Jim Altman and Mike Piskorski
August 5, 2010
From a hushed grass field in a remote part of Duchess County, New York, you'll soon discover a buzz in the air. And, sometimes, there's a roar. From spins and rolls to "Hammerheads" and "Half-Cubans", every weekend the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome puts its vintage flying spirit in the air. Quite simply, this museum moves. "We go out of our way to keep everything the way it would have been in 1915," said Litchfield's Hugh Schoelzel, a former 747 Pilot for TWA, now the President of the Aerodrome air shows. Sitting in the one man wicker basket cockpit of a 1909 French made "Bleriot" plane, Schoelzel showed us why this museum is different than the others. It wasn't long until the Bleriot took flight, albeit a short five foot high hop along the Aerodrome runway. "This particular airplane is celebrating its 100 birthday, it's the oldest flying airplane in the country, the second oldest in the world," Schoelzel said.
While the treasured canvas-winged Bleriot only took a short flight when we visited, the Aerodrome volunteers will throw you for a loop with other models. There are biplanes -- like an original "450 Steerman" from 1941, and tri-planes -- like the Red Baron replica Fokker DR-1. On the weekends the air shows offer both altitude and attitude. By appointment, visitors can fly in the open cockpit of a 1929 "New Standard" flown by Chief Pilot Bill Gordon, who is also known in stunt pilot circles as "The Black Baron." "Its like a ride in an old barnstorming airplane, we'll take you to the Hudson River," Gordon said of the 15 minute adventure over the rolling scenery of Duchess County. Gordon added, "there's usually some hootin' and hollarin' going on."
Upon landing, the memories begin to take flight, Schoelzel said, "they come for the action, the sights, the smells, the sounds that just can't be replicated. Standing by his black and red acrobatic tri-plane, Gordon proudly stated "you're not going to see anymore airplanes in the sky in one day anywhere."
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is open every day until October 17th. The air shows run on weekends only. Air show tickets are $20 for adults, Seniors and teens (13-17) are $15, kids (6-12) are $5. If you want to take a bi-plane ride its $65, call ahead to book it. The Aerodrome made news last year when their tourist bi- plane experienced a mishap and ran off the grass runway, fortunately no one was hurt. The incident was reviewed by the NTSB and flights are up and running again. The museum is about an hour forty five minute drive from Hartford. The Aerodrome also has an indoor museum with 20 planes to see.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome 9 Norton Road Rhinebeck, NY (845) 752-3200
For more information go to oldrhinebeck.org