Monday morning, Kath and I drove down to Centennial Airport at the south end of the Denver Metro, and I fulfilled a life-long dream. Since I was knee high to a grasshopper, as they say where I grew up, I wanted to fly in an open-cockpit biplane and specifically in a Stearman.
The Stearman was designed in the 1930s and was the initial training airplane for both the Army Air Force and the Navy during WW II. Here's a pic of a 1941 model Stearman, PT-17, with a gorgeous woman standing at the wing. Who is that woman you ask. Why, that's Kathy, my guardian angel and partner in life.
Kath gave me this ride in the Stearman as a 30th wedding anniversary present. What a wonderful present. The view isn't nearly as nice, but here's the intrepid aviator standing at the wing waiting to fly off on the dawn patrol to hunt down the Red Baron.
Yes, that's a parachute hanging on my body. We were going to do some acrobatics, and the FAA says if you are going to be doing crazy stuff like that, you at least need to let people know by wearing a parachute. They want to be able to take you to task for breaking an airplane if you crash one. So here's a picture of us in a turn after we flew out to the area southwest of Denver. We were in a bank, getting ready to head into a loop.
And the next picture is when we were pointed straight down in that loop. I figured not many of you have ever seen straight down in an airplane. Probably not many really do want to see that.
I cannot begin to describe how wonderful that hour was for me. Here's a haiku I wrote this morning about the experience.
open cockpit morning
blue sky overhead
wind and sun play on my face
the essence of flight
I flew for 20 years in the Air Force, lots of airplanes from single engined jets to large jet refueling airplanes and many smaller ones like Cessna O-1s, but nothing compared to this. Being in an open cockpit, looking through struts and wires, listening to that 450 hp Pratt and Whitney roaring, and with nothing above my head and only the wonderful view of the plains, the mountains, and the beautiful cloud speckled blue sky was truly marvelous for me.
And after a soft, three-point landing, and taxiing to the parking ramp, it was amazing to see that little blue and yellow biplane parked between a couple of corporate jets. And you know those corporate pilots were eating their hearts out. And I was smiling the mother of all smiles.
The high I had yesterday persists. Kath was so thrilled to see me go up that she stood on the ramp and bawled, as she put it. And I had trouble sleeping last night because my face hurt from smiling so hard and long. She wants me to go back next week and fly again. I'm just afraid the magic wouldn't be there next time. It's the worry of a second date after a wonderful first. We'll see.