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SPECTACLES TO CELEBRATE SPRING : STUNT PILOT USES FLYING LOOPS TO THRILL THEME PARK CROWDS.

Byline: Mary Schubert Daily News Staff Writer

As he zooms, rolls and loops through the skies over Magic Mountain, Eric Newman can't hear the ``oohs'' and ``aahs'' or see the smiles and wide-eyed stares his stunts elicit down on terra firma.

But Magic Mountain officials say the aerobatic pilot's show every afternoon is a big hit with people visiting the park for Spring Breakout Extreme. Newman, 37, is one of several performers and attractions for Magic Mountain's annual celebration of school vacations and the change of seasons.

Newman's red 1942 Boeing Stearman, based at Santa Paula Airport, flies as low as 5 feet off the ground and as high as 1,500 feet during the half-hour routine. At speeds ranging from 40 mph to 200 mph, the aerial show is done outside the park airspace in order to keep the stunts a safe distance from crowds, he said.

Keeping control of the vintage biplane, a single-engine World War II trainer, isn't easy.

``It's very physical work. The airplane weighs a ton and a half,'' said Newman, a veteran of hundreds of air shows during his 18-year career. ``It beats you up to fly out there for 30 minutes.''

``It's amazing for something that old to be working so well today.''

In fact, the 985-cubic-inch engine - super-charged and fuel injected - is older than the Stearman but twice as powerful as the biplane's original engine, Newman said.

A pilot needs as much aerial horsepower as possible, Newman said, to execute steep climbs, barrel rolls, hammerhead stalls, four-point hesitation rolls and long vertical loops - the latter resembling Magic Mountain's Revolution roller coaster.

Newman admitted to slight preflight jitters, but said they quickly dissipate once he begins his modern-day barnstormer routine. Flying is his full-time job, whether a day's work is towing an advertising banner, performing at air shows or filming movies and television shows.

Newman was the pilot in ``Independence Day'' who doubled in the scenes that featured Randy Quaid as a crop-duster pilot who saves the world from alien annihilation.

He also is a pilot double in the CBS-TV show ``JAG,'' flying the scenes for the lead character, a U.S. Navy pilot/investigator. Other credits include commercials for McDonald's and BMW, a music video for Aerosmith, and skywriting over a Super Bowl game at the Rose Bowl, Newman said.

Still, it never hurts to be prepared. Newman said he tapes a cue sheet on the instrument panel, reminding him what tricks to do and in what order while he concentrates on his altitude, air speed and the stunt in progress.

``There are so many things going through your mind,'' he said.

Newman's daily 3:30 p.m. shows will continue the duration of Spring Breakout Extreme, which ends April 6, Magic Mountain spokesman Palmer Moody said. The park is now open seven days a week, through Nov. 2.

``This is the first year that we've done the stunt pilot routine,'' said Moody. ``He flies right behind the Batman ride and behind the Psyclone ride. He does quite an array of aerial stunts.''

Other attractions during Spring Breakout Extreme are an acrobat show, a rock climbing wall, American Gladiator-style jousting, and a display of Looney Tunes characters sculpted in sand by artist Gerry Kirk, Moody said.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

Photo: (1--Ran in SAC edition only--Color) Tim Hass, left, picks himself up after being knocked down by T.J. Dee, right, as the two face off at Magic Mountain's spring special.

(2--Ran in SAC edition only--Color) Magic Mountain visitors through April 6 are treated to a number of special attractions, including sand sculpture by artist Gerry Kirk and Eric Newman's aerobatic flying display.

(3--Ran in SAC edition only) Ben Siskin, 5, makes his way up a rock climbing wall set up at Magic Mountain's celebration of school vacations and the changing season.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 27, 1997
Words:640
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