Three years ago (when I was only a Jalopnik/Oppo lurker), a work colleague bought me a gift certificate to fly in a balloon or Stearman biplane. Naturally, I chose the bipe...
I have flown in only a handful of GA aircraft... Cessna 150, 172, 182, and 209; and this Stearman. The Stearman was by far the oldest and most entertaining - probably due to the low and slow flight in the breeze ! This is a 1941 U.S. Navy N2S-3 Stearman with a 7 cylinder R-670-4 Continental Engine. Neat stuff.
The owner/pilot has been to a few Stearman fly-ins over the years and has lots of stories and shared a lot of history with me... I was grateful for the stories he told while I helped him pre-flight the aircraft. It was cool looking over all of the details of the plane's construction... At one point, he slapped the belly of the cloth wrapped trellis frame. "What was that for ?", I asked. "To check and see if any of the control hardware or other FOD has fallen into the fuselage," he replied. Comforting, right ? He ran down some hand signals to communicate - including handing over controls and such - there was no intercom in this old girl.
We pushed the plane out to the fuel bowser and topped off the fuel. When the cold Continental engine first sputtered to life, it shook the whole plane until all 7 cylinders were firing evenly and on-cue... We taxied out lazily to Runway 28 @ 0W3... Take-off roll was so slow that is was almost as if a human could sprint next to us. Granted, we took off into the wind so our ground speed was lower than our airspeed, but it was still an impressively low Vrot.
The flight was about 30 minutes long and we flew over Havre de Grace, MD and up the Susquehanna River valley. He gave me the controls for about 15 minutes and I made lazy esses weaving my way up the Susquehanna River valley (practicing aileron and rudder coordination) before turning back for final approach and landing. All-in-all a good day and a fun experience.
Below is a brief montage of video footage I took that day... The external shots are of the guy that flew after me. The internal shots are from my flight. Unfortunately, this dummy (doodon2whls) had his camera set to high frame-rate video, so there is no sound. :-( You'll just have to do your best "brappity braaaap braaaap brappity brap brap" sound effects... Next time, I'll get the video settings right. :-/
If you are ever presented with the opportunity to go fly an old plane like this - DO IT ! IT's so much fun and worth every penny.