Dewey Davenport has piloted planes both large and small, privately and commercially, but he has a special fondness for the aircraft he brought this weekend to the Jimmy Stewart Airport Festival: his 1929 Curtiss-Wright Travel Air D4000.
It’s an open cockpit biplane, favored by barnstormers, crop dusters, even wing-walkers of yesteryear, partly because it’s light and can take off and land from short distances.
“It’s all about freedom,” said Davenport, of Xenia, Ohio. “It’s like riding down the highway with your arm out the window.”
He acquired the Travel Air about a year ago. It was pretty hard to find, considering there are more in museums than are still being flown, he said. He estimates that about 60 are registered with the FAA.
“It’s awesome. It’s been fun,” he said.
The Travel Air is just one of three aircraft Davenport owns. He said he learned to fly on antique aircraft.
Now, Davenport operates Goodfolk & O’Tymes Biplane Rides. For $80, he will take passengers from the Jimmy Stewart Indiana County Airport for a 15- to 20-minute ride about 1,500 feet above Indiana. The ride is low and slow — top cruising speed is 85 mph, he said, allowing passengers who sit side by side (very intimately) in a seat in front of the pilot a great view of local landmarks.
PHOTO: Dewey Davenport,shown flying over Indiana, says riding in the Travel Air D4000 is like “riding down the highway with your arm out the window.” (Tom Peel/Gazette)
It holds 65 gallons of fuel and can run for about 4 1/2 hours on one tank, he said.
Because its cockpit is open, flights are, naturally, subject to the weather.
“This can’t take much weather,” he said.
Fortunately, the forecast is for no rain all weekend.
Davenport dodged a few rain showers on his way to the Jimmy Stewart Airport Thursday evening.
“I had to turn the windshield wipers on,” he joked.
Friday morning, he took media and other guests for a ride.
Other vintage and military aircraft are on display this weekend at the airport, too.
The Experimental Aircraft Association, through its Young Eagles program, is providing free airplane rides to youths ages 8 to 17.
Another highlight is the fifth annual World War II-era big band hangar dance today from 7 to 10 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m., a dinner starts at 5:30, and recognition of military veterans will begin at 6:30. Admission and parking both days is free.