Renee WIlde WYSO
Local Pilot Keeping Barnstorming Tradition Alive
October 26, 2016
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  • I’m speeding in my car down country roads, chasing after a small plane that’s been buzzing the tree tops of my farm. I follow it to a small, grassy strip tucked amid fields of ripening corn and soybeans, and watch the red bi-plane taxi down the runway and come to a stop.

    A half dozen people are milling around a plain looking pole barn, which turns out to be a small hanger filled with a cluster of single prop planes. I’ve just stumbled onto pilot Dewey Davenport’s private airstrip. And that red bi-plane I’ve been chasing? 

    “Well the aircraft that’s sitting outside is a 1930 d25 New Standard,” he says.  “It’s a barnstorming aircraft And Ivan Gates had it designed so he could give rides during the flying circus’ he organized back in the 20’s and 30’s. There’s only 7 or 8 of these things flying. So it’s a very rare and unique aircraft.  I started out with at 1929 Travel Air 4000, which I still have here.”

    That Curtis Wright Travel Air was originally owned by the famous Pepsi Sky Writer Andy Stinis.  So here in this unmarked pole barn, surrounded by farm fields, are two historic pieces of American Aviation, and one pilot with a passion for keeping that history alive. 

    “So they started back pre 20’s, and they were World War One pilots. What these pilots did was they bought these surplus war planes, then they started traveling the country, and they would land in a hayfield and offer rides.”

    Barnstormers traveled around all over this country offering rides and making a living. And they still do it today. There’s not a lot but there is still a few that are still really barnstorming.

    Anne and Jeff Thomas traveled here today from Indiana to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. 

    “It’s just the greatest feeling in the world. It’s better than any ride you could ever go on at Kings Island or anywhere else. It’s pretty amazing,” says Anne.

    “Radial engines have a unique smell to them,” says Jeff. “And you’re actually smelling the fields below you because you’re in an open cockpit. You smell everything that’s on the breeze, there’s the smell of the old leather and the wood in the aircraft, and it’s a potpourri of aviation. If they could bottle that I would buy it.”

    “That’s really what this is all about,” says Dewey Davenport. “Barnstorming is a lost history.  And really that’s what I’m trying to relive. When I take you for a ride I want you to step back 85 years. I want you to see the same things they got to see and feel and smell.”

    Lou and Anne Horner have driven an hour from Columbus for Lou’s 60th birthday.

    “I had a list of things I just wanted to do and one of them was always ride in an open cockpit bi-plane. So’ I’m looking forward to this. This is going to be a big deal,” he says. 

    Lou lets me tag along as he crosses this item off his life list.

    “It was amazing,” Lou said back on the ground. “There is nothing between you and the ground. It’s like, I love looking at Google Earth and looking down at the maps. This is like up close and personal Google Earth.”

    “You know a lot of people when they get done, you see all the smiles and they give you a hugs and their very appreciative,” says Dewey.  “But I really can’t express how much I appreciate them taking that ride, because it makes me feel good.  It’s a passion. It’s something that I’ve really wanted to do since I was a child. Have a biplane and give rides.”