Sky King

By (TK) Tk Published on .

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Atlas Pictures director/cameraman Chris Woods has an action-packed, extreme-sports reel, with bmx bikes, motocross, kayaks, skiing, skating and off-road SUV stunts - but no airplanes. What's so conspicuous about the absence of airplanes, you may wonder? Woods, it turns out, is a veritable Eddie Rickenbacker of the jet age. "Planes are not part of my job, but they're my passion and my hobby," he says. His father used to run a company. that restored old planes, and Dad also ran an antique plane museum in Woods' hometown of Carefree, Ariz., ironically called the Carefree Museum. "I started with gliders in the `70s, moved on to the antique planes, then got into competition," Woods explains matter-of-factly. "I bought myself a little Pitts, an aerobatic stunt plane. Back then it was 18 grand. Now they're probably $200,000. Then I bought a Waco, a 1933 biplane, and restored it myself."

His planes have never been in the air in one of his commercials, but the Waco was in an early-'90s Toyota spot he directed. "It's just sitting there as a prop," Woods shrugs. He also flies his own Cessna and has a WW II Spitfire, which he's flown in air shows. Woods, in fact, was Arizona state aerobatic champion in 1979. "You have to do a bunch of stuff in front of the judges," he casually reveals. "Does anyone think he's crazy? "No," he laughs. "There's a handful of guys who do this. Hey, I love old airplanes." Woods has been a competitive glider pilot too, rated fourth in the country at one time in sailplane competition. "I don't compete anymore," he admits. "I started a family and sold the sailplane. The Spitfire, however, is worth about $1.2 million right now. They're very rare. There are only like 50 left in the world." So there's a financial upside to all this danger? "I don't consider myself a daredevil," he insists and fatalism is not a factor.

Moreover, there's a practical side to flying. "I've done a lot of location scouting in the Cessna," he says. "There's tons of stuff you just can't find on the ground. Flying is a very visual sport, and a very graceful one. There's a real sense of peace up there. My whole life is very visual, in a sense, and from a visual standpoint, flying can't be beat."

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