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Waco ride winner escapes East Coast chillWaco ride winner escapes East Coast chill

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Shawn McClosky jumped at the chance to flee a snowy winter in Front Royal, Va., to enjoy the open-cockpit thrill of a Waco biplane in Long Beach, Calif. Even a snowstorm the morning of departure from Dulles International Airport did not deter his enthusiasm.

He made two flights in early February at Mike and Kendle Hanson's Biplane Rides on Long Beach Airport. Shawn was a monthly winner in AOPA's Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes. Monthly winners experience a flight in a 1987 Waco, which approximates the totally restored Grand Prize Waco that will go to a lucky winner in early 2004. The sweepstakes prize plane is a restored 1940 Waco three-seater UPF-7.

"I remember when AOPA called and told me I had won the Waco flight experience. I was asked if I would accept the prize. My reply was 'is this a trick question? Of course I will!' It was one of the smartest decisions of my life," McClosky said.

The first flight with Mike Hanson on Friday would include "just a little sightseeing to start out," only over Hollywood and directly atop Los Angeles International Airport, and "then maybe out to Catalina Island," he says. The big moment for McClosky really came "when we then turned out to sea," and Mike said, "You have the airplane." McClosky did fine at the controls, and Mike landed at Catalina for a break. Mike's aerobatics that day to and from the island airport only provided more inspiration for McClosky.

Shawn took the controls for takeoff on Saturday and "did better than expected," then turned south and headed down the coast. Then approaching the airport for landing, Shawn said, "I managed to get lined up with the runway. Altitude, airspeed, power management, and attitude all came back to me."

Read Shawn McCloskey's first-person report.

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