Article and photos submitted by Bob Boone
Editor’s Note – Bob Boone from Prophetstown is an Air Force Veteran and still enjoys planes. He recently took a trip to Galesburg to catch a ride on a bi-wing Stearman airplane.
Each Labor Day weekend Galesburg hosts what is billed as the largest gathering of Stearman airplanes in the world. This year’s event like so may others was changed to a virtual gathering although there were still a few planes on hand. The event was billed as the 49th annual fly-in to be held Sept. 7-12 at the Galesburg Municipal Airport.
In the 1930’s and 40′ the biplane was the standard trainer for pilots in the US Army and Navy. A whole generation of pilots earned their wings in the Stearman.
The following is Boone’s experience piloting a Stearman.
Galesburg is home to an annual Stearman Fly-In, where visitors are given the chance to take a ride in the vintage craft.
Saturday, September 5th I picked up my friend Jim and headed to the Galesburg airport for our scheduled 20 minute rides in an open cockpit, Stearman biplane, that was once a Red Barron plane. (stunt team)
The weather was perfect and even though the official Stearman Fly-In had been cancelled, there was plenty of activity with several Stearmans and four T6s present. The T6s took off in formation and practiced flying in formation around the airport.
This was my 3rd flight and pilot Robert Preston knows me from previous flights. After takeoff and leveling off at 500 feet he told me to take the stick. After a couple minutes he had me climb to 1,000 feet, no problem. Then flying north as we approached the north side rail yards he told me to bank to the right until we lined up with the interstate. This was my first time banking the wings and with his encouragement he would say a little more bank until we were lined up with the road.
Then he said, “Let’s do some 360s”. I said, “What?”. “Hadn’t we done that before?”, he asked. “Uh, NO!” I replied. A 360 is doing a complete tight circle.
Flying south of Galesburg at 1,000 feet and at 95 mph, he said “Ok, bank to the right and a little right rudder”. He took me out of my comfort zone as he kept saying “more bank”. I held what felt like a 45 degree or more bank while fighting the thermals that buffeted us back and forth. Then he said to level the wings and now bank to the left and we did another tight 360. Wow!
We headed back to the airport and he took over and we floated gently in for a landing. He told me I did fine and it was all me, he wasn’t doing a thing.
Once back at the starting point it was now Jim’s turn and the pilot had Jim basically do the same maneuvers.
Next year is the 50th Stearman Fly-in and Preston’s goal is to give 200 rides. He plans on bringing this plane and “Tillie” back.
We will definitely be back next year.