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Flat Rock retiree takes aerial thrill ride

Marilou Reed poses in the outfit she wore when she drove her red Miata to the airport to board a Bandit sport plane. Marilou Reed poses in the outfit she wore when she drove her red Miata to the airport to board a Bandit sport plane.

Marilou Reed has always had a fascination with small planes. So when the Bandit Flight Team made a dramatic flyover last year above her Kenmure home, she decided, “I want to go with them.”

She got her chance when the Bandits donated a flight for the Kenmure Fights Cancer on line auction last month. Reed made the highest bid, writing a check for $2,000.
She drove her red Miata to the general aviation terminal at Asheville Regional Airport on Saturday morning, Sept. 4, to meet the team, which is led by Jim Kilpatrick. The pilot in the two-seater was Sam Huffstetler, an Air Force veteran and current Airbus A320 airline captain.
“We sat side by side and he did all the driving,” Reed said.
The experience, she said, was “totally fantastic, totally out of this world.” Told that some people might not be comfortable with a thrill flight, she said, “I know. Everybody told me that they would throw up.”
“I’m just interested in little planes and I like little planes,” she said. “It wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating, just completely exhilarating, and I have to say it’s not only the flying but these pilots, when you see how close they fly — these guys are skilled beyond belief to keep these planes that close. To me they looked like they were going to bump into each other.”
Flying kit-made sport aircraft at 125 mph about 1,000 feet up, the Bandits fly in a delta formation, releasing dramatic white smoke at the leader’s cue.
“We say we bring smoke and noise,” Kilpatrick said in an interview from his home in Cary.
The Bandits made two passes over Main Street during the Apple Festival and two over Kenmure, which on that day was holding a fundraiser for Folds of Honor, a charity that provides scholarships for the survivors of fallen and disabled military service personnel. That meant that the Bandits on a single flyover helped three nonprofits — Kenmure Fights Cancer, Folds of Honor and the North Carolina Apple Festival.
“I’m just very grateful these guys offered this opportunity,” Reed said. “I don’t know how else you’d get to do something like this. I’m grateful for the Bandit team and the leader, Jim Kilpatrick, in particular for offering this opportunity.”