Kevin LaRosa II has heard the sound of engines and propellers for as long as he can remember. His grandfather flew P–51s and C–97s; his dad is a famous stunt pilot who ran strings of Cessnas and helicopters out of Southern California’s Van Nuys Airport. “I grew up at the airport,” he recalls, “and in grade school I started flying with my father on afternoon traffic watch flights and to airshows. He says I could have landed a 172 by age 12 if my feet had reached the pedals.”
Today he flies a variety of aircraft for an array of missions, but he’s best known as Hollywood’s youngest aerial coordinator. “Sometimes I fly the airplane being filmed, but usually the airplane doing the filming. And sometimes I’m on the ground with the director, using radios to tell other pilots how to make the story come alive.”
His father, Kevin LaRosa Sr., began taking him along on movie shoots at age 10. Kevin II (K2 to friends) started formal flight lessons at 14, soloed at 16, and got his certificate at 17. Now 29, he is already a veteran of countless air-to-air photo flights. “It’s a close-knit industry. Parents who are in it want their kids involved too,” he explains.
“My true passion is flying the camera plane, talking to the other pilots and directing them.” As lead pilot for Wolfe Air Aviation, a provider of aerial filming services, LaRosa’s main platform is a highly modified Learjet 25B. “I started flying Lears when I was 19. Wolfe’s 25B is basically a jet-propelled camera dolly. The straight turbojets give terrific acceleration and responsiveness. But you have to be real comfortable in it; you’re flying the jet, thinking like a camera, and directing other pilots—all at the same time.”
LaRosa flies from the right seat when filming jetliners for Boeing and other clients. “Airliner liveries read correctly on their left side, so we have to favor that side. I get better visibility out the right window.”
He never wears noise-canceling headsets. “The airplane is always talking to you, be it the vibration, a smell, a sound—I pay close attention to them all. You have to listen, to feel your aircraft. I don’t want to lose any noises.”
Who | Kevin LaRosa II, motion picture aerial coordinator
Flying | Learned to fly in a Cessna 172 at age 12 on his father’s L.A. traffic watch patrols.
Hours | Has logged almost 4,000 hours, from Cessna 152s to AS350s to P–51s and Learjets.
Ratings | Airline Transport Pilot, airplane multiengine land, LR-Jet; commercial privileges, airplane single engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter
Extra | Avid water skier, plays rock ‘n’ roll drums, and drives a pristine 1956 yellow Ford pickup.