the need to watch out for ocean-flocking seagulls which can be pulled in towards the plane by the force of the high fast-flying craft.

Other favorite flight tricks include the tumble torch, one of Wiskus’ creations in which the airplane tumbles end over end, stops, and then rolls in mid-air. The switchblade is another of Wiskus’ original stunts and involves a 45 degree angle rollup, followed by a snaproll, which is a rapid horizontal spin, and another rollup at the same angle. Air show crowds are captivated by moves like these, Wiskus said, which is his aim in performing them in the first place.

“I go to air shows to perform and share my passion,” said Wiskus, who first became interested in aviation after attending his first air show at age 10.

Wiskus took his first plane ride at the age of 15, strapped as a passenger in an open-air cockpit that rolled, spun and skipped its tires on across the glassy water of Clear Lake in Iowa. That ride, joked Wiskus, a professional aerobatic plane rider and performer in this weekend’s 2010 Ocean City Beachfront air show, ruined him for life and sentenced the teenaged Wiskus to a lifelong identity as an aerobatic pilot.

He hopes his performances will do the same for others.

Look for Wiskus and others at the 2010 Ocean City Beachfront Air Show Sunday, Sept. 19, from noon to 4 p.m. along the Ocean City beachfront.

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