By Barbara A. Schmitz
It’s all about fun for Kent Pietsch. That is, having fun and making his aerobatic act fun for people to watch.
Pietsch has been flying for decades, but his interest in aviation started when he was only 4.
“I remember my dad landing in our backyard in his Aeronca Champ to have lunch, and after he took off, I asked where he was going,” Pietsch said. “My mother said the airport, and that set the hook.”
Throughout middle and high school, Pietsch was the quintessential rat kid, doing whatever odd job he could at the airport for a chance to get an airplane ride. By 16, he soloed. By 17, he earned his pilot certificate. And by 19, he earned his commercial license and started flying charters before moving on as a commercial airline pilot.
In 1973, he purchased his airplane, an Interstate Cadette, from his uncle Leonard Pietsch. He still flies that airplane in his air show performances today, as well as another airplane of the same make and model.
Pietsch said he called a pilot who had been doing an aerobatic act where he dropped an aileron and elevator, and asked if he could use his act. “He was in Seattle, and I live in Minot, North Dakota, and I said I wouldn’t be leaving the Midwest. What do you think?”
The Seattle pilot agreed, and by 1974, Pietsch started performing in air shows. Pietsch flew his first air show at Oshkosh in about 1982, and remembers being nervous before that first show.
“But I’m always nervous before all air shows,” Pietsch said. “Anything can go wrong, and you need to have your antennae up for that and concentrate and practice. It looks easy to fly for six minutes, but you have to practice so if something goes wrong you can get out of it.”
How much practice? “You have to practice a lot, enough to feel comfortable and confident with the show,” said Pietsch, who is also known as Chuck Dramamine in one of his performances.
However, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is probably his favorite place to perform. “This is not so much about the performers, but aviation and everyone in it,” he said. “I come here just to support it. It is the only air show I fly for nothing, because I like what EAA does for general aviation.”
An A&P mechanic, Pietsch builds, rebuilds, and maintains his airplanes. He’s currently working on a Waco Taperwing and an Acroduster 1. In fact, projects like those are his main hobbies when he’s not flying.
When he’s not performing in the skies above Oshkosh, Pietsch can be found wandering the AirVenture grounds. “I like it because there is so much to learn here,” he said.