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S.D. pilot, ‘Elvis' at air show

Posted on 6/12/2008

Jim Peitz, an aerobatic pilot from Pierre, S.D., has spent 34 years up in the air and for the last 18 of them doing what most would consider a terrifying activity.

Peitz just chuckles when he's asked why he does aerobatic flying.

"Some people think it's because I'm deranged," he said.

Submitted photo Jim Peitz, a stunt flying pilot from Pierre, S.D., stands next to his Extra 300. Peitz will be doing his aerobatic performance at the air show in Jamestown June 28.

Toni Pirkl Archive
Considering he taught himself aerobatic flight by reading a book, it wouldn't be hard to believe. But the truth is, for Peitz it was the logical next step in his flying career. And he wanted the challenge. He was also willing to devote the thousands of hours to practice.

"It's the pinnacle of the aviation industry," he said. "It's difficult and technical flying. An airplane isn't supposed to do what you make it do. And the longer you fly the more technically ad-vanced you get, the better the show you're able to give to the audience."

Peitz will be demonstrating his aerobatic skills at the Jamestown Air Fest June 28, the opening day of James-town's 125th Anniversary Celebration. The Extra 300 he'll be flying is strictly an aerobatic airplane, but he'll also be doing stunts in a modified Beachcraft Bonanza.

"The Beachcraft Bo-nanza is basically a single-engine passenger plane you can see at any airport," said Jon Cave, co-chair of the air show committee. "But he does what you'd never see a private pilot doing with a Beachcraft."

Peitz said his Beach-craft routine is about 10 minutes long, which may not seem a very long time. His act in the Extra 300 is another 12 minutes.

"But when you're tumbling end over end, the time goes by pretty quick," he said.

At 200-plus miles per hour, Peitz said the manuveurs have to be very controlled and very precise. In essence, the entire routine is choreographed. Then it's practice, practice, practice every day.

"It's a lot of abuse, mentally very challenging and physically de-manding," he said cheerfully. "You practice to hone your skills."

But the routines actually begin on the ground. For example, Peitz is doing a dual act with Warren Pietsch for the Air Fest. He said the two of them walked and talked the routine on the ground first. Then they took to the air.

"There's a lot of practice required for a dual act. It's a very important part of the equation and Warren and I are perfectionists," he said. "We'll be flying in formation with the airplanes only 2 or 3 feet apart. It's very tight and very fast. I guarantee it will thrill the crowd."

Peitz and Pietsch are also performing in the opening ceremonies for the air show. The Skydive Fargo jumpers will be bringing the flag to the ground during the national anthem.

"He and Pietsch will be circling the jumpers during the ceremony," Cave said. "After the colors hit the ground, both men will be doing some bonus maneuvers that you don't want to miss."

"It's a very unique opening for the air show," said Dave Robertson, 125th Committee co-chair and liaison to the air show committee.

Peitz said this will be his first time in Jamestown. He's flown the Minot or Minot Air Force Base shows for the last five or six years. A native of South Dakota, he's lived within 30 miles of Pierre his entire life, he said. He thinks he's probably the only aerobatic performer in that state and has performed at air shows throughout the country.

But he enjoys being on the ground almost as much as he enjoys being in the air. He'll be spending time with the fans, Peitz said, talking about what he does and about his airplanes.

"I'm looking forward to being there and meeting people," he said. "I'm a Dakota boy and I love to have people come and talk to me."

Peitz isn't the only one who likes being on the ground visiting with the crowd. Stu Moment, also known as Elvis, is returning to do his aerobatic act in Jamestown along with humor and entertainment on the ground.

"Everyone remembers Elvis from the last air show we had," Robertson said. "He's a real grandstander - a lot more fun than his act."

Entertaining both on and off the ground, Cave said Elvis flies the only bi-wing in the show. His airplane is a modified Pitts Special.

According to the Classic Airshows Web site, "Stu lends his airplane to Elvis for stunt flying. (And) he is the king of ground entertainment."

Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at tonip@jamestownsun.com

Submitted photo Stu Moment, whose alter ego is "Elvis," is one of several aerobatic pilots performing in the Jamestown Air Fest. He stands next to the modified Pitts S2, which he uses for stunt flying as Elvis.