Charlie Kulp flew his amazing aerobatic comedy routine one last time Oct. 28.
The much-admired air show pilot, known far and wide as the Flying Farmer, drew a record crowd to the Flying Circus Aerodrome near Warrenton, Virginia, on a blustery day that concluded with special presentations to Kulp by representatives of the FAA and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
After that, the Flying Farmer hung up his battered straw hat and signature overalls. It had been his grand finale. He turned 82 last summer.
Kulp became a famous air show pilot through his mastery of flying a J-3 Cub in which he developed the Flying Farmer act, which was introduced shortly after World War II.
The routine, which Kulp sharpened over six decades, made it appear that a curious country bumpkin had climbed into an unattended Cub and managed to take off. What followed was a spectacular series of don’t-try-this-at-home maneuvers as the “farmer” attempted to land, more-or-less following frantic instructions from an announcer on the ground.
Crowds loved it as Kulp touched down on one wheel, staggered back into the air, and performed breathtaking low-and-slow maneuvers before finally landing the Cub. Other pilots would watch in awe, hardly believing that a Cub could do such things.
Aside from the Flying Farmer act, Kulp is most widely known as a restorer of historic airplanes, but his career actually spanned many aspects of aviation since he soloed in 1941, when he was 16.
Kulp was a founding member of the Flying Circus Aerodrome in 1969, and has continued to maintain and fly its collection of World War I and barnstorming aircraft. The Flying Circus remains a popular attraction, but it will be doing without the Flying Farmer from now on.