MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Few people can say they were born to fly. Jim LeRoy is not one of them.
The former Marine sergeant and sniper with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, comes from a large family of aviators.
"I am a third generation pilot, many in my family flew in the military and for the airlines," LeRoy said. "It was only a matter of time before I took to the skies."
And Jim's time came soon, thanks to Jim's father and grandfather, both airline pilots.
"I was 4-years old the first time I flew. My dad would take me up in a little twin engine Piper Apache," LeRoy said. "He would let me grab the controls, and the first thing I would do is try and loop the plane."
Little did he know his dad was actually flying the plane by controlling the trim or back wing flap, and little did he know that 34 years later he would be looping his Bulldog Pitt S2S for nearly 100,000 spectators throughout the weekend at the 2002 Air Show at Fightertown.
LeRoy did just that -- performing daring loops, soaring straight into the clouds like a rocket, sliding parallel across the sky and even skimming the flight line to clip ribbons less than 20 feet off the deck.
"Jim gets his discipline from the Corps values he learned while serving with the Marines," said Sharon Meagher, LeRoy's press agent. "He takes them wherever he goes, whether it is in the sky or are on land."
Jim's grandfather, Vernon LeRoy, attributes his success to their family motto, "Don't do anything unless you want to be the best at it."
A certified instructor, Vernon, trained Jim to get his license in less than four months.
"Jim always wanted to work hard, and I worked him even harder," Vernon recalled.
Today, Jim's hard work ethic is paying dividends. He is a hero to thousands of kids, many who flocked to the Marine booth at the show to get his picture or autograph, and an inspiration to anyone who watches him fly.
One of the highlights of the weekend for Jim was during Friday's rehearsal. During many of the shows, the Blue Angels are always in briefs and do not get the chance to see him fly. LeRoy was able to accommodate the stars of the show, adding an extra show to the end of the performance.
"Jim is one of the most dynamic pilots we've met at the air shows," said Capt. Len "Loni" Anderson, Blue Angel pilot and narrator. "Being that he is a Marine, only makes it that much better."
To personally thank the Blue Angels further, Jim had the entire aircrew participate in his air show ribbon-cutting maneuver. Both pilots and crew were on the runway holding up poles while the 1,100 pound Bulldog Pitt came roaring in at 200 mph to cut the plastic ribbon with his propeller.
LeRoy's Bulldog Air Show has been performing all over the country, nearly every weekend for the past nine years. To find out where he will be next, check out his website at www.bulldogairshows.com.