Last Saturday, I got my first taste of vintage aircraft. My neighbor invited me to his friends house to take a ride in his North American AT-6 Texan. I wasn't quite sure what it was at the time, but of course I said yes. When we arrive at his home (he lives in an airport community) my jaw immediately drops at the sight of his hangar. Inside of it was not one but two aircraft! I was amazed that people could afford to do that (own more than one aircraft).
His Steerman Bi-plane was the more prominent for it stood like it commanded respect. Packed close to it on the far side of the hangar was a small Piper Cub. The Cub really caught my attention simply because it was so small. I really hadn't realized how small they were. The simplicity of the instrument panel also amazed me; no electronics. This trip had far exceeded my expectations and we hadn't even touched an aircraft. Haha.
Anyway, the three of us got onto his golf cart and toured the neighborhood. All but two of the forty homes had hangars. The majority of them housed more than one aircraft. Pulling up to the fuel pumps, I gazed upon a North American AT-6 "Texan". The plane looked in excellent shape. My neighbor's friend showed me how to get into the rear cockpit and fasten the five point harness. It was quite a production as everything had to be tight. After reviewing how to operate the canopy and how to work the harness, we were ready to go. It was such a rush hearing all the cylinders of a radial engine fire up. The feel, smell, and sight of the historic airplane were indescribable. While taxing, I couldn't help but think of all the brave men who trained in this very position. You really can't comprehend it.
Takeoff was a blast. My favorite part was feeling the tailwheel slowly rise as air lifted the elevator. Think of it as getting to the top of the tallest hill of a roller coaster; all you're thinking is "here comes the fun part". That's pretty much what happened. We flew all over Harvard, Crystal Lake, and Lake in the Hills, just getting a feel for the aircraft. I got the oppertunity to maneuver the airplane a little bit and loved every second of it! I was really surprised on how crisp the stick control was. After an hour or so, we returned to the airport for a low pass over the runway and then a soft field landing. Let me tell you, for being that big of a plane, it landed pretty quick. Upon exiting the aircraft, I was all smiles. I had never been in an airplane like that and I sure hope it won't be the last time. I want to thank my neighbors George and Wendy for taking the pictures and sending them to me. They came out great! Thanks for reading everyone!!!