Wild blue yonder: Sky-high fun at the Flying Circus

What does a fighter pilot do after the war is over? A modern flier might logically seek employment with the airline industry. But there was no “airline industry” for the pilots of World War I. These guys had no choice but to create their own outlets for that addictive need to soar.
That’s how barnstorming was born: gypsy fliers in bi-planes who just couldn’t trade pilot’s wings for accounting ledgers would wing their way from one midwestern farm field to another performing aerial acrobatics and offering rides for the locals.
Eight decades later, it seems a group of flying enthusiasts still haven’t gotten over the thrill of those barnstorming days. These modern fliers, many of them commercial pilots during the week, have taken up residence in a 200-acre makeshift airfield near Warrenton, and every Sunday May through October they perform a Flying Circus air show that’s even better than the spectacles of yesteryear.
Brightly painted Piper, Stearman, and WACO aircraft take off from a mowed hay field surrounded by the summer’s soybean crop while spectators seated on wooden benches and lawn chairs gaze skyward at daring feats such as formation flying, wing walkers, skydivers, and stunt flying. A campy cast of characters on the ground— including the Red Barron in his German taxi attack vehicle and the lovely Fifi LaBombshell in her red sequined flapper dress— keep the crowd entertained between takeoffs and landings.
But it’s after the show that the real thrill happens. That’s when spectators are invited to come out onto the field to talk to pilots and look over the planes and, for a few extra dollars, hop into the open cockpit for a bird’s eye view of the Virginia countryside. And if your stomach can take it, pilots will even do their daredevil spins, loops, and spirals with you aboard.
One of only two such air shows in the country, the Flying Circus is unique family entertainment at its best… well worth the hour or so it takes to get there.

The Flying Circus airfield opens at 11am, show time is 2:30pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $3 for kids 3-12. Visit the website for a $2-off coupon. To get there, take Rt. 29 north to a right on Rt. 17. Follow this across Rt. 28 to a left on Rt. 644. The Flying Circus Aerodrome is on the left. (You’ll see the planes taking off and landing.) 540-439-8661. www.flyingcircusairshow.com.

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