In 2020, I became the curator of the lowest time Boeing Stearman in the world. This aircraft brags an infantile 352 hours of flight time since its birth on April 4, 1944. If this 79-year-old airplane were a car, it would have less than 1,000 miles on the odometer. Used as a trainer in World War II, this biplane was in military service until 1949 and then sold to a crop-dusting operation. Luckily, the airplane was never converted to a crop duster. Instead, it was meticulously restored and placed in a museum where it rarely flew. When I picked the plane up, I could hear her longing to live out her purpose of flying free versus sitting as a museum piece. So here we are, airborne and adventuring as it should be.
The city skyline is stunning. There’s no flight leader to take my full attention or impede my view. I was free in the open air, humbly chugging along at 89 miles per hour. My senses were heightened listening to the radial engine purr like a lazy cat enjoying an afternoon nap in the sun. The smell of the ocean air mixed with the warm exhaust pleasantly surprise me as I pull the throttle back and push the stick forward to descend over the Statue of Liberty. Looking down at Ellis Island, I reflect on the courageous people that left their homelands in search for a new life in America. After a few circles around Lady Liberty, I roll the wings level and begin a climb. With clearance, I fly alongside One World Trade, up the East River, and finally across Central Park. I feel like it’s 1944 and I’m teenager on a joyride. Not a care in the world. Just enjoying the view and the air under my wings.
I’m certain Saint-Exupéry would be pleased. I must admit, I felt his approval as I crossed the West Side and approached the Hudson River, turning north and leaving the city behind. All was right in the world.