Although it was a far cry from the X-wing Fighter he once commanded a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away, this 63-year-old Boeing-Stearman Model 75 made a fine ride for Hammock Editorial Director Bill Hudgins on a crisp late February morning. The plane is one of several vintage craft owned and flown by Warbird Sky Ventures in Hudge’s hometown of Gallatin, Tenn. The Model 75s hold an honored place in the defense of our nation, as they were used to train WWII fighter pilots, including our 41st President, George H. W. Bush.
Hudge recalls his flight:
“I’m not a pilot. I had flown in single engine planes (and hot air balloons) before, but never in an open cockpit craft. I wasn’t really nervous; in fact, I had been singing “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” all morning. The pilot, Jerry Kirby, explained everything he did, including how finicky this restored 25-foot-long beauty is to handle. We flew over the town, my house, and a huge quarry hardly anyone sees because it is nestled behind a hill. Moving about 100 miles an hour in the air, it seems like standing still and there is plenty of time to look.
“We did about 10 minutes of aerobatics at the end of the flight, including loops, wingovers and barrel rolls, pulling around 3Gs. Literally up in the air, upside down, Junior Birdman. Too cool. I wanted to go again. Back on the ground, with the engine shut down, my wife shot the obligatory Hammock T-shirt shot, with a scarf Jerry conveniently had in his pocket. Then I took my best girl for a few root beers at the aces’ cafe.”