Monday, April 26, 2004

Memorable ride for sale


Vintage planes can take passengers for spins and loops

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE ASH - Gina Moore was in the cockpit before she ever got behind the wheel of a car.

The 34-year-old Tennessee native tends to stick to the sky even now, usually piloting vintage aircraft.

[img]
Pilot Chuck Gardner from Austin, Texas sits in the cockpit of a 1941 Boeing N2S-5 at Blue Ash Airport.
(Melissa Heatherly photo)
Moore, along with pilots Chuck Gardner and John Cornett, also chief operations officer, was giving rides to thrill-seekers at the Blue Ash Airport on Saturday. They took about 15 people up on a 1941 North American AT-6 Texan and a 1942 Boeing N2S-5 Stearman Biplane.

On Sunday, however, soggy conditions kept customers out of the wild blue yonder.

Because of weather, SkyVentures' stay will be extended through Tuesday, and they will return to Blue Ash on Aug. 11-13.

Today looks to be slightly more promising for their flights.

Moore founded Warbird SkyVentures five years ago. The pilots give customers the ride of a lifetime in the tradition of the barnstormers - World War I-era pilots who traveled the country giving rides and flying lessons.

It's the sleek lines of the planes and the distinctive whirr of the engines, Moore said, that explain why she logs thousands of hours on the old birds.

"Vintage planes have a different kind of character than modern planes," said Moore, the only female barnstormer in the country. "Modern planes have a purpose - to get somewhere fast. Well, we're not trying to get anywhere fast. We're just trying to play around and have some fun."

Most of their customers are older; the oldest was 92. Many are veterans, relatives of veterans or World War II aficionados. But some are simply people who want to deviate from the norm.

On Saturday, "we had a commercial pilot from the Cincinnati airport," Moore said. "He said he was just tired of going straight and level. He wanted some aerobatics."

Flights are customized for the individual, with the option of a sightseeing flight, an aerobatic flight with loops, rolls and dives or a combination of the two. Customers also get the chance to fly the plane themselves.

Rides are sold in 15-, 20-, 30- and 60-minute increments. They range in price from $140 to $570.

Warbird SkyVentures has about 2,100 rides to fly this year. Already, they've flown 600.

"It's a good job, except when it rains, you just have to kind of hang out and play with the dog," Moore said.

That dog would be Lucas, a bouncing golden retriever puppy named for World War I pilot Frank Luke Jr.

"I love being able to fly. The freedom of it all is the best," Moore said, her eyes brightening - until she looked at the gray sky outside.

Is wild blue yonder beckoning you?

Pilots from Warbird SkyVentures travel the country, offering rides and flying lessons in vintage planes.

For more information, contact the company at 1-888-532-5787, or visit www.warbirdskyventures.com.

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E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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