Me, win something! It was hard to believe that a certified letter brought good news, but there it was, my letter of congratulations informing me that I was about to experience flight in an open-cockpit Waco biplane. I was so excited that I wanted to immediately go kick the tire, light the fire, and go flying.
I called AOPA and that started our trip to Sedona from Mesa, Ariz., a mere 130 miles away. Sedona is our favorite destination and a perfect jumping off location for an aerial tour of north central Arizona. Pat at AOPA made all the arrangements for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was hard to believe that I'd soon be seeing the red rock formations of Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and the Hoover Dam area from an open-cockpit aircraft with a round engine!
Two weeks later we made the two-hour drive from Mesa to Sedona where we found the accommodations at the Radisson Resort to be first class. I had called Mike Potts at Red Rock Biplanes to discuss our upcoming event and to seek his input. We met the next morning at the Coffee Pot for breakfast and to plan the day. We had the aircraft for the day. This would allow us to overfly Sedona, take a low and slow excursion up to the edge of the restricted area over the Grand Canyon by way of the local VOR on our way to West Grand Canyon. This is a private airport owned and operated by 3,500 Haulpai Native Americans who just happen to own one million acres, part of which is the West End of the Grand Canyon. This is a very beautiful, natural, unimproved area without the National Park area flight restrictions. Their airport is private, is shown on the sectional, but is not recognized by the GPS.
I can't say enough good things about Mike Potts, our instructor pilot and the owner and employees at Red Rock Biplanes. They presented me with my specially made leather bomber jacket and hat before we went flying.
The Waco aircraft is a joy to fly and fly in. It is very stable, even in the afternoon thermals rising from the desert and low mountains of Arizona. Mike is very proficient in the machine and has more hours in it then I have in total. The weather was perfect, a little warm, but then this is June and it is Arizona. Even at that it only takes about 800 feet to get airborne. We were the hit of the day as we flew alongside a train or did a flyby at the Kingman Airport or a full-stop landing at West Grand Canyon Airport followed by a tour and lunch hosted by the Haulpai's. After this delightful experience, we left the Canyon for Kingman, which is located in the Hoover Dam area. It was time to refuel the Waco before leaving Kingman for the return trip to Sedona by way of the Verde River Valley and then back into Sedona. WOW! What a flight! It was better than I had imagined, even though we had pulled up information on the Web site to become somewhat familiar with their operation.
I can't say enough good things about the way we were treated by AOPA and Mike Potts and associates. It ended up being a five-star, red-carpet experience. Thanks to everyone involved. I have hung the framed commemorative plaque in my living room where it reminds me daily of my adventure.