Loop Dreams

Why does an aerobatic pilot risk his life for fun?

The airplane turns 100 years old this year, with the anniversary of the Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903. Almost as old is the deadly plane crash: the first airplane fatality took place in 1908, claiming the life of an Army lieutenant named Thomas Selfridge. Somewhere between flying and crashing, and combining the thrills of both, lies the terrifyingly dangerous sport of competitive aerobatics.

Joshua Ramo was a hobbyist pilot who found himself mysteriously drawn to aerobatics, which he compares to aerial figure skating, with the following caveat: "When was the last time Kristy Yamaguchi burst into...

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