Thunder in the Valley: One pilot's return to the skies - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Thunder in the Valley: One pilot's return to the skies

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The grounds of the Waterloo Regional Airport were packed both Saturday and Sunday as people watched pilots perform gravity-defying moves.  The Kiwanis Club of Waterloo helped put the show together, with proceeds going to programs for area young people.

And while much of the weekend was aimed at paying tribute to the military, for one pilot—flying in Waterloo is helping him heal from a tragic loss.

Kyle Franklin has spent most of his life behind the seat of an airplane.  And his love for flying has always been a family affair.

"My family's been doing air shows for 45 years now.  I'm a third generation pilot.  I've grown up around airplanes and been doing this a long time," Franklin said.

But that high-flying lifestyle has certainly come with its share of heartache.

"Unfortunately, I lost my father in an airplane accident at an air show," said Franklin.

For the past few years, he's found comfort in keeping to the skies alongside wife Amanda.  But sadly, her life was cut short too.

"About five months ago, we had engine failure while doing an air show down in Texas.  And long story short on that, she didn't survive it," Franklin said.

Amanda's death was devastating for Kyle.  And Franklin still has some physical scars from the accident.  So he planned to call off all of this year's performances. 

But he knew his partner in life, and in the sky, would want him to keep pursuing his passion for flight.  "Thunder in the Valley" in Waterloo is the first time Franklin's flown since Amanda died in May.  Getting airborne has helped him find peace and healing after the tragedy.

"After everything that's happened, yeah, it's therapeutic for me to be back out here doing it.  It's a much different feeling.  And it does feel a little bit empty in some aspects.  But I'm definitely happy to be back out here, back performing," Franklin said.

And what will keep him going are the smiles from each crowd he entertains.  Franklin says it's that joy he hopes will inspire others to take up flying.  And for him, it's also what helps keep the memory of his wife Amanda alive.

If you missed Kyle Franklin and all the acts that made up this year's "Thunder in the Valley," not to worry.  Year two for the air show is already set for the last weekend of August next year.

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