While visiting Florida, my friend Keith and I headed over to spend an afternoon at Fantasy of Flight. If you like restored vintage aircraft, consider a visit. There are historical exhibits and hangars full of cool aircraft. As we walked in from the parking lot, we noticed the "Biplane Rides" sign. Some of my long-time readers will understand how well I could (not) resist that temptation! Waldo Wright's Flying Service offers a "Vintage Barnstorming Flight" in their New Standard N-25. In the 1920s and 1930s, the N-25 served as a tourist hauler on the barnstorming circuit. The forward cockpit seats four, making this a station wagon of the air. Keith and I went up along with a young married couple, making it a full flight.
We had our briefing; a mix of safety and aviation history. Then we donned our cloth helmets and goggles (that radial engine does spit a bit of oil, as seen on the front windscreen). The N-25 has two cockpits; the small rear cockpit for the pilot, and a larger forward cockpit with two bucket seats in front of a bench seat. (Here's a shot of me with the pilot in the background.) Since the plane was designed for tourist rides, there is a convenient step mounted on the side of the fuselage. The young couple sat in the front seats, with Keith (right) and I (left) squeezed into the rear bench seat. The rear seat has one long seat belt that reaches over both passengers. After engine start and run-up, we taxied to the end of the grass runway. The takeoff roll was smooth and short, and soon the wind was whipping us in that open cockpit while we viewed the museum complex from the air. The ride was low and slow, our top speed was about 80mph. The view over the side of the cockpit was great. In the rear seat, we were far behind the small windscreen and the wind buffeting was harsh. It reminded me of riding in the side seat of a Huey helicopter without doors -- your face feels numb afterwards.
Waldo Wright's also operates a PT-17 Stearman "Hands On" flight -- a good reason for me to make a return visit to Fantasy of Flight and Waldo Wright's!
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