Aerobatic pilot promotes the Air Guard at EAA Air Venture

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Ryan Roth
  • 115th Fighter Wing
In the shadows of the world's largest commercial airliner and the very first commercial space vehicle, the greatest part at the Experimental Aviation Association's AirVenture event this year for some Wisconsin Air Guard members was an incentive ride in a Air National Guard-sponsored stunt plane. 

Maj. John Klatt, a pilot from the Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn., is a civilian aerobatic pilot who partners with the Air National Guard to assist in their recruiting efforts at air shows across the nation. In addition to his performances at the air shows, Maj. Klatt provides incentive flights to recruiters and Guard volunteers as part of his work to promote the Guard, while helping recruit and retain its members.

"I cannot stop smiling," said Airman First Class Melissa Childs, personnel specialist with the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, after her ride. "I was very nervous to fly in this plane because I did not know what to expect." 

The land-based part of the program is the mobile recruiting unit, part of the ANG tent display at the annual air show and display in Oshkosh, Wis. The unit is designed draw visitors' attention to the ANG and to assist recruiters and other volunteers as they answer visitors' questions. 

"Our overall mission is aiding in the recruiting and retention for the Guard. The EAA has the largest air show in the world and this is a great opportunity to spread the word about the Guard," said Maj. Klatt. Each incentive flight lasts 15 to 20 minutes and often includes aerobatics stunts like rolls and stalls. 

The aircraft Maj. Klatt flies is the Staudacher S-300D, which is capable of pulling more than 20 G's, which is twice the load of the F-16C Fighting Falcon. 

"Maj. Klatt was respectful of our fears and would not give the Guardsmen more than they could handle on the plane ride," said Capt. Shawn Linch, an electronics combat officer from the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron in Elmendorf, Alaska and a volunteer at the ANG display. 

Last year, over 500,000 people attended the EAA Air Show and this year it was expected to surpass that, according to EAA staff. 

"Coming to Oshkosh gives us the opportunity to speak directly with individuals who have an interest in aviation, essentially our bread and butter," said Tech. Sgt Nikki Crivello, a recruiter with the 128 ARW. "During the run of AirVenture, we get just over 100 recruiting qualified leads. 

Each year The John Klatt Air Show, contracted by the ANG, participates in 18 to 20 air shows. Their season starts in April and ends in November.

"To be able to represent the ANG servicemembers from across the nation is an awesome privilege for me," said Maj. Klatt.