AOPA Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes

What If You Won the Waco?

April 1, 2003

AOPA members dream of hitting the jackpot

AOPA members tell us they'd yell, scream, and run to the airport naked (please don't, as we will be videotaping the award ceremony) if they won AOPA's $250,000 Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes Waco UPF-7. Others would play with it until the tax bill arrives — then sell it and keep the $150,000 cash remaining, or sell it right away and buy an airplane that better meets their needs. Or maybe go to college with the money.

How do we know some of our members would literally streak to the airport to pick up their prize? A question was posted in the chat room of AOPA Online ( and within days there were 50 responses spanning a broad range of emotions from "I'd keep it" or "I'd probably sell it" to "I'd definitely sell it." It's fun to dream, and that's what the sweepstakes are all about. Here are some of the responses.

I'd keep it

Greg Kainz, AOPA 3702996, Arvada, Colorado
When you call to tell me I can come pick up my Waco, I will be screaming my darn fool head off all the way to the airport to pick it up. I will be doing cartwheels and backflips (now that would be a sight to see for this old guy!) all the way to tailwheel training, and then back to screaming my darn fool head off as I fly open-cockpit to as many places as I can think of in as many days as I can get away from work. I guess you can say I would keep it!

Bruce Brown, FT 4174248, Grover Beach, California
I'm ready for a life-changing experience, and I'm sure this would do it. I'd have to buddy-up with a few partners to afford keeping it, but I'd certainly give it my best shot. Please deliver it to Oceano County Airport. And watch for the ecstatic, middle-age kid wearing the baggy Hawaiian shirt.

John Recine, AOPA 3437007, Lititz, Pennsylvania
I would: Keep it! Keep it! Keep it! And then mortgage the farm to keep it! Then I would enjoy the (heck) out of it, returning to the golden days of aviation. I would get the leather helmet, goggles, boots, and scarf, and start flying and enjoy it like there's no tomorrow. And finally when the mortgage company comes to take the house back I would get my commercial and sell rides in my Waco. Now ya know, there would have to be some showing off, so I would have to get some aerobatic training to keep things a bit interesting for demonstration purposes, you understand — let everyone know what she'll do! Some are meant to fly from one point to another and others to putter around the patch, but my Waco and me, we are meant for flying with each other! And that's the plan! Oh yeah, I may have to find a new wife too! I doubt my present one would appreciate me having an affair with an airplane and living at the hangar! (Unless my living at the hangar makes her happy.) I guess I'll have to wait 'til my Waco gets here to find out how she feels about the new living arrangement!

Ted Powers, AOPA 4114927, Winnebago, Illinois
Keep? Sell? Difficult decision, eh? Not for me. I never win anything. No, really, if it involves picking my name or ticket from a hat, I'm "0-fer" big time. But, despite the insurmountable odds of my being selected to receive such a special airplane, and?in the unlikely event I would actually win, I would sell (some of) my organs to keep it. I'd hang on to the ones required to keep my medical, though.

Ken Carlson, AOPA 4647608, Axton, Virginia
To be safe, I'd immediately quit flying altogether. That's based on the rule of filling your experience bag before you empty your luck bag. Seriously, I'd get my tailwheel rating first thing so I could be a "real pilot" like Phil [see " You're Not a Real Pilot," January Pilot]. Then, I'd investigate the possibility of bartering aircraft time with local owners. "Why, sure you can get checked out in the Waco. Mind if I get checked out in your (insert name of totally unaffordable aircraft here)?"

Marvin Kaufman, AOPA 4155460, Silsbee, Texas
If I win the Waco I'm going to the airport naked.

Victor Edwards, AOPA 4766849, Grayling, Michigan
What a fun fantasy to ponder. I'd check for the names of the top two or three people who provide training for Wacos. I'd pick one (after phoning each) and have him or her put me through a "when I get done, you can fly my only child anytime" training program. Next step would be to paint "Thank you, AOPA" on each side in huge letters. Then I'd load the wife in the front and fly to each of the lower 48 states. Carry a sleeping bag and cameras. Focus on the smaller airports where I could swap rides in the Waco for rides in other types of aircraft. Talk with the other pilots about those wonderful out-of-the-way destinations locals seem to always know about but you never read about. And of course, I'd have to see the dentist once a week to have the bugs scraped off my teeth from grinning while flying. Unlikely to occur, but fun to imagine.

I'd probably sell it

Scott Stevelinck, AOPA 4040495, Macomb, Michigan
First I would be stunned and shocked that I won. Not because I won, but because I'm not currently a doctor, dentist, or lawyer with a Mooney, Bonanza, or private jet sitting in my private hangar off my own 5,000-foot paved strip. Anybody who has seen the past few winners understands this comment. Then I'd scream like a girl, faint, wake up, scream like a girl some more, then fly it a couple times (with an instructor, of course), and finally sell it. The money would be used to first pay the taxes on the prize and what's left would be used to purchase an aircraft more in line with my needs.

Mike Andrews, AOPA 1340712, Chicago, Illinois
Twenty-seven percent of $250,000 is $67,500. That would be the 2003 tax bill for most of us. A 15-year loan for that would have payments of what? $700 a month? That and the $350 to $400 a month I'd have to pay for a heated hangar at home would require more fun money than I have at the moment. But, in spite of the above, a biplane has been a fantasy of mine since before I could talk. The tax bill wouldn't be due until April 15, 2004. If I sold it, I'd make the deal close then. I'd beg, borrow, or steal the money to fly it until then. That would be neat and practical. I think the whole point of the AOPA sweepstakes is to supply a fantasy that isn't so practical.

Ken Ibold, AOPA 1022586, Orlando, Florida
Sell it? Are you kidding?!?!?! What a fabulous airplane to own. I'd kick my beloved Citabria out of the hangar like an old pair of sneakers, buy a canvas helmet, and have a blast. Then reality would set in. I'd sell the thing, pay off the Citabria and the taxes, and bank the rest for flying lessons when the kids get old enough.

Eric Borchers, AOPA 3972776, Lakeland, Minnesota
Let's see. First, I would have to change my boxers (and pants, socks, shoes) so as I didn't soil the seat (I might anyway). Then I would rent a parachute and do the prettiest aileron roll you ever saw (maybe even while towing an AOPA banner)! I would take a month off — fly to every GA function I could and use it to promote GA goodwill to as many of the uninformed souls in the country as possible. I would show them the beauty (Waco) and freedom that comes with a strong GA community. Show them that this is what GA is about — not flying airliners into towers. Then, after I build a lifetime of memories, I would probably have to sell because of the cost to keep it. I am upper-middle class, but not that upper class. You probably have to give it to a doctor or lawyer who can afford it. The hull insurance alone on $250,000 would be phenomenal, not to mention care and feeding.

Tim Klaumann, AOPA 1409508, Amherst, New Hampshire
I wonder if they'll really give it away to someone in the northern climates. I can just imagine Alton Marsh or Phil Boyer handing the keys to the winner standing in 20-knot winds in 15 degree F temperatures, blue and frostbitten after flying the plane to the winner's home, quickly declining a "free ride" with the new winner. Seriously, does anyone fly these open-cockpit planes in 10-degree-F weather? If I won, I'd fly it in the summer, but it would be a hangar queen in the winter.

Tom Downey, AOPA 1072786, Oak Harbor, Washington
Isn't it fun to dream? That is all it could be because of the tax burden. But if I won! I once flew an open-cockpit biplane in the Puget Sound area and nearly froze my butt. I'll keep the (1937) Fairchild; it has a warm cabin. I hope that the person who wins it will be able to afford to keep it, and fly it around in warm weather, blue skies, and tailwinds.

Wes Holdman, AOPA 4716678, West Lafayette, Indiana
What I'd like to do would be this: Keep it. Possibly "donate" it to a local aircraft museum to resolve/lessen the tax issue if possible. Give rides for fair compensation (i.e., rides in other aircraft). Go to any and all kinds of airshows, cookouts, meetings, and gatherings just because I could. As for maintenance, I could work on it myself after I get my A&P (with plenty of guidance, of course). But most of all have fun! What I'd probably end up doing in the real-world scenario: Get checked out for a tailwheel. Take as many pictures as I possibly could of everything imaginable to remember it all. Sell it with a few tears. Use the money only if necessary to squeeze by for a while. Buy a homebuilt kit and a nice shop/hangar for it.

I'd definitely sell it

Joe Williams, AOPA 3693343, Charleston, West Virginia
For me, the Waco wouldn't make sense. I couldn't come close to affording to fly such a plane. I'd drool on it, admire it, then sell it. Use the money to buy something I could actually fly, probably a Cherokee 140 but maybe a 180 or Skyhawk, finance my flight training, buy a car that isn't waiting to break down, save the rest.

Lane Flynn, FT 4550221, Nashville, Tennessee
Is it even possible for a 60-hour private pilot with zero tailwheel time (other than gliders) to get insurance on a plane like that? My guess is no, in which case — when I win — I'll take a ride with whoever delivers the plane, then park it 'til it's sold. After which, I'll pay the taxes and buy an IFR-certified Cherokee 180 with a Garmin 430 in the panel, and spend the rest of the money on some ratings. If the insurance is doable, I'll fly it for a week, after which the operating and insurance costs will/have bankrupted me. Then I proceed as above.

Jeffrey Eggenberger, AOPA 4036896, Garden City, Michigan
As nice as the plane is, I would have to sell it. It just does not fit my flying profile. I would like to upgrade my 172 with the money, and find some farmland for a private strip! That is my dream!

Frank Cason, AOPA 1327736, Colorado Springs, Colorado
I'd love to keep the plane. I seriously do want an old open-cockpit biplane. I intend to have one eventually somehow. I'd have to sell, though, because the reality is that it would seriously clean my clock (and several others) trying to pay the taxes on it, much less the operating costs. I would keep it for a month. I'd get rated for it and go on a few fun cross-countries before giving it up. Giving up the Waco, though difficult, would not be a completely lost cause. The good side is that for $225,000 to $250,000 I can get a reasonably nice Cessna 170 or 180 and land for a private runway somewhere interesting. Then more ratings and an A&P. Then I'd probably start planning on rebuilding an old biplane that I could afford.

Kevin Peterson, AOPA 1402732, Miami, Florida
I don't even dream about winning the Waco. I will say that if lightning strikes, pigs begin to take wing, and monkeys fly out of — well, after a few loving gazes, I would have to figure a way to trade it and a few bucks (to cover the taxes) on a Cessna 195 — something a bit more practical while still being classically stylish.

Bruce Cameron, AOPA 4702183, Mazeppa, Minnesota
As much as I hate to say this, the reality is that I'd keep it long enough to get my taildragger endorsement and a few hours in type before selling it. The proceeds would be used to pay for additional ratings (through CFI) and to buy a plane that's a bit more practical. Please note: The kid in me is screaming, "Keep it, keep it!"

Alex Kittenplan, AOPA 1306099, Waltham, Massachusetts
To be honest, I would thank AOPA and suggest that they pick another name out of the hat. It would cost me $10,000 to $13,000 just for taxes, not to mention I'd need a hangar and transition training. It doesn't fit my mission profile, which my Tiger does better. Of course I could accept it, sell it and my Tiger, and buy a new Tiger, but I don't feel that it would be right to accept it and just turn it over for sale.

Not even for a new Tiger? AOPA estimates federal taxes could be as much as $75,000, while state and other taxes depend on where you live. There's still a lot of Tiger — in the form of buying power — left over after taxes are fully paid, however. Enough for a head start on a dream.

E-mail the author at [email protected].

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.