Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Human Fly

The Human Fly riding on Clay Lacy's DC-8. Collection of
Cathy Hansen, Mojave Transportation Museum
When the barnstorming era started after World War I, one of the more popular acts was the "wing walker", a daredevil who'd climb out onto the wing of a rickety old biplane. As time went one, the stunts became more and more sophisticated, with wing walkers who would compete to out-perform each other, incorporating elements of trapeze artists and other tricks. Planes became faster, too, which made the acts more "daring". Wing walking still is a favorite act at air shows, but it can be argued that the art peaked in the early 1970s with the Human Fly.

The Human Fly was none other than daredevil performer Rick Rojatt who lived out the Marvel comic book character  also known as the Human Fly. While technically a "fuselage walker", Rojatt teamed with famed pilot Clay Lacy and stood on top of Lacy's Douglas DC-8 as he flew unbelievably low and at 250 knots, before stunned airshow crowds. The plane was an ex-Japan Air Lines DC-8-32 (there it was registered JA8002), and was that carrier's second jet when it was delivered in 1960.

Our photo today was shot during one of several appearances that the Human Fly made at the Mojave Air Races between 1970 and 1976, and was inscribed personally by Lacy to Mojave's General Manager, Dan Sabovich.

Rojatt reportedly "retired" from the DC-8 scene after an appearance in Dallas, TX, when he and Lacy flew through a rainstorm, which at the speeds that the -8 flies, left him badly bruised. He did go on, however, to break Evil Knevil's record of jumping over buses on a motorcycle (he cleared 26, but not without a landing injury; details of that stunt can be found here).

1/13/13 addendum: A 23-minute long video of the Human Fly at the '75 Mojave races can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment