Rhinebeck, NY – By the time the air show season reaches its end, most of us have gotten our fill of fast flying, rip roaring, eardrum rupturing aircraft. Not to say that there isn’t room for more, but sometimes slowing the pace down is a breath of fresh air.
On October 8th, Air Museum Network ventured up the New York Thruway to where time seems to stand still. The picturesque Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is such a place. It was a good day to make the trip because the trees had begun to show their fall colors and the temperature hadn’t decided if it should go up or down. This particular weekend was also the Aerodrome’s final airshow weekend of the 2016 season.
The season at Rhinebeck began on May 14th and every weekend since June 11th, the merry bunch of museum volunteers took to the airfield and put on their shows (Saturday’s History of Flight Airshow and Sunday’s WWI Airshow ). If you do the math, that would be 36 shows this season. In the airshow world, these are impressive numbers. One would be hard pressed to find a museum that puts on the number of full shows as the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.
If you have never been there, it is like stepping into a time machine. From the aircraft and motor vehicles to the hangers and buildings, this live air museum takes you back to a time when Waltzing Matilda was the latest musical hit. The volunteers and pilots all dress in period clothing. With the help of the spectators, there is even a turn of the last century fashion show. Mothers and daughters walk the grass “runway” dressed in period costume.
At first glance, one might get the impression that the carnival came to town and pitched a tent in the nearest empty field. This is part of the appeal. But this couldn’t be farthest from the truth.
Air Museum Network was privileged to attend the show briefing. All pilots, ground crew and media must attend. No briefing begins until everyone signs the attendance sheet. The first briefing is for pilots and ground crew alike. Safety instructions and aircraft assignments are given to the pilots and the show schedule is discussed. The ground crew briefing covers all ground operations with special attention to aircraft recovery. Safety is paramount. Once the briefing ends, the show begins.
Saturday is dedicated to the history of aviation. A limp wind sock is a talisman. It is a sign that fragile birds can come out and play. The Curtis Pusher Model D and the 1910 Hanriot reproductions are the opening act and prepare the crowd for one of its star attractions. If wind condition permit, the rare 1909 Bleriot will fly. This aircraft was rebuilt with many original parts. That makes this particular example the oldest flying aircraft in the United States. Don’t expect these prehistoric flying machines to do barrel rolls and loops. Due to their rarity and fragility, they are limited to a take-off run and two dozen feet of airspace. They remain airborne until they reach the designated spot toward the end of the grass field. Doesn’t sound like much……..until you see it. It is a sight to be seen.
The Saturday crowd gets a glimpse of Sunday’s WWI show with a little tease when the Albatross D. Va and Fokker Dr.1 (reproductions) perform a simulated dog fight. The aircraft performing vary with the weather. The atmospheric conditions affect each temperamental engine differently. Even this detail is as authentic as it was 100 years ago. There are no start buttons on these planes. But there are plenty of old aircraft from the Golden Age of Aviation (1918-1939) to ensure that spectators get their thrill.
The latest addition to the museum inventory is the Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis”. The museum continued the dream and project, of its founder Cole Palen, of building a replica of Charles Lindbergh’s famous aircraft. It is another testament to the talent, and most of all passion, of these museums volunteers.
Not all the show takes place in the air. There is a parade of antique vehicles and a delightful “act” that puts smiles on the faces of as many adults as it does children. Visitors can also venture across the country road to the main museum facility that houses the historic artifacts and the aircraft that are not airworthy.
Writing about this live museum doesn’t do it justice. Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome cannot be described, it can only be experienced. It is a trip through our aviation past and an escape from this fast moving world. For good down home family entertainment with a historical twist, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is a true original.
For more information visit www.oldrhinebeck.org
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