When my daughter said "Dad, let's go flying!" my first vision was a commercial flight to Colorado to go skiing which sounded great, but she was referring to the newest and most exciting adventure in Austin - flying above the Austin skyline in a red biplane.
I immediately thought of Snoopy and the Red Baron or barnstorming in a leather flying cap, goggles, bomber jacket and scarf like they did in the 20's - according to Wikipedia "Barnstorming" was a form of entertainment in the roaring 20s's during which stunt pilots performed tricks devised to "impress people with the skill of pilots and the sturdiness of planes." Sounds like fun to me.
We were warmly greeted by Rob Whiteside who is a retired US Air Force decorated combat pilot who flew F-16s and U-28As. That helped build my confidence - we're in good hands.
But I still had to ask a lot of questions before I jumped in a antique biplane with an unknown pilot:
As we waited a couple minutes while the plane was filled with fuel, I closely inspected the biplane (tires looked good, rudder moves, it has a propeller albeit wooden, etc.) and as I watched the guy fill it with gas I ask him a couple questions to make sure he gave us enough fuel and was well qualified to fill a plane I was about to get in. I took his picture so I could identify him if we ran out of gas.
Once we were gassed up Rob said "climb aboard" - which wasn't that easy for an old man who has no flexibility and can't bend his knees thanks to a skiing accident. With some pushing, shoving, and grunting I finally plopped into the front seat. "Where is my daughter going to sit!" But she easily slid into her side of the cockpit and we donned our WWI-era leather helmets and , tested our radio communications with Rob who sits in back of us - I have no idea how his 6" 5" broad shouldered body got into that tiny cockpit. Rob gave us a couple of instructions ("don't stick your head outside the windshield and there is a bag in the right pocket if you feel sick!") as the engine warmed up. Where are the parachutes was what I really wanted to know!
Suddenly the wooden propeller, which was just 4 feet or so in front of me, started whumping and then smoothed out into a steady pitch. Rob gassed it and we were rolling forward down the runway. I started to worry a bit as he zig zagged down the runway (has he been drinking?) and just then he explained that "I can't see anything because the front part of the plane sits higher than I do, so I need to weave from side to side to see what's in front of me." As he said that I watched a couple commercial airplanes take off on the runway we were headed toward - I thought, don't worry, Rob is an experienced F-16 pilot and surly this isn't his first take off from the very busy Austin Airport! After waiting for a couple Southwest Airline planes to land and take off, we taxed to our runway and suddenly “Danger Zone” from Top Gun breaks into my headphones and within seconds we were up in the air - cool!
A couple minutes later we were flying 95 miles an hour 1000' above the ground and on our way to downtown Austin. Over the next 20 minutes we banked over the Capital of Texas and the UT campus and Longhorn Stadium, flew along Lake Austin and the 360 bridge, observed the slow moving traffic jam on I-35, buzzed the Austin Country Club, looked down upon South Congress Avenue, flew around Roy Kizer Golf Course, and saw several other beautiful sights around Austin. Right after we got to downtown Austin Rob said "get your camera ready, I'm going to bank sharply right" and I grabbed my daughters leg (was it nerves or to hold her in the plane?) as she confidently took pictures with her iPhone while we flew at what seemed like a 90 degree angle.
All too soon we were headed back toward the airport and I was holding my breath hoping that Rob could see above the nose of the plane and know when to slow down. No big deal, his landing was smooth as silk and we zig zagged back to his office with a huge smile on our faces - wow, that was fun, unique, and exciting. Let's do it again.
Austin Biplane offers a number of different flights that last from 20 to 45 minutes - you can choose from a 20 minute flight over Austin; the "Red Baron Aerobatic Flight" where you'll experience a loop, barrel roll, and wingover; or the Sunset Champagne Flight were you can sip champagne as you fly over Lake Travis and watch the sun set.
And you can capture your entire experience forever; the plane is equipped with two GoPro cameras mounted on each wing, and one GoPro is provided for use in the front cockpit. The SD cards are available after the flight, or footage from all of them can be combined afterwards into an edited movie to keep forever. You can also take vintage looking photographs with the plane, complete with your early 19th century flying regalia that Rob provides.
This unique experience is a popular gift for anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions and anyone for 5 to 95 will really enjoy a flight with Rob.
Give Austin Biplane a call for a fun flight.