Hangar 24 AirFest
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JON MELBY: Grounded through flight

There are some idyllic scenes distinct to North America — unique visuals that define memorable locales. In the mountains outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, the combination of Douglas-fir and western red cedars is unmistakably western Canada. In Mexico, a boat gently bobbing in Acapulco Bay invokes equal parts warmth and relaxation.

For pilot Jon Melby, however, those exact visuals have become anything but peaceful. They have developed into reminders of danger and vulnerability.

Going on 16 years now, the 56-year-old Melby has been an air show pilot, delighting crowds with speed, skill and deft aerobatic maneuvers. For the past year, he has flown the Hangar 24 Craft Brewing Muscle Bi-Plane, a Pitts S-1-11B made of metal, wood and fabric. It is a 350-horse power dynamo that climbs at 4,500 feet per minute.

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