Plane and pilots en route AirVenture 2015
At 19 and 22 years of age, my boyfriend Daniel and I are still considered "kids" by the majority of adults. For this exact reason, we got a lot of interesting reactions when we flew a 1931 Waco ASO open cabin biplane into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last week. Most people cannot fathom flying such an antique aircraft themselves, and seeing us doing it seemed out of place.
This particular Waco has been in my boyfriend’s family since the 1960s. It was an old crop duster that had been sitting in a field in Louisiana and desperately needed a restoration. They obtained the aircraft and spent over 10 years restoring it to the stunning condition that it is in now. Although he grew up around this plane, Daniel got his license and spent a couple hundred hours flying a Stinson 10A before he was allowed to move to the Waco. His tailwheel skills still amaze me, and his transition into the Waco only took a handful of hours.
He debated for several days if he should fly the Stinson into AirVenture for a second year, or take the Waco. He finally did decide to take a leap and fly the Waco, and we are both so glad he did. Although it is pretty much the opposite of the type of plane you would want to go on a long VFR cross country with, the flights there and back were unforgettable and enjoyable. The flight up was 6.7 hours total flight time (plus a stop every hour to stretch our legs and snack), and the flight back was only 5.7 hours (plus hourly stops as well).
Wearing our "Straightwing Crew Hats"
The flight was a particularly enjoyable experience for me because Daniel would give me full flight control for entire legs of the trip while we were enroute. The seat in the front has a grand total of zero flight instruments besides the stick, rudder, and throttle control. It was a fun learning experience for me to fly entirely stick and rudder, and for him to give me constructive feedback based on what his instruments read. My first couple attempts I kept getting into what I called "The Dolphin," where I would over-correct for altitude changes and fly in a constant slight attitude of up and down, like a dolphin swimming near the surface of the water. Once I got the hang of how much input I needed to stabilize the aircraft, it was much smoother sailing.
Half the fun of AirVenture is relaxing in the shade of the aircraft wing and talking to fellow aircraft enthusiasts that walk past. We set out chairs and spoke with people for a couple hours every day. It was always interesting to see the reactions of people who had been admiring the aircraft from the other side, then came over to see us smiling and asking how they were. The most common reaction was "do YOU fly this?" and a general disbelief that such a young guy could be the pilot in command of such a plane. Most people congratulated him on his accomplishments and expressed their jealousy. There was one flight line personnel who saw Daniel climbing on the wing to reach his iPad and promptly came over to scold him for climbing on the aircraft and asked several times if he was REALLY the pilot. We did appreciate his concern for the well-being of the aircraft!
An interesting thing to consider is that the average age of WWI and WWII pilots was early 20's. Pilots younger than Daniel were flying more powerful aircraft in extremely dangerous circumstances. We kept that in mind during our journey and certainly feel reverence and respect for all veterans. Aviation has such a rich heritage and we feel honored for the opportunities we have had so far to experience flight as it would have been in the 1930s.
Beautiful view of Chicago and some sailboats off our right wing as we headed back south.
Daniel's father and my good friend Hayley flew in their Waco YKC, which is closed cabin. It was funny when we would land on the way back and they would be sweaty from all the heat the engine gives off combined with the hot day, and Daniel and I would be wearing two or three jackets to keep from being freezing. The higher the altitude, the colder the air, so we generally flew around 2000 feet.
It was an amazing year at EAA Oshkosh AirVenture and another great experience flying in. Hello to any of the brilliant people we met while up there, and I hope everyone enjoyed the week as much as we did!