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Destination Flying
By Ben Keirn, Contributing Editor & Photographer

If you’re on the Barnstormers mailing list, I’ll hazard a guess that you’re either a pilot or a pilot at heart. Thoughts of flying probably dance through your head at all hours of the day (and night). Whether we prefer an ultralight, a light plane, helicopters, airliners, or blimps, we all have at least one thing in common. Pilots have a different perspective on the world. We get to see the horses run in the back of the field, not just at the fence along the road. We get to see the valley that none, save a few bold hikers, have ever seen. And we get to see the sun when others are stuck under the cloud cover.

The author's route mape.
Author’s route during a bit of Destination Flying.
Read on, or type in the coordinates, to find out where.

Of course, once you’ve seen your little corner of the world from above, you just want to keep going. Thus the invention of things like the “hundred dollar hamburger,” the local fly-in, and flying destinations. But how many of you have considered flying at a destination? With a little planning and thoughtful packing, you can go flying just about anywhere that you find an airplane.

The cockpit and flight controls of an Irish Super Cub.
The welcoming cockpit and proper flight controls of an Irish Super Cub, with the requisite turbulence indicator, ala the dashboard hula girl.

Last summer, on my way home from Africa I had a three-day layover in Ireland. While there, I was able to go visit the very gracious folks at the National Flight Centre at Weston Airport (EIWT), just West of Dublin. I had spotted their Super Cub on the internet and learned that they offer tailwheel training. So, for the price of an hour of flight with an instructor, I got to see castles, stone towers, peat bogs, and aqueducts from the open door of a Piper Super Cub!

Donadea Castle; a similar view to what you can see on Google, but oh so much more fun and exhilarating my way.

Now before you say that’s not possible for you, let’s take a look at what was required of me. I have a tailwheel endorsement, a private pilot’s license and a current medical certificate. I also went to my local fixed base operator at Smith Field (KSMD) and purchased a shiny new logbook just before going to Chad, Africa. That last bit of forethought was in case I could go flying with the Mission Aviation Fellowship pilots while in Chad. I had no desire to lose my primary training and flight time records if the logbook was confiscated or lost in a foreign country, so I bought a new one. Regardless, you’ll notice I listed what I had, not what was required. The National Flight Centre trains pilots from all over the world starting with zero time. The only thing you need to fly in Ireland is an appointment; get yourself on their books and let them know you’d like to fly. The key is the language you use.

Leinster Aqueduct and the Liffey Bridge; an overpass where water has crossed over the top of water in the County Kildare countryside since the 1780’s.

Before I could go see the Irish countryside and the sights in these photos, I didn’t just show up on the doorstep of the airport and say, “Hi, I’m an American with a pilot’s license and a tailwheel endorsement. Where are the keys to your Super Cub?” No, tact is of the essence, and humility doubly so. Anyone from a wannabe pilot, to a sometime pilot, to a professional jet-jockey can go to just about any airport with a flight training department and get an introductory lesson. Alright, so not at the airport in Chad, Africa, but hey, I tried. Africa was the exception, though. At most airports around the globe, an introductory flight lesson is precisely what you want if you are wanting to get airborne, get your hands on the controls, and see parts of your nation, or any other, that the average family doesn’t get to see.

The Hill of Allen Tower, or “Aylmer’s Folly,” as my local flight instructor/tour guide called it.

Sightseeing flights, aerobatic experiences, and warbird rides all have their appeal. But there is something ingrained in the pilot ilk to go looking for what is off the sightseeing path; to have the controls in their hands so they can choose their own adventure. An hour introductory flight either with a flight instructor or a local flying club or EAA chapter is just the ticket. And besides, while there may be sightseeing tours along the Outer Banks, you”re not likely to find any such tour operators in Lincoln, Nebraska. But for a boy who grew up in Indiana, hopping in a plane at the local FBO and going out to see a ten mile long Nebraska corn field being worked by all sorts of farm machinery is surprisingly enticing. And you can bet when I go out to visit my cousin in Colorado next time, I”ll be checking with flying clubs and flight trainers to see if I can fly a taildragger along the Front Range; preferably aerobatic rated. Who doesn”t want to know what the Rockies look like while inverted?

Gaining that different perspective through spin training in the Super Decathlon. I wonder how the Rockies would look from this angle?

So if you’re planning your summer vacation and the family would rather go the distance in the comfort of the SUV, check out the possibilities for taking a short ride in a plane after the long ride in the car, rather than a long ride in a plane and a short ride in a rental car after you get there. Six hours in a Buick has always been more comfortable for me than three hours in a 172. But if I can drive in comfort to Nashville, and then go see the sunset over the Tennessee hills by air, that to me is the perfect destination flying. Of course, if you’re already looking for a plane on Barnstormers, why not do a search for something near your intended vacation spot...a test flight in a bird that is soon to be yours beats a rental plane hands down!

Ben Keirn, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Columbia City, Indiana
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