Saturday, June 13, 2009

As a Matter of Fact I Could See My House

A couple of months ago I won a flight in a 1942 Boeing Stearman and today I took that flight.  The Stearman is a turboprop bi-plane that the U.S. Military used as a trainer during World War II.  However, the particular plane I flew in was used by the Forest Service.  Two people can fit in the cockpit, and the plane is flown from the back but since the plane is a trainer there are controls in the front.  As the passenger on this particular flight, I sat in the front.  I strapped in and put on my leather helmet(like the ones pilots wore in World War 2) and we taxied out to the grass runway because the Stearman is designed to use grass runways.  

We took off from the Red Oak Airport heading northwest into the wind but quickly flew east towards Stanton, Iowa and Viking Lake State Park.  The take off was so smooth that I did really feel the plane leave the ground.  After turning east, we flew over the northern part of Red Oak.  In the distance I could make out the church next to my house, and I could see my roof.  We climbed to an altitude of 1,000 feet and headed east towards Stanton.  We skirted the southern edge of Stanton and approached Viking Lake.  

During the flight the I could feel the wind blowing through the plane.   Sometimes the wind buffeted the plane and pushed it from side to side.  It felt like the plane bucked and bounced through the sky.  The Stearman is not a fast plane(take off at 60 mph and cruising between 80-100 mph) nor does it cut a sleek figure; it felt a little lumbering and ungainly as it went though the air.  All of this, combined with the roar of the engine, made for a great ride that seemed to engage all of my senses. 

When flew over the lake, we could smell the campfires.  As we crossed the shoreline of Viking Lake, we turned on the smoke and left a smoke trail over the lake.  We flew over the lake and then turned around and come back over the lake.  As we came back towards the lake, we descended to about 500 feet and laid down another trail of smoke over Viking Lake.

Turning towards home, we climbed back to 1,000 feet.  This time we flew directly over Red Oak and I could see my house and other landmarks in town.  We then did a couple of roller coasters; we climbed and then descended quickly.  The effect was to give me a brief feeling of weightlessness.  We then turned toward the airport and landed.  We taxied to the tarmac and I took off my leather helmet so that I could hear the roar of the engine.  The pilot cut the engine and I hopped out of the plane.  Thus ended my flight and a really great experience.  

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