Open Air View: Barnstormers set down at Brookhaven Airport
Editor’s Note: Please see separate gallery of aerial photos taken of Brookhaven during Monday’s flight aboard the biplane.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … biplane! To be more precise it’s a 1929 New Standard Biplane that was seen circling the Brookhaven area Monday and early Tuesday.
Ted Davis with Biplane Rides of America and his son Trent have barnstormed their way through nine cities since leaving their hometown of Brodhead, Wis., on Oct. 2. The Davises will make their way back home around Nov. 5, said Ted Davis.
Popular in the 1920s and ’30s, barnstorming refers to pilots who flew around the countryside selling rides in their planes. Davis and his son are part of the Dixieland Tour, a group of barnstormers who are making their way throughout the South. The Davises fly from town to town with only what they can carry in their open cockpit airplane.
“Only 72 models were made,” Davis said of his antique plane. “Only eight are left in the world.”
Davis’ biplane was originally manufactured in Paterson, N.J., and probably sold for around $9,500 in 1929, said Davis. It was specifically built for barnstorming since it was designed with seating for four in addition to the pilot. Most biplanes only have seating for two.
Davis credits a local aviator with introducing him to Brookhaven.
“I’d like to thank Paul Barnett for inviting us to the area,” Davis said.
Barnett and Davis met two months ago at a mutual friend’s wedding in Blakesville, Iowa, home to the Antique Airfield.
“He’s a great guy,” Barnett said of Davis. “What he’s doing is taking people back in time.”
Both Barnett and Davis have a passion and joy when it comes to soaring the wild blue yonder.
“He and I think alike in that we are introducing people to flight,” Barnett said.
The aviators both explained that riding in an open air cockpit gives the passenger a freer sense of flight. With hair flying in the wind, you experience flight first hand without the encumbrances of fiberglass or metal. Your senses come alive with the staccato rhythm of the engine, the smell of pine trees and the whistle of the wind blowing through the wires that extend from the top wings to the bottom wings, not to mention the unbelievable sights.
Passengers in the plane sit in front of the pilot and experience the thrill of the ride just a few feet away from the plane’s giant silver propeller giving many a rare and unfettered view of what’s around them. Barnstorming is a part of aviation that is dying, Barnett said.
“This is a ride that you can’t get at Disney World,” Barnett explained. “You have to find a barnstormer to do it.”
The Davises will continue to offer rides at the Brookhaven Airport until Wednesday, provided the weather cooperates. The father-son team has plans to be in Madison by Friday. The fee for a 15-minute ride above the Brookhaven area is $70, said Ted Davis.
For more information about Davis or his biplane, visit www.biplaneridesofamerica.com or call 608-751-8000.