by Becky GINOS
BOUNTIFUL—Danny Sorensen has a hard time keeping his feet on the ground and his head is always in the clouds. That’s because Sorensen’s love of flying has taken him all over the country doing loop de loops in multiple airshows while wowing the crowd down below.
The Bountiful pilot was set to demonstrate his aerobatics this weekend at the Hill Air Force Airshow in a plane he built himself until he was forced to make a crash landing in Wyoming a few weeks ago. Sorensen walked away unharmed, but the plane was not so lucky.
“It’s in Evanston,” he said. “Once I get it down here I’ll start getting parts. I did it (built it) once before I’ll do it again. I have a lot of people willing to jump in and help.”
Sorensen is disappointed he won’t be able to fly in the show. “I was really looking forward to it,” he said. “I hope to start again next year. They’ll have another show in two years. I look forward to the future and I’ll just do the best I can. Life is good. We’re all happy and healthy so that’s the most important thing.”
That “can-do” attitude has “propelled” him throughout his life. “My dad was a pilot before WWII,” said Sorensen. “After Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Navy to be a fighter pilot. He was injured so he never flew in combat. He always talked about airplanes and he would bring me to the airport. We’d talk to the pilots and I was building model planes when I was 5. I was born into it – it was in my blood. I always wanted to fly.”
During his junior and senior years at Bountiful High, Sorensen took flying lessons and at 17 started learning loops, snap rolls and hammerheads. In 1978, he started flying Pitts Special biplanes.
“They’re highly aerobatic planes,” he said. “I started to build my own in 1984 and flew in a bunch of airshows. I flew all over the U.S. and Canada.”
Sorensen said those watching the show have no idea the work that goes on behind it. “Precision aerobatics is so practiced and rehearsed,” he said. “It’s not an adrenaline rush. You’re just concentrating on the maneuvers and giving the best presentation. It’s a lot of physical work to fly in a show.”
The plane that crashed, BF9-2 or “Unfinished Business” took 14 years for him to build. “I spent 6,000 hours on it,” said Sorensen. “It was a labor of love. To have that much patience – I probably wouldn’t have started it. But I never thought I was going to quit. I went, went and went. It never crossed my mind that I was not going to finish it.”
Sorensen has a hangar at the Skypark in North Salt Lake and has been flying out of the airport for some 50 years. He was a firefighter with Salt Lake City from 1985 to 2015.
Life has not always been smooth, however. His daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 1990 when she was 4 years old. “She had to have a nine hour surgery and 30 rounds of radiation and chemo,” he said. “At age 15 they told us the cancer was not coming back. She has some disabilities from the radiation but she’s been volunteering at Lakeview Hospital for 12 years.”
Recently, Sorensen’s adventures were made into a “Meet the Mormons” segment for the series created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called “The Craftsman.” It is playing at the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and at the Visitors Center.
Sorensen shares his passion for flying by giving away an autographed model airplane to a child at his show. “My family keeps an eye out for a kid that seems really interested in what’s going on,” he said. “They don’t even have to be interested in flying – just enthusiastic about something. The top wing is engraved with the words, ‘Just because something is hard doesn’t mean I can’t do it.’ It’s meant to inspire them to work hard at whatever they want to do.”
There’s more to the airshow than just flying, he said. “It’s so fun. I just absolutely love doing this for an audience. It’s so much work but the reward is the people. The airshow is all about the people. What I enjoy most is seeing the kids and talking to them. After the show I can take a deep breath and relax. I’ve done my part – now I can just enjoy the crowd.”