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Wild blue yonder

September 9, 2015

Here’s a blast from the past. A friend’s recent Cessna flight over Port Aransas made me remember my own small plane experience. So I thought I’d republish it here. From March, 2011 it’s “Hearkening to the Call of the Wild Blue Yonder:

My friend Randy who is retired from the airline industry tells this story: A boy and his father stand at the fence at the Mustang Island Airport watching the planes take off and land. Captivated, the boy says to his father, “Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a pilot!” His father replies, “Son, you can’t do both.”

Mike CarpentieroThat “never grow up” quality is perfectly personified by Major Mike Carpentiero who, like Peter Pan, can fly. He pilots “Stanley,” a 1929 New Standard biplane. Originally built by Ivan Gates of “Gates Flying Circus” and Charles Healy Day, the plane was designed for barnstorming — carrying passengers for fun — and that’s what Mike does. With his faithful canine companion Winston, Mike flies all around the country taking people up for “Nostalgic Warbird & Biplane” rides.

There are only six New Standards flying in the word today and Stanley is the only one flying west of the Mississippi. It’s made of wood and fabric, and Mike wonders how fighter pilots survived in similar craft that offered them little protection in air combat.

Mike has years of military and commercial flying experience. He has over 5,000 flying hours and 20 years of flying experience in everything from gliders to fighters. He started flying gliders in 1984 in California. After graduating college he entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1988 and completed Naval Aviator training in 1992. He was attached to Carrier Air Wing 1 aboard the USS America and participated in combat operations in Southwest Asia and Bosnia Herzegovina. Mike has over 150 carrier landings and is the recipient of multiple flying awards to include two Air Medals, Southwest Asia Service Medal, NATO Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, and Aerial Achievement Medal.

He left active duty service in 1997 and joined the Air Force Air National Guard as a full time A-10 pilot with the 104th Fighter Wing, 131st Fighter Squadron, out of Westfield, Massachusetts. In 1999 Mike began flying the Boeing 737 with US Airways but after three years decided he didn’t like it. He quit, bought a biplane, and started giving rides. He loves sharing his passion for aviation with others.

The plane isn’t the only thing that dates back to the Twenties. So does Mike’s flying ensemble including his wraparound aviator sunglasses and lace-up boots. He’ll provide you with a leather helmet, which not only helps to create that nostalgic vibe but also keeps your hair from getting irreparably tangled. Arriving for your biplane ride in full Amelia Earhart or Charles Lindbergh regalia is optional, although I would highly recommend it for heightening that vintage ambience. Do bring sunglasses and dress as you would to ride in a convertible. You will want a jacket if the weather is chilly.

Other pilots around the country offer biplane rides from fixed locations, but Mike is the only one who travels from place to place, following the weather. He attends air shows and festivals – wherever there’s a crowd. Spending a good part of the summer in the northwest, he visits Port Aransas a couple of times a year. He likes Texas and always meets new friends but could do without the Texas “mountains,” the tall TV transmitter towers that force him to fly higher than he’d like. He prefers to fly at 1,500 feet where the air is warm. Hard to say which part of the wild blue yonder Mike finds most attractive – the wild, the blue or the yonder.

Traveling at 55 to 60 mph, rides last “a lifetime.” (In clock hours, that’s about fifteen minutes.) The plane can fly for about three to three-and-a-half hours at a stretch. Mike can take as many as four passengers at a time while other biplanes can take only two. The morning that I flew, we filled the passenger compartment: Randy and me and two teenage girls who gave satisfying screams of delight for each bank and dive. I liked the hover, which gave me the sensation of hanging motionless in space.

Yes, you can fly, you can fly, you can fly! Join Mike as he follows his bliss into the wild blue yonder. For more information, visit the Web site at www.nostalgicwarbirdrides.com. Send an email to info@nostalgicwarbirdrides.com or call 760-641-7335.

 

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