Thrills and chills in the sky over Rexburg

Bob Hoff pilots a Twin Beech over the crowd Saturday at the Legacy Flight Museum’s Air Show. Pat Sutphin /

REXBURG — Thousands of eyes turned upward as the pilot roared into the sky Saturday morning.

The plane banked and rolled and then soared straight up, appearing to stand on its tail — suspended in mid-air — before falling off to the right. As it plummeted toward the earth, the pilot threw the plane into a violent spin.

Despite appearances, he had everything under control. Pulling out of the spin, he flipped the plane upside down for a second or two before flipping it back again. Then, standing it on its tail once more, he pushed the plane straight up toward the waiting clouds.

As Errol Spaulding watched the maneuvers from the ground, the 73-year-old Ririe pilot couldn’t help but smile.

Of the thousands of spectators who gathered for the Legacy Flight Museum’s biennial air show, Spaulding was among the relative few who had experienced what it’s like to spin and loop and roll an airplane through the sky.

“I fly a home-built (airplane) … for 19 years. Before that, I flew ultralights,” Spaulding said. “I like doing aerobatics — barrel rolls, spins and loops. It’s freedom, I guess. There are no stop signs, no speed limits.”

Spaulding came to flying late in life.

“I was probably in my 50s,” he said. “But I come from a flying family.”

Spaulding’s late brother, Blair, was based in the U.S. when he piloted C-47s during World War II.

“And I have four nephews who fly,” he said.

Despite his love of flying, Spaulding spent much of his adult life farming — growing potatoes, hay and grains. It wasn’t until after selling his farm in the mid-1980s that he fully embraced his lifelong passion.

These days, Spaulding spends much of his time flying or tinkering with airplanes and airplane engines.

“I overhaul engines for other guys, too. I’ll work on trucks and just about anything, except cars. I hate cars,” he said.

Jake Marzolf was standing only a couple hundred feet away, but well out of earshot.It was the first air show for the 13-year-old from Idaho Falls — and a first for his mom, Dianna Marzolf, too.

“I heard about it from a friend,” she said. “It worked out great. I love being around these old planes.”

In addition to the stunt planes, the air show also featured a number of well-seasoned “warbirds,” planes dating back to the World War II-era.

“It’s good,” Jake said.

While he was not sure about becoming a pilot, Jake was more than willing to hitch a ride on a stunt plane. He was ready to experience what it’s like to spin and loop and roll through the sky.

“I want to ride in one. I’ve always wanted to ride in one,” he said.

Spaulding would understand.

“I’ve always loved flying. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like airplanes,” he said.

Still, Spaulding never wanted it as a career.

“I just wanted it to be my out — my recreation. I didn’t want it to be my job,” he said.

As for all that spinning and rolling — well, for Spaulding, that’s probably the best part. But it wasn’t always that way.

“There’s only one maneuver that got me sick — spinning,” he said. “I went up once … and must have spun it about 20 times. It didn’t hit me ‘til I hit the ground. I got really sick. Not anymore. I’ve done it so much now that my body got used to it.”

Assistant City Editor Mike Mooney can be reached at 542-6764.