A fear of heights? Tony Kazian never could relate to that. His weekend life leaves no room for it.

In fact, if fear steps alongside him in the limited space in which he works, that could mean the difference between applause and horror.

Kazian, a professional wing walker for 22 years, is one of the featured performers scheduled to appear at Saturday’s third annual Aviation Day 2016 at Columbus Municipal Airport.

Organizers are hoping for a crowd of 10,000, almost double the number who attended the first year — and three times the size of the 2015 crowd.

Story continues below gallery

Kazian works with longtime friend and pilot Dave Dacy — as in the old-time, barnstorming days of pilots steering into a headwind of daring.

Kazian and Dacy, piloting a World War II-era Boeing Super Stearman 75, will perform free, 20-minute shows at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Two other planes will join the fun with a professional announcer who has worked at large events such as Thunder Over Louisville.

“When we land, everybody brings the kids over to meet me because they just can’t believe it.”

And therein lies his main motivation for such sky-high antics.

“If I can get just one kid interested in aviation, then it’s all worth it,” Kazian said.

The 49-year-old Illinois car mechanic got his son, Nishan, 28, interested in wing walking, if not general aviation. And Tony Kazian’s own father, Johnny Kazian, got him interested in a high-flying career. Johnny Kazian, considered a legend among wing walkers for decades, is best known as the stunt performer in the 1975 film, “The Great Waldo Pepper,” starring Robert Redford.

In fact, on one occasion in 2006, Tony Kazian’s father and son joined him on the plane wing for a one-time performance of three generations of acrobatic aerialists.

“Growing up watching my dad, it’s all I ever wanted to do,” Tony Kazian said.

His normal wing walking generally happens at about 120 mph — with no wire, harness or parachute. Aerobatic moves such as standing on his head on top of the plane while Dacy loops and turns at 160 mph necessitate a waist belt, and perhaps a tinge of insanity, he acknowledged.

Not to mention focus.

“Dave is the greatest pilot in the entire world,” he said. “And for that 18 to 20 minutes while we’re performing, I’m not a man with a wife and three kids. There’s just Dave, the airplane and me.”

Airport director Brian Payne has arranged for double the previous number of food vendors and a greater variety of offerings — not only to attract more people, but to feed the expected larger crowd, Payne said.

A static display of four hot-air balloons recently was added to the schedule, said Victoria Griffin, another organizer. If the weather cooperates, some balloon owners hope to offer tethered rides, she said.

Plus, a variety of vintage-plane pilots will offer rides, with varying prices. Current plans also include helicopter rides. But nothing will be as outlandish as the wing-walking demonstration.

So when it comes to the apparently fearless Tony Kazian, what could scare a guy who spends his life on the edge?

“That’s easy,” he said. “My 13-year-old daughter.”

Put your head in the clouds

What: Third Annual Aviation Day.

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday with featured air shows at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Organizers may adjust the schedule or activities dur to inclement weather.

Where: Columbus Municipal Airport, 4770 Ray Boll Blvd.

Overview of attractions: Pancake breakfast, a GTO and Corvette car show, free Young Eagles flights for youngsters, paid plane rides, hog roast lunch, free bounce houses, radio-controlled airplanes and simulators, food vendors, education programs, Touch-A-Truck, emergency helicopter display, on-ground display of hot air balloons, the on-site Atterbury-Bakaler Air Museum and other activities.

Admission: Free.

Information: Facebook page at Aviation Day 2016.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.