stunts and crashes

   the daring young man
Near the airfield, on an open stretch of heathland, stood the circus and from nearby Zeist and Soesterberg the public came to watch the show. The Dutch flag was waving from one of the tent-poles. I seem to remember that Piet van de Griendt made friends with the human cannon-ball and his wife, a certain Carmenita, who worked on the flying trapeze. Also it was rumoured later on that a bet had been made the previous evening.

That afternoon there was matinée, but the public also stood outside the tent, watching, waiting. The story had gone round that Pete would undertake to fly the flag off the tent-pole with a C-IV Fokker.
It was half past two. Low over the woods the C-IV came from the direction of Amersfoort. We were eagerly anticipating a new stunt in Pete's repertoire. He came skimming over the heath - then suddenly the engine misfired and stopped... The C-IV righted itself a bit and then fell like a fat duck on top of the tent, went through it with its wings broken off and landed plumb in the middle of the sawdust ring. While the music continued to play - you know: when there's an accident in the circus - the animal tamers came on with two elephants, hooked two cables to the C-IV and in this fashion, under a loud braying crescendo of copper and kettledrums, the wreck was pulled out of the ring. Pete stood straight as a rod in the C-IV. He saluted to all sides and then the curtain that hid the entrance to the stables fell closed. It had been the Grand Finale, for the next day the circus left.

His superiors did have a slightly dimmer view of the festive character of Pete's performance and gave him seven days, hard.

Willem van Veenendaal, Tussen hemel en aarde (Between heaven and earth) (1955)

Piet van de Griendt was one of the 'Five Fingers of One Hand', the Dutch military stunt-team around 1927
stunts and crashes

   the fat lady's victory roll
Our war ended officially on August 12th, and that afternoon we launched every plane that would fly in what my logbook calls Victory Flight, a sweep out over the fleet anchorage in a huge V-formation. It was a painting of a fleet that we flew over that hot, late-summer day; the fleet itself belonged to the past. We finished the sweep and turned, and the flight leader signaled us into a column. We dove back toward the ships below us, as though in an attack, and then, to my astonishment and alarm, the lead plane pulled suddenly up and heaved itself over into a portly barrel-roll - a sort of parody of a fighter pilot's Victory Roll. It was like seeing a fat lady somersault - it seemed impossible, it was certainly unwise, but she was doing it. The second plane followed, and the next, and it was my turn.
The TBM was not built for acrobatics: the wings would not bear negative stress, and if I faltered in the roll while the plane was upside down I would surely pull both wings off, and plunge into the bay. I told my crew to hang on, pulled the nose up sharply, and rolled.
The plane seemed to resist at first, and then resignedly entered the roll. A year's accumulated rubbish flew up from under the floorboards, and I could hear loose gear rattling around in the tunnel behind me; I wondered how poor Edwards was surviving back there. Then we were rolling out, swooping up towards level flight, the horizon returned to its proper place. So much for Victory.

Samuel Hynes, Flights of passage (1988)

TBM: Torpedo Bomber (Marine), nicknamed Pregnant Turkey

stunts and crashes

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