I grew up listening to my great-grandmother tell me of her childhood days in Kitty Hawk. She would describe in great detail the first flights of Orville and Wilbur. As she grew older the story would get shorter, but the one thing she would always remember was how "far" those men would fly and how they seemed "fearless." That's where my love of flying began.
My wife and I were excited about this trip. Not only would I get to fly the Waco, but also it would be a homecoming of sorts. I grew up in Phoenix and graduated from ERAU in Prescott, Arizona, in 1995. My brother and his family still live in Prescott. I was looking forward to the visit and the return to campus.
Once we arrived at the "U.S.S. Sedona" (affectionate term we Riddle pilots gave the airport due to its location on top of a plateau), we located Red Rock Biplanes and spoke to one of their pilots, Mike Potts. He seemed as excited as I was to get in the Waco and fly. He went out of his way to accommodate us. Before the weekend was over Red Rock had flown my wife and I and my brother. It was incredible.
I've been a Comanche ('67 260B) driver the past few years. What a great airplane. I can fly my wife, two daughters, and all the luggage we need nonstop to just about anywhere we would want to go. But nothing I've ever flown or probably ever will compares to an open-cockpit biplane taildragger. I had no time in either a taildragger or an open cockpit. I had flown over Sedona countless times during my pilot training at ERAU, but until I had flown over it at a couple hundred feet at a 45-degree angle inside an open cockpit...I hadn't really flown.
Mike let me fly the Waco from just after takeoff until back inside the Sedona traffic area. It was the most fun I have ever had flying. I've never used so much right rudder. I kept telling myself "get your head out of the cockpit and have fun!" We flew over to Jerome (a small mountainside mining town). I wanted to just keep going west and call Prescott Tower "Mingus Mountain inbound, with information oscar, for a full stop." I knew time was running short, though. Mike slipped the Waco in, and the trip back in time was over.
Thanks to AOPA for the trip and all you do for general aviation. Thanks to the folks at Red Rock for a weekend we will never forget. The Waco is real flying....
October 3, 2003