From the Archives: The Human Fly atop a DC-8

During the 1976 National Air Races at Mojave, a stuntman going by the nickname the “The Human Fly” twice appeared atop a DC-8 piloted by well-known pilot Clay Lacy. After the first performance, staff writer Reggie Smith reported in the June 20, 1976, Los Angeles Times:

The man looked visibly worried as aides strapped his legs and chest to the aeronautical brace atop the DC-8 jetliner. The brace was to be his only support during the 15-minute flight.

He smiled and waved to the crowd below. Some of the spectators looked up in amazement as their cameras clicked away.

He had billed himself as the “Human Fly,” the greatest daredevil that ever lived, and promised to prove it by riding on the top of a jet flying at speeds of more than 200 m.p.h. at 100 feet above ground.

Dressed in a red-and-white jumpsuit, white cape and red platform shoes, The Fly wore a mask.

“The Fly wants to remain anonymous because he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself,” said David Levin, his promotional agent.

Levin claimed The Fly was the victim of an automobile accident which “60% of his body” was replaced with steel parts.

“As a result of The Fly’s hospital experience, he says he will donate a substantial portion of his earnings to a recognizable charity,” Levin said.

Finally, everything was ready before the assembled crowd of thousands Saturday at the annual California National Air Races at Mojave.

As the plane was airborne, The Fly gestured with his hands. First, the sign of the cross, then a clinched fist and finally, as the plane headed toward the runway, the victory sign.

When the plane landed, Fly was rushed away for a medical checkup, where the doctor gave him the OK to see members of the press.

“It was a great feeling up there,” said the 29-year-old masked man. “I’m the greatest daredevil in the world.

“The only problem I had up there was with my helmet,” he said. “A piece came off during the flight.

“I’m going to be around for a long while yet,” he added. “Just look forward to seeing the greatest daredevil that ever lives.”

He is scheduled to repeat the stunt today.

After the second flight on Sunday, June 20, the Human Fly performed one additional flight in Texas. In 1977, he attempted a motorcycle jump over 26 buses at Montreal Olympic Stadium. He landed short, crashed and suffered several injuries.

After the 1977 jump, the Human Fly — later identified as Rick Rojatt — retired and disappeared from public life.

The aviation news website AVweb has posted on YouTube a good interview with pilot Clay Lacy about the DC-8 stunt.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here

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