Airborne authenticity: Colorful vintage biplanes fly into, over Jefferson City
Stepping out of an open-cockpit, pre-World War II blue and red biplane, Jefferson City resident Sharon Naught was all smiles Thursday morning. After she was unable to see a Boeing B-29 Superfortress last summer, Naught was determined to take a biplane ride.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I loved it. It was beautiful — the city looked so beautiful.”
Dozens of people took advantage of the American Barnstormers Tour on Thursday, flying in the vintage biplanes at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport.
The American Barnstormers Tour flew 11 biplanes into Jefferson City earlier this week and provided flights and aerial demonstrations Thursday. The tour will be in town through Saturday.
Founded in 2006, the tour features Travel Air biplanes ranging from 1927-32, including 1929 Travel Air E-4000, 1927 Travel Air 4000s, 1932 Travel Air B-14-B and 1929 Travel Air D-4-D airplanes.
“I like flying airplanes like this because they have character, personality,” said Waldo Lock, one of the tour’s co-organizers and pilot of an orange and silver 1929 Travel Air. “In my opinion, if you get into a modern airplane right off the factory, it doesn’t have any stories to tell, (while) these (biplanes) have been around for 75, 85 years.”
Soaring above the Capital City, the deafening sound of wind rushes through the biplane wings on either side as one takes in the view of the state Capitol and Missouri River.
As they were admiring Jefferson City’s sights from the sky, Norman and Nancy Luebbert also spotted their home.
The Luebberts were two of the first individuals to fly in a biplane Thursday morning. After learning how to fly many years ago, Norman Luebbert created a bucket list of things he would like to fly in and has been checking items off the list ever since.
“I always wanted to fly in an open cockpit, and I’ve always wanted to fly in a biplane,” he said. “It was great.”
Fifteen-minute biplane rides cost $80 per person from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, weather permitting. All rides are first come, first served; the tour will not accept advance reservations. There are some weight restrictions for the biplanes, American Barnstormers spokeswoman Jill Manka said.
Riding in one of the biplanes is “the most authentic way you can experience an airplane,” Manka said, adding it reminds people why leisurely flying is fun.
“We hope people will see that there’s a difference between flight and travel,” she said. “When you come out here in the open-cockpit, you get to experience flight in its truest form. We’re not going anywhere, but we’re sure going to have a fun time flying around.”
Along with flights, aerial demonstrations are at 1 p.m. each day and static displays are from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
During static spotlights, pilots highlight different static displays for 30-45 minutes and host Q&A sessions. The static spotlights will be at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. today and Saturday.
Standing near the static displays, 11-month-old Santino Sesia waved at the planes taking off. His parents, Felicia and Patrick, said their son enjoys watching the planes and they thought the tour would be a good family event to attend.
“It’s really cool to see because you very rarely see any working biplanes, so to see a collection of them is really cool,” said Patrick, who once had a pilot’s license.
This is not the American Barnstormers Tour’s first time in the Capital City. It came to Jefferson City in 2008, when it stayed an extra day due to the response, Airport Manager Ron Craft told the Jefferson City Airport Advisory Committee last month.
Other tour stops include Ames, Iowa; Watertown, South Dakota; Brainerd, Minnesota; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.