Since dating the son of a pilot, my life has become much more steeped in aircraft, planes, and general aviation. I have always liked planes – they’re pretty cool, after all, and a huge part of my travels! This past weekend, I had an incredible aviation experience unlike any other. I was invited to come along on a photo shoot that focused on military veterans after their service. The veterans participating in the shoot fly vintage biplanes from the 1930’s and 1940’s at the Bayport Aerodrome on Long Island, New York. Needless to say, it was like aviation heaven!
The shots for the photo shoot required being in the air, naturally, and I was fortunate enough to score an open seat with one of the pilots going up. I have never before been in a biplane and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was positively one of the best experiences ever! I enjoy “regular” commercial planes quite a bit but this biplane experience took my enjoyment and appreciation of airplanes to new heights (pun intended).
The photographers for the shoot and the pilots discussed formations and directions for what to do in the air – many of the planes do not have radios to communicate to each other, so knowing what to do ahead of time was crucial. Afterward, it was time to jump into the planes! A wonderful gentleman offered to take me up in his beautiful green biplane from 1930 during the airborne photo shoot – I was very excited! I sat in the front seat and he piloted from the rear seat. I donned a flying cap with headphones and a mic, and off we went toward the runway!
The runway itself was a grass strip. The planes all lined up for takeoff and, before I knew it, it was my turn to head down the runway! The propeller spun furiously and we quickly gained speed before finally lifting off the ground. It was such a bizarre yet incredible sensation! For a few minutes, I had that feeling you get while free falling on a roller coaster – I kept waiting for gravity to kick in and to feel some sort of steadiness or balance (like you do on a large commercial plane), but it never came. Instead, I quickly adjusted to the bouncing of the small craft and the wonderful experience of truly feeling like I was flying (compared to a larger, commercial plane where you know you are flying but you don’t necessarily feel it). The whole time while in the air, I couldn’t stop smiling.
We flew out over Long Island and then over the water toward Fire Island. The planes circled the lighthouse on the island a couple times for the photos and then my pilot flew me out over the beach, did some quick turns, and was able to really show me what the plane could do! It was pretty windy up there, especially since the cockpits are open-topped, and a little cold, too, but nowhere near as cold as I had imagined it being. After some time flying around up in the air, we turned and headed back toward the airfield.
Landing the plane went much more smoothly than I had envisioned it in my mind. I had anticipated a bumpy and rocky landing, but my pilot put the plane down gently and with ease back onto the grass runway – a sign of great skill and experience! My only complaint was that I had to exit the plane when we were finished. I wanted to keep flying!
After the flight, I perused the old planes in the hangars. One was especially stunning – a black and blue WACO biplane. The man who owned it asked if I’d like to sit in it, so I did! My cousin captured a great shot:
I am so grateful to have been able to experience such a fantastic flight. Flying in a vintage biplane has only strengthened my love for flying and appreciation for aviation!