Meet 102-year-old flying daredevil, stunt pilot Jim Haslem
From our earliest days, we become entranced by the wonders of planes. Children stare endlessly at the sky, pointing out each plane flying overhead. Parents encourage their children to eat by pretending food is a plane traveling into their child’s mouth. Thousands gather at air shows across the world to watch planes defy gravity with loops and spins.
For one man, this fascination with planes became an unexpected hobby.
While Jim Haslem, 102, of Holiday Retirement’s Curtis Creek grew up interested in planes due to his proximity to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, he never expected to be a pilot. He attended the University of Illinois to become an electrical engineer, but when the government offered to pay $500 for students willing to take a flying course, Jim couldn’t resist.
At 25 years old, Jim enrolled in a cross-country flying class and a commercial flying class. Upon receiving his license from both programs, Jim had five options for pursuing his new passion: night flying, helicopter, instructor, instrument flying or acrobatic. Being the daredevil he is, Jim chose acrobatic, and set off to become a stunt pilot.
Since a stunt pilot uses an aircraft to do the airborne maneuvers that make us “ooh and ah” at air shows, Jim has many adventurous memories of learning to do the stunts himself.
Here’s how Jim describes it:
“The funniest moment I had while flying was when my instructor took me up in the plane while I had headphones on. Because of the way the headphones work, I could hear the instructor, but couldn’t respond, so I simply had to shake my head yes or no. The instructor asked if I wanted to do an inverted spin, and I shook my head yes, even though I had no idea what to expect. The instructor spun two and a half times, and as we spun, I shook in my seat. If I wasn’t strapped in, I would have been out of my seat. When we landed, I said a few choice words to the instructor like, ‘What in the world was that?’ and the instructor laughed and said simply, ‘An inverted spin.’”
Jim was a stunt pilot from 1945 to 1947, and while his time flying wasn’t long, he is happy he got to do it at all. As Jim approaches his 102nd year of life in July 2017, he can still recall what it felt like to be up in the air all alone at 30,000 feet. “That was my favorite part about flying.”