Junior Birdmen - Biplane Flights
I learned the Junior Birdmen song in junior high, seems appropriate enough.
Up in the air Junior Birdmen
Up in the air upside down
Up in the air Junior Birdmen
Keep your noses off the ground
With my fingers formed in a circle and held upside down over my eyes, picturing myself as Snoopy hunting down the Red Baron, my 12-year-old self never imagined I would someday fly in a nearly 100-year-old biplane.
Yet there I was last week on a grass airstrip outside the small town of Broadhead, Wisconsin, climbing aboard a 1930 Waco Taperwing.
You can do it too.
Flights are conducted by Gypsy Air Tours, the husband and wife team of Josh and Kerryann Brownell.
They offer 20-, 30- and even 45-minute flights. A nice thing about it is the biplane seat is just big enough for two people and the price is the same whether you are doing it solo or with a partner.
You have to do it.
Admittedly, I have a bit of a daredevil spirit. I’ve done the tandem skydiving thing and taken photos out of a helicopter with the doors removed.
P.S. The helicopter was the same one used in an episode of Hawaii Five-O as both the police chopper and the bad guys’ copter. They painted it between shots.
Anyway, having said that, aside from people who maybe have a severe fear of heights or, naturally, fear of flying, I really think most everyone would enjoy the biplane ride.
Josh, who serves as the pilot, mentioned it being a bit of a rollercoaster ride, but I’d actually put it a notch lower on the thrill scale.
We were constantly swaying from side to side. Partly because that’s just the way it is and partly because it was a pretty windy day.
There were 90 degree turns where I was looking straight up into the clouds on one side and directly down to the land below on the other, a swoop to the ground that reminded me of a crop duster flying low to spray the fields, and a couple of times where I was lifted a little off my seat.
I’d been ok with a barrel roll or loop-to-loop but, understandably, that’s not something they are going to do with inexperienced passengers. Insurance and all that, ya’ know.
By the way, Josh does tell you to signal him if you’re feeling a little queasy or give him the ol’ thumbs up if you’re having fun.
The cockpits are entirely open. The passenger cockpit is located in front of the pilot’s, so you’re right between the wings, behind the propellor, with nothing between you and the sky in front of you except for a small windshield.
(It might be hard to tell, but a lot of this video is when we are making turns and at, or near, 90 degrees.)
You’re allowed to take photos with your phone or camera. Just be careful. As I found out, if you lift your hands above or off to the side of that windshield, the wind will take them back very quickly.
It only makes sense. Imagine driving down the interstate at 80 miles an hour or more and sticking your hand out the window. Same result.
I definitely gave Josh the thumbs up during my flight and give the entire experience two thumbs up.
You can schedule a flight through their website. One note, both Josh and Kerryann have “day jobs” so they don’t schedule especially far in advance.
Your best bet is to be flexible. Send them an email through the form on their website and don’t panic if you don’t hear back from them right away. That just means they haven’t gotten the next flight dates set quite yet.
Kelch Aviation Museum
The small airport they fly out of also houses the Kelch Aviation Museum. The museum is a fun walk back into aviation history and is entirely free of charge.
The museum features 19 vintage airplanes, mostly from the 1920s and 30s. They even have a plane engine there with possible ties back to Charles Lindbergh.
Car enthusiasts will enjoy looking at antique cars included in the collection, also dating back to the 30s.
Many of the pieces belonged to Alfred & Lois Kelch, with others on loan from museums and private collectors.
Kelch was a successful businessman whose injection molding company made traffic cones, plastic flashlights, those orange life buoy things you see the lifeguards using on Baywatch when they jump into the waves to save people in distress, and even toy replicas of the Big Boy Restaurant boy.
The Kelch’s created a trust, along with funding, for their plane and memorabilia collection in 2004 with the museum officially opening in 2012. The museum is becoming a great attraction for Brodhead and is currently expanding its space.
One additional sidenote, if you’re looking for other places to go and things to do in that area, Monroe is just 15 miles straight west of Brodhead. It’s a small town with lots of character and things to do.
Stop in at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center and you might even meet the mayor. She volunteers at the front desk.
She has quite the story to tell. She’s in her 80s and is the town’s first female mayor.
**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.