You are herewriting


Quest for the Cup

The windsock at Clarence E. Page Municipal Airport outside Oklahoma City is pointing stiff as a board this afternoon, and the late-May sun is baking Oklahoma in the worst drought of the century. United States Aerobatic Team trainer John Morrissey squints into the sun and wind to watch rookie Diane Hakala practice for the other America's Games of 1996—the ones without the massive media campaign and huge corporate sponsorships.

Hakala's rakish Staudacher S300D monoplane makes a run toward Morrissey, pitches up into a vertical climb, draws a line, twirls one and one half times about the now-vertical fuselage, draws another line, coasts to a halt, pivots sideways cleanly about its center of gravity, draws another line, executes a stunningly precise three-quarter outside snap roll, draws another line, and pitches startingly nose forward to fly away inverted downwind. "Good turnaround. A handsome down three-quarter snap," Morrissey notes for the practice videotape. "Don't change a thing."

The Last Piston Show

Over the mountains of western Nevada, Laird Doctor bounces through the afternoon thermals in the front seat of his AT-6 World War II trainer. Easing out of a shallow left turn, he keeps a watchful eye on the six T-6s strung off his right wing. Doctor issues a stream of minor adjustments over the radio to nudge them into position: "Number five, you're too low, ease it up. Race 22, slow it down, slow it down. Fifty-six, tighten it up on the end, tighten it up." The stolid trainers lumber into line like so many fat, obedient geese. "Okay, gentlemen, we're over the ridge at 200 feet. Line abreast, line abreast. Final power increase coming on. . . now!" Doctor toggles a switch marked "smoke" and a thick white plume billows from the exhaust stack. Once satisfied that everyone is lined up on the steady dive toward the airport, he pulls up sharply and opens the starting gate with the ritual words "Gentlemen, you have a race."

Ballet in the Box

With his monoplane falling out of the sky like some monstrous blue maple seed, Peter Anderson sees a row of trees swirl past his windshield. He lays the stick forward and the resulting jolt slams him against a rigid web of seat belts and harnesses. Precisely one and a half revolutions completed, the snap roll stops. Anderson continues an inverted 45 degree dive, the airplane upside down, raging toward the ground. Directly off the left wing, a tiny row of judges hang from a grassy ceiling. Anderson steals a glance at the small card in the middle of the instrument panel, taking an instant to confirm his next move.