Driver's jump a first for any air festival

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Soaring over an airplane was all a matter of timing, Cody Elkins said.

Cody Elkins doesn't worry about broken bones. He's broken 56 of them in his freestyle motocross career.

But on Saturday, he emerged unscathed after jumping his motorcycle over a stunt plane in a move that thrilled the crowd at the Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival.

The jump marked the first time that such a stunt has been performed at any air show, said Bruce Loy, Cape Girardeau airport manager.

A smiling Elkins took it all in stride. "I like it for sure," said Elkins, 23, of Weatherford, Okla., who raced his motorcycle up a 12-foot-high metal ramp. He and his bike soared through the air, jumping over the top of a plane flying just above the runaway.

"It definitely beats a day job," said Elkins, who performed motorcycle stunts along with Kyle Lovelace, 22, of Custer, Okla.

Elkins said he looked down and saw the plane passing under his motorcycle during the jump.

"It was all a matter of timing," said Elkins whose extreme-sports popularity has him readying to perform for 10 weeks in Europe.

"It's scary, but it is fun," he said.

As for injuries, Elkins said it's an accepted risk in his line of work. "It is not a question of if you get hurt, it's when," he said.

The air festival concludes today with another show, scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

A crowd of about 4,000 attended Saturday's show. Many brought along beach umbrellas to shade them from the hot sun on a day when temperatures soared into the muggy 90s.

Bill Oploh of Makanda, Ill., watched the show from under a beach umbrella with his 4-year-old daughter, Heidi, who was busily eating a peach.

"That was amazing," Bill Oploh said of the motorcycle stunt.

But Oploh said he's drawn to the aerial stunts. "I like the aerobatics," he said.

The Oploh family regularly comes to the Cape Girardeau air show, flying over in a private plane.

Biplane's hard landing

The start of the air show was delayed about half an hour after a replica of a World War I British biplane made an emergency landing in a cornfield while making a final turn to land. The pilot, Dale "Butch" Witlock of Chicago, wasn't injured.

Witlock said he had to land quickly after his engine suddenly lost oil pressure. The plane began losing power.

Witlock said he had been flying his aircraft for five to 10 minutes when the problem surfaced shortly before 11 a.m.

The impact collapsed the landing gear and broke the propeller.

"Dirt's hard," said Witlock as he waited Saturday afternoon for a Federal Aviation Administration official to inspect the craft. Witlock said he planned to dismantle the plane and haul it back to Chicago.

Emergency personnel, stationed at the airport, rushed to the scene in an ambulance and firetruck. But Witlock said they weren't needed.

Loy said most in the crowd weren't even aware of the problem until they saw the emergency vehicles passing by.

"After that, everything went smoothly," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

Want to go?

* What: Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival

* When: Today, gates open at 9 a.m., show starts at 1 p.m.

* Where: Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

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