Biplanes, they’ll tell you, are about oily round engines, about crosswinds and ground-loops if you don’t watch out.
They’ll tell you that biplanes are about rumbling up the beach, just above the waves, and smelling the salt in the air. And it’s true, you can.
They’ll tell you biplanes are about dew drops on foggy mornings that roll off the top wing to drip and drum softly on the lower wing. And they’re right about that too.
The clatter of a radial shutting down, the smell of hot oil and crushed grass, of leather and sweat as you unbuckle, they’ll tell you, are what biplanes are about. And, yes, they’re right about all that.
What they don’t tell you is that biplanes are about people too.
More than the exhilaration of a sky high perspective, more than inverted thrills, more than a forward slip down final so you can see around the engine, people are what biplanes are all about.
The flight instructor that courageously moved into the front cockpit where there were no brakes so you could stomp on them in the back, screeching and swerving all over the first paved runway you landed on, is one of the people.
Your wife, when she pulls off her leather helmet and goggles, shakes out her hair, and smiles at you after a flight, is one of the people.
The sweet young thing that kissed you right on the lips out of sheer joy after her first biplane ride is one of them.
The bright eyed youngster that hung around all day at the Fly-in and then got that look on his face when you finally asked if he’d like a ride is another one of the people that biplanes are all about.
And if you’re fortunate, you’ll discover all that confidence, affection, excitement, and wonder rolled into one very special person.
He was someone who could invest himself in artfully restoring a beautiful old plane, who could lovingly wipe those dew drops off the crimson wings, and who could also, without a trace of wistfulness, talk about swapping it for a spamcan ’cause the kids are growing up. Wanted something his new pilot wife could enjoy too, he said.
How special he was is measured by the fact that we first met him after flying a 60 year old biplane 900 miles to Sun ‘n Fun, one of the premier aviation events in the world, and the highlight of the trip wasn’t the flight down dodging snow and rain. It wasn’t the show. It was the time we spent with him there and flying home together.
How special he was is measured by how important it is to us that he watched those old Army Air Corps primary training movies we sent later, and like we did he thought it was sad when a stunt pilot wrecked a Stearman like his just for the sake of demonstration.
How special he was is measured by the half finished letter to us in his typewriter that somehow is better than if he’d finished it.
Cary Myers, MD 1953-1989
EAA Vintage Airplane December 1990