I was delivering the Nettle Creek Gazette to the Hagerstown IGA last Tuesday morning when I ran into Wayne County Commissioner Mary Anne Butters. She, along with her artist husband Tom have always been heavily involved with the Flying Circus since its beginnings. Out of the blue, she asked if I would like a free ride in a bi-plane for a story. My immediate thought was simple. . . “Yikes!”
In 2002, Melissa and I jumped out of an airplane because I had a friend who was a professional skydiver. I was younger and more stupid then. Melissa loved it, I hated it. It’s cold at 10,000 feet, the outfit with all its straps cut off all my circulation including breathing and let’s not forget about falling to earth with only an oversized bed sheet to slow you down.
I have flown on jumbo jets for business under protest. I can only watch “Airport ’75” with both feet on the floor and a paper bag at my side. I ask for a spotter when climbing a stepladder. So the opportunity to go up into the wild blue yonder in a crop duster wooden airplane with no flight attendants offering me Dramamine or a having a seat that cannot become a floatation device was something different.
My day at the airport consisted of cooking hundreds of hamburgers and hot dogs over a 5,000 degree grill but in the shade of the hanger. Mary Anne found me and asked it I still wanted to go flying. I am not afraid of heights, not too much that is.
I was introduced to Mr. Ted Davis, pilot and owner of Biplane Rides of America out of Wisconsin. Ted has the look of a early twentieth century pilot. He first flew at age 16 and received his Private Pilot certificate at age 17. For over 35 years, he has been in the business of restoring and flying antique airplanes. Over the course of 6,500+ hours in the
air, he has piloted close to 130 different types of airplanes. He currently holds Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates, along with an Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic certificate with an Inspection Authorization.
Boarding a 1929 New Standard D-25 is not like taking a Southwest Airlines flight out of Indy. Passengers are told to step on the seat when getting in, completely opposite of what we were all told growing up concerning the family sofa. I seated myself, put on the shop safety glasses I was given and removed my hat. I looked for my seat belts next. There were not any in 1929 and there are not any now. I assumed there wasn’t any emergency oxygen to drop down in the case of an emergency. An in-flight movie was out of the question.
Besides windy, because of the lack of a pressurized cabin, a 1929 New Standard D-25 is very loud. But the takeoff was like impossibly smooth, like letting go of a balloon. Before you know it, the countryside looks like a model railroad layout. Suddenly, the noise is forgotten as the Nettle Creek Valley in all it’s agricultural beauty unfolds beneath you.
I took a thousand photos before I had the thought, “I better put the camera strap around my neck.” It would be a catastrophe to loose my camera and an equal calamity to bean someone’s new Silverado pickup parked on Main.
I looked back at Ted once in awhile, just to make sure he was still there. He looked like he was having the time of his life, that each flight was as exciting as the last. I agree. It was not so much you
felt like you were flying but “floating.” You become to hypnotized by the experience to worry about a little bump here and there. I was so overcome by the good time I was having that I forgot to even ask for a complementary bag of peanuts.
We have been talking about the Hagerstown Airport having the longest and best kept grass runway in the country. I’ll add to that the softest, smoothest, whatever you wish to call it because landing was like setting down on a sea of jumbo marshmallows. Part of that was Ted’s skill in maneuvering the aircraft.
I highly recommend Ted and his vintage flying machine for an adventure you will not forget. He is throughly a professional, as was those working on the ground for him. Hopefully, he will be back next summer as he has been for several Hagerstown Flying Circus events in previous years. Do yourself a favor and see Hagerstown, and maybe your house, as you never have before. Thanks Ted!