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Andrew King

Barnstormer extraordinaire

You’ve got to love a guy who says, “I want people to think I’m the biggest liar in the nursing home.”

Photography by David Tulis
Zoomed image
Photography by David Tulis

His voice is so full of pure joy as he recounts his exploits in antique aircraft such as the Curtiss Pusher, Lindbergh’s Kinner Bird (the Brunner-Winkle BK, which Lindbergh bought for his wife, Anne, to learn to fly in), and his favorite Bücker Jungmann, that I want to be in that nursing home—and who would ever want to say that? Ask Andrew King what he does, and he answers simply “Barnstormer.” The 60-year-old airframe and powerplant mechanic, sightseeing and ferry pilot, and lover of history is so much more. But the title makes him happy, and proud. He grew up at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, a living history museum in New York’s Hudson Valley, flew with his father in a Piper Cub as soon as he could see over the glareshield, and performed in his first airshow at 20. He says airline pilots tell him “I wish I could be you when I grow up,” but being this caretaker of all things antique aviation isn’t always easy. “It takes sacrifice to do the things you want to do.” And what King wants to do is fly old airplanes. “All I could think of was flying airplanes growing up. But when I got my A&P my mom said, ‘You like to fix things,’ and I told her no, if I could only fly, that’s what I’d do. Fixing things helps me pay for what I really want to do.” Now based at Virginia’s Culpeper Regional Airport (CJR), King has several hangars with his antique aircraft in various stages of repair. The Bücker Jungmann is his aircraft of choice: “Pitts pilots argue that the Pitts is better, and it is more capable but less pleasant. The Pitts is like flying a wild horse; flying the Bücker is like dancing with the prettiest girl in the room, and I’ll take dancing with the pretty girl.” Why is he so enamored with old aircraft? Aside from his fascination with history and the stories of groundbreaking pilots, he says, “If I was king of the world, everyone would solo in a glider and then a Piper Cub. After doing that, you can fly anything.”

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Julie Walker
Julie Summers Walker
AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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