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At 84, stunt pilot Chris Sperou, gets set to wow his hometown at Oysterfest

Photo Bob Taylor

What’s the best way to avoid the long-weekend holiday traffic? For Australia’s most daring stunt pilot, the legendary Chris Sperou, it’ll be a dash across the Spencer Gulf in his iconic red Super Stinker, to the shores of the stunning Murat Bay, for his favourite event on the calendar, Ceduna Oyster Festival.

I was very privileged to catch up with Sperou, who at the age of 84, hasn’t lost his daring nature for spectacular aerobatics. The 13 times Australian National Aerobatic Champion says he’s “just a young man encased in an old body”.

Bestowed an Order of Australia for his dedication to aviation and various charity work over the years, Sperou will take to the Eyre Peninsula skies this long-weekend, flying alongside his mate Warren Stewart in his Debonaire Beechcraft. Incredibly, Stewart is a couple of months older than Sperou, who claims they’re just “two old farts doing tricks in the air”.

While I was keen to hear all about his illustrious flying career, Sperou focused his attention on his fond memories and love for Ceduna, and the little seaside village of Thevenard, where he spent his childhood.

“I remember fishing and diving off the jetty as kids,” he said.

After working as a professional fisherman at the age of 15, he and his family relocated to Adelaide, where he tried his hand in different pursuits, but his passion for aviation was high. At 21, he took the controls at the Parafield Airport, and quickly engaged in some unusual altitudes and developed a love for the rush of turning his plane upside down!

The Octogenarian stunt pilot has competed in World Aerobatic Championships throughout Europe and wowed audiences with daring manoeuvres across Australia and at airshows in Korea and Thailand.

But that trip across the Gulf each October long-weekend is always a special event for Sperou. Since the first Oyster Fest was held in 1992, he hasn’t missed an opportunity to show off his talents in his hometown, alongside his mate Warren and the Sky Blazers Aerobatics Team.

He’s had some pretty worldly experiences throughout his 84 years, but says if anyone in SA hasn’t made the trip to Ceduna Oysterfest before, “they should put it on their bucket list”.

“It’s one hell of a pleasant situation over there”, he said of the two small communities overlooking Murat Bay.

“The Oysters are to die for. Fresh and opened before your eyes and the people serving them and the volunteers and locals are just a fantastic bunch of people.”

The Sky Blazers will be putting on a show over the Bay at around midday on Saturday and Sunday, and hopefully we’ll see Sperou nail his favourite nail-biting maneuverer, the Lomcovak – a series of end over ends tumbles sending the Super Stinker into an inverted spin until the engine stops….and recovery mode begins! “It sounds wild and looks wild,” he said.

While Tom Cruise might think he’s all that – he’s got nothing on Sperou, who has taken to the skies for a host of movie roles, indulging Fire in the Stone, filmed at Coober Pedy, The Blue Lightening and performing stunts for the Mad Pilot in the hit comedy, Kangaroo Jack.

I just had to ask how the 84-year-old body Sperou is encased in, handles the exhausting rush of performing such dangerous aerobatic stunt shows. To keep his “G tolerance up”, he practises most weekends in the skies over Murray Bridge, and the Grandfather of four begins every day at 5am, with an exercise regime and weights session.
Photo Credit: 5DME
And not only is he defying the aging clock with his flying skills, with no plans of hanging up the googles yet, he still works, ironically as an investigator for aircraft accidents.
“I do think about the risks involved when I fly and I have had a few mates leave this planet. But I mitigate risks as much as I possibly can,” he said.
Sperou, in the one-of-a-kind 300 horsepower Pitts Super Stinker Special, along with Warren Stewart in his Debonaire Beechcraft (the holder of the spectacular smoke oil), will fly from Murray Bridge to Port Pirie on Friday, before making their way across the Gulf to Ceduna – “the aeroplane knows its way now”.

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