Vintage planes are stars of air show
June 18, 2004
Water bounced off the wing of the red and yellow biplane, spraying Lorraine Holtaway's wavy brown hair.
The 21-year-old air mechanic was perched on a ladder hosing down the 1931 Great Lakes plane in preparation for the air show, which begins Saturday, marking Father's Day, and runs weekends through mid-October at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.
"I remember coming here to the show with my father when I was about 9 or 10," said Holtaway, an aviation technology student at Purdue University, and the first female mechanic at the aerodrome. "The older planes have always seemed so exciting to me."
Cole Palen, who turned the property into an airstrip in 1959, apparently felt the same way. In 1993 - just months before his death - Palen established the non-profit Rhinebeck Aerodrome Foundation to continue his dream of keeping aircraft history alive.
"These planes are a little more adventurous - you never really know what's going to happen when you are up there," said Holtaway, who flies her father's 1949 Aeronca Champ and aspires to fly one of Rhinebeck's antique models in future air shows. This year, she'll settle for a role as a member of the ground crew helping to guide the planes after landing.
Saturday's show chronicles the history of flight with Pioneer, World War I, and Lindbergh-era aircraft taking to the skies. Highlights on Sunday include a dogfight between a Fokker Triplane and a Sopwith Camel. The Flying Farmer, Stan Segalla, will be back for the 40th year in a row to demonstrate precision flying aboard his bright yellow Piper PA-11.
Between shows, visitors can take in sights of aircraft from the 1930s and beyond in four museum buildings. Before and after the show, pilots will take visitors on 15-minute rides over the Hudson in a 1929 New Standard Plane.
If the winds are calm, Taylor will demonstrate early flight in a 1909 Bleriot XI and a 1911 Curtiss Pusher Model D.
"The Bleriot is the oldest aircraft flying in the United States right now," Taylor said. "This is the same model Louis Bleriot flew over the English Channel in 1909."
There's no formal training for flying vintage style.
"You just research how pilots flew them back then," said Taylor, swaying back and forth in the seat of the Curtiss during a recent tour of the aerodrome. "It's pretty scary the first time you go out. You have to taxi around the ground first, get a feel for it, listen to the sounds of the engine, get visual references."
Then, it's up, up, and away.
Well, at least up.
"I don't take these planes out of sight of the airfield because I know the motor is going to stop - I just don't know when," said Taylor, who will also fly his private planes, a 1931 Waco and a 1929 Pietenpol Air Camper, in the show. "I've gone up to 300 feet with the Bleriot - that's as high as you want to go in that plane."
It's fun for people to watch the older models flying, he said, because the pilot is exposed and it's easy to see how the plane is being operated. In the old days, daredevils would make as much as $1,000 for looping planes like the Curtiss during air shows.
"Back then, you could feed a family of four for about $6 per week, so that was easy money for these men," Taylor said.
Devil-may-care pilots at Rhinebeck will open the air show with the "Delsey Dive."
"We drop a roll of Delsey toilet paper out of the plane and then roll back and cut it as many times as we can before it hits the ground," Taylor said.
Audience members get involved by rooting for their favorite models.
"The planes are the stars of this show," Taylor said.