Sometimes the best memories aren’t found on the ground.
My two oldest sons and I stopped by the Madison airport Saturday afternoon to see if a B-17 had made its promised appearance. It hadn’t. We visited with a couple of members of the Mississippi branch of the Commemorative Air Force (a group dedicated to preserving historic aircraft.) David Mars was outside, selling rides in his immaculate 1929 Curtis-Wright Travel Air biplane. My middle son really wanted to go up in it, but wasn’t sure his mother would be thrilled that I took her child up in a plane without her knowing. So we went to the bookstore and bought my oldest son a running diary. On the way home, I called their mom and told her how much the ride was going to cost and that I knew and trusted the pilot. David Mars has four classic aircraft and has thousands of flight hours under his belt. He is also an aviation historian — he even owns A Curtis Robin monoplane like the the Key Brothers made their endurance flight (with inflight refueling) in near Meridian. (Their plane, called Ole Miss, is in the Smithsonian Institute.)
So we plunked down the $130 and strapped ourselves in with the lap belt. I had flown several times in smaller planes — even a World War 2 T-6 Trainer. But I’ve never flown in an open cockpit biplane before. My son and I sat together in the front seat. My oldest son sat with David’s very nice teenage assistant and watched — he’d rather sit and talk to her than fly among the clouds.
The radial engine roared to life and we taxied down the runway. Wind blew through our hair as the biplane sped down the runway. First the tail wheel left the ground. And then we left the constraints of Mother Earth.
David kicked the rudder and we went more over Old Canton Road. I could see out easier than my son — he being a bit shorter than me. My stomach lurched as we hit a thermal. And then I saw the Ross Barnett Jr.’s house. And then the giant Reservoir named for his dad. David did a couple of acrobatic maneuvers called a wingover, allowing us a thrill that a roller coaster couldn’t match. We tipped sideways over a boat hauling a tube and waved at them. We got an amazing view of the dam.
The plane then headed up the Reservoir past the fancy homes on the Rankin County side. We buzzed a small ultra-glide air strip and then shot back into the sky like a blue and red eagle. He looped the plane back across the Reservoir and we saw our house, my son’s school, the lake near our house, the Overlook and all the people partying in the boats nearby. David climbed suddenly and did a dive. Our stomachs left the seat with the rest of us. (thank you lap belt!) We then headed over Madison and then I could see the airport. My son and I both stood up and David took our picture. It will be interesting to see how that picture will turn out.
I took one myself of my son as we touched down. He had the biggest smile on his face I’ve ever seen. I’ll cherish that photo for the rest of my life.
We’ve driven by that biplane dozens of times but never stopped. Yesterday we did. And created memories for a lifetime. Sometimes memories aren’t found on the ground. You have to reach a little higher to find them.