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Mira Slovak, a Hall of Fame hydroplane racer and former pilot nicknamed “The Flying Czech,” died Monday at his home in Fallbrook, Calif. He was 84.

A pilot for Czechoslovakia Airlines, Slovak grew tired of Communist rule and on March 23, 1953, overpowered his co-pilot and flew under 1,000 feet in Soviet airspace to avoid being detected by radar. He landed in Frankfurt, West Germany, and he was given political asylum. He moved to the U.S. later that year.

Slovak, born Oct. 25, 1929, became a personal pilot for Bill Boeing Jr. and was introduced to unlimited hydroplane racing. He also had a career as an airline pilot with Continental.

Slovak, who was inducted into the unlimited hydroplane Hall of Fame in 1963, last drove competitively when he won at Seafair in 1967.

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In 1959, he won the President’s Cup that earned him the right to meet President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Slovak had three serious hydroplane accidents and also worked as a stunt pilot in some movies.

“Records are between a person and the weather and the good Lord,” Slovak told the Los Angeles Times in 1990.

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