The sun is shining, the air is calm, and the sky is a crisp, clear blue.
It's the perfect weather for flying, and the pilots from the French National Aerobatic Team are all smiles as they prepare their planes for their first flight of the day Wednesday morning at the Newton City/County Airport. The team will be in Newton Sept. 21 through Oct. 4 practicing for the 27th FAI World Aerobatic Championships at the North Texas Regional Airport.
“We’re excited to have them, and they’re excited to come,” said Kevin Timmermeyer, airport manager. “A lot of planning has gone into this. Now we’re just ready to let them loose and watch them fly.”
"We've enjoyed it a lot," said Kathel Boulanger, one of the pilots. "It's absolutely great. We are very pleased to be here."
The French team asked if they could practice at the Newton airport after learning about the aerobatic contest the airport had hosted. The team is made up of 10 pilots: eight men and two women. Three of them are military pilots, and the rest are civilian.
Timmermeyer said the French team is one of the top three teams in the world, and most of their time in Newton will be spent preparing for the contest.
"From the morning till the evening, we are totally dedicated to it," Boulanger said.
Both her parents were pilots, and she fell in love with flying at a young age.
"I was almost born in a plane," she said.
The team members brought their own aircraft with them, transporting seven planes to the United States via ship. They practice two times a day, in the morning and afternoon. Early in the day, they fly a set pattern, but in the afternoon, they're tested on how quickly they can adapt to a pattern they aren't allowed to see until 15 minutes before their scheduled flight time.
Mechanics inspect the planes before and after each flight, and before flying, pilots walk through their routine on the ground. In the evening, they watch recordings of their flights to analyze how they can improve their performance.
The pilots guide their plane through complex maneuvers, such as flying straight up, flying inverted (upside down), or spinning.
"They fly about any way but straight and level," Timmermeyer said with a laugh.
The pilots' practice runs have been drawing attention from members of the community, and Timmermeyer said anyone is welcome to come watch them fly. The Newton City/County Airport is at 810 N. Oliver in Newton. Call 284-6089 for more information about flight times.
Timmermeyer encourages people to visit the airport and meet the pilots.
"They are very, very nice," he said. "It's outstanding we got them here. ... It's an honor to have them here."