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I Love Biplanes!
One of the most existential things you can do as an aviator is fly a biplane, especially an open cockpit variety.
Having been lucky enough to have been a steward to one of these sentient vehicles in my youth, I can say I have tasted it’s nectar first hand.
There are few flying experiences so tactile and engaging. There are many other airplanes that put the pilot literally “out in front” in terms of the experience; the Breezy, the Kolb (one of my favs), the Woody Pusher, and the Air Cam, to name a few, but biplanes remind you that you are partners in this dance, with braced wings and wires permanently affixed to your field of view.
Seeing the word through the biplane’s picture frame really makes the transformation come alive.
And since most, but not all, biplanes are aerobatic, you can point that mess of metal, wood and wires in about any direct you please, adding to the experience.
For those with open cockpits nothing can replicate the lidless view, the roar of the wind, and even the smells of this kind of flight. I taught myself aerobatics
in my open cockpit Bücker Jungster 1
twenty years ago and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I can’t say that about many of my other logbook entries. These machines have a way of leaving an indelible mark on those who court her.
I truly love my RV-8
, it does everything I want it to do, but if gas were cheaper and it was warmer here in Ohio, there might well be a Stearman parked in my hangar instead. Oh, I know Stearmans are impractical beasts, with low cruise speeds, high fuel burns, and little protection from the elements. But for what she lacks, there is just something ethereal (magical?) about these twin-wing conveyances that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Maybe it’s the swashbuckling manner of which their pilots saunter aboard, climbing onto (rather than in) these nostalgic machines from a time now lost.
Or perhaps, it’s the size – seems most classic biplanes, sans the Pitts and its progenitors, are large. These magnificent birds are so formidable as to make every thing else on the ramp disappear.
Or as stated before, it’s the total immersion that happens once airborne. You are hypnotized and there is no breaking her trance.
It might be all these things, and more.
All I know is that flying a Stearman specifically is near the top of my bucket list. Luckily there are several in the local area and even one for rent down near Cincinnati.
So if you haven’t been up in an open cockpit biplane, let me encourage you to add that to your to-list as well. If there are no opportunities nearby, you can try to get a sightseeing ride at a tourist destination the next time you find yourself on holiday.
Below are a couple of books on the subject that will get the juices flowing. If you haven’t already read them, I highly recommend taking a look.
The Cannibal Queen by Stephen Coonts
Biplane by Richard Bach
by Brent Owens
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