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From the Page to the Sky

By Barbara A. Schmitz

Nate Hammond will perform in today's night air show in his de Havilland Chipmunk, and in Sunday's closing air show as part of the Adventures of Aviore.

The Shetterly Squadron (DR-107 One Design, SNJ-6, RV-8), whose pilots are also part of the Adventures of Aviore act, will also perform on Sunday.

July 27, 2019 - Nate Hammond says he is a comic book fan, so it's no surprise that the aerobatic pilot and skywriter is deeply involved the Adventures of Aviore act that debuted at Tuesday's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2019 air show.

He is one of five aerobatic pilots bringing EAA's comic book for Young Eagles alive in hopes of instilling a love of aviation in today's youth. The others include Greg and Jeff Shetterly, Billy Werth, and Joe Shetterly as Aviore.

"We really wanted Aviore and the Young Eagles program to be center stage and get 12 minutes of the crowd's attention," Nate said. The five-ship act tells the story of Jake Peregrine Howard — Perry to his friends — getting a Young Eagles ride and turning into a superhero named Aviore. But there's a storm brewing and the Pilots of Talon have to do battle with Rain Maker.

"It's the classic good-versus-bad story," Nate said.

"I had seen the Aviore comics, but you never heard much about it," Nate said. "The Stan Lee Foundation gifted this superhero to EAA … and I think it's a good connection to the next generation of pilots and aviation enthusiasts. That is what the Young Eagles program is all about — lighting the spark that starts the fire."

Nate stressed that the Aviore act is not about the pilots, but rather the story. "It took us 27 years to take 2 million kids flying through Young Eagles, but we need to get 1 million up in the sky every 10 years if we don't want the industry to become stagnant," he said. "Electrical airplanes, space exploration … it starts with the 10-year-old kid sitting out there, saying, 'I want to do this.'"

The act wouldn't have been successful without Luke Carrico, who produced the show and runs sound and narration. "He made this a true theatrical production," Nate said.

Nate, EAA 1193485, will fly in today's night air show. "It's 200 pounds of pyro strapped onto my wingtips and 5,000 LED lights on the airplanes. It's go big or go home."

Flying has always been a part of his life, and he took his first flight when he was just 2 weeks old. He soloed at 16, earned his private license at 17, and earned his commercial license at 18. He has logged more than 7,000 hours in the air.

His love affair with the Chipmunk started when he was about 12, and Steve and Suzanne Oliver hired his father to do maintenance and be the ferry pilot. "I started as a ramp rat, wiping it down every time it landed and following it around at shows."

Then, at 18, he started ferrying the airplane himself. "And anytime the Olivers were talking about skywriting or aerobatics, my ears were always open," Nate said. "I soaked it up like a sponge."

Fifteen years ago, the Olivers told Nate on a Friday that he would be skywriting over a NASCAR race that weekend. So that afternoon, he went up and learned how to do it. "Nothing like trial by fire," he said of the 100,000 people who watched in the stands and many more watching the broadcast over national TV.

One thing he learned is that you can't stop, no matter what. "For instance, you can't write the first four letters of hello and then stop. Once you start writing, you're committed."

About halfway through, Nate started feeling sick, but he kept on going. And once back on land, he just laid down in the grass, recovering. "I still get air sick when getting skywriting."

Despite that, Nate said he enjoys all flying. "It doesn't have to even be in the Chipmunk … it's just that I love flying."

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