Monday, February 19, 2007

Flying A Bi-Plane: The Thrill Of The Adventure

You've seen a bi-plane before. Probably in a movie, or on television. Or possibly in some old World War I footage. It's usually doing some type of acrobatics in the air and spewing a line of white smoke. The pilot is probably wearing a white scarf and goggles. Sound familiar? Well, how would you like to take a ride in one? If you haven't done it before, it can be a thrill of a lifetime. Just imagine flying along the countryside in one of these old, well-built iron planes with nothing separating your head from the air all around you. Do you think you can take the excitement of doing some loops, rolls and hammerheads in an open cockpit? After all, that's part of the magic of the entire experience: you aren't totally enclosed!

Most bi plane rides are tailored to the individual rider. If you are the conservative type, you will experience a nice, level, sightseeing ride. If you are more on the wild side, and want the total thrill, that can be yours as well, it just depends on your tolerance for risk. Actually, there's very little risk in flying a bi-plane. It's very similar to most other types of aircraft. Except for one thing: You can't take the controls and fly a piece of aviation history with a 747! You can with a bi-plane!

And with most flights lasting 45 to 60 minutes in duration, you can definitely get it all in. Including a long series of aerobatics is not a problem!

Many bi-planes that are used are older aircraft, such as those from the Naval Aircraft Factory. Some of these entered service in 1941. There were approximately 980 produced and there are currently 50 left flying in the world. This plane was used as a primary trainer for the U.S. Navy during WWII. These bi-planes were the last ones to be used in U.S. military service.

These bi-lanes were of course built to be very rugged, designed to +9 and -5 g's. Way back when, new naval cadets gave these aircraft a rough life teaching the basics and challenges of airmanship. They affectionately nicknamed it the "Yellow Peril" because of its color and demand for respect.

Although most bi-planes offer decent protection from the elements, you'll need to dress as if you were going for a ride in a convertible. If the temperature is above 50 degrees, you should be quite comfortable. Sunglasses are also a good idea. In terms of general restrictions, the only rule is that you must be at least 7 years old.

If you decide to take a bi-plane flight, go with a company that has been flying for a long time and has lots of flight hours. (think 5,000 plus) Safety is the only thing that takes priority over having fun. Most tour companies provide hundreds of flights each year and have FAA commercially certified pilots with thousands of hours of experience.

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