“Put your left leg here,” he says pointing to a black area on the wing next to the plane. “Then grab the two handles there [indicating two sturdy grippers attached to the wing] and swing your right leg into the plane … you can step on the seat.”
“Now lower yourself down and I’ll help you strap in.”
It’s time to go flying in a Stearman biplane. The cockpit is open as you buckle into a flying machine that was built in 1941. It’s 78 years young, dazzling blue in the afternoon sun with wings of yellow. A leather cap equipped with headphones allows you to communicate with the pilot as you prepare to take off. The afternoon is bright, the wind is light, and the clouds look ready to open their curtain of cumulous white and welcome you to the skies beyond.
Pilot David Brown remembers as an 8-year-old riding in the back seat of his parent’s car as they drove down a long driveway to a farm on Vint Hill Road. That farm and its more than 50 acres would soon be called home.
“We didn’t want to raise him in the city,” said his father Walter Brown. Love of land was quickly followed by love of the air, as David was gifted a ride in a glider when he was 16. By 17, David was hooked, taking lessons and earning his pilot’s license.
Now, retired from a 30-year career with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Brown is living his dream, owning and operating his own company … and best of all, he gets to share his passion with others.
Brown feels like he is an ambassador for the Town of Warrenton. While in flight, he shares information about all that you are seeing below from buildings in the town, to quarries nearby, to historic farms, the railroad, lakes and beyond. From the air, on a clear day, you can see to Fairfax and Fredericksburg.
Like his father, Brown is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a current member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Flying for more than 42 years, he has more than 30 years of flight experience in Stearman aircraft and has logged nearly 3,000 pilot in command hours in Stearman aircraft and approximately 10,000 take offs and landings.
“I’m very comfortable with this plane,” says Brown who, for those who have an adventurous side, will take a few nose dives and loops for an extra thrill. Holding a commercial pilot’s license with single and multi-engine aircraft ratings, Brown has an FAA Statement of Acrobatic Competency to fly low-level aerobatics in the Stearman for air shows.
Look for David Brown and his Stearman at the Flying Circus in Bealeton. In fact, when you go up for a ride, he’ll often buzz the field there to give you a sense of how fast you’re actually going. When you are at higher altitudes, the ride is incredibly smooth and the 80 mph feels like you are cruising slowly over the gorgeous landscape underneath.
Brown is also a Certified Flight Instructor and specializes in flight instruction and check outs in Stearman aircraft as well as other tail wheel type aircraft and warbirds.
A young man from Maryland was all smiles as he completed a ride in the Stearman. He and his girlfriend, who had purchased a Stearman escapade as a birthday present, were delighted. Brown often gets customers from other states who will travel to the Warrenton Fauquier Airport in Midland where the Stearman resides in one of its hangars.
Brown’s hangar is like his second home. Large enough to house his plane, there is plenty of room for him to work on it and a comfortable area for lounging. The walls are bedecked with posters and memorabilia. Brown is the winner of the 2011 National Stearman Fly in Masters Aerobatic Contest.
Speaking of hangars, Brown recently purchased an additional one. What’s next in his flying world? “My goal is to have a T6 Texan in two years,” beams Brown. “I will use it primarily for giving lessons.” But you can bet he’ll offer rides in it as well.
When you are done with your flight, it’s hard to know who is more excited – the rider or the pilot. “I enjoy what I’m doing so much,” says Brown, “I get to share this experience with so many people … I am always amazed to hear people’s comments.”
For most, the experience of flying in a historic aircraft, long used as a trainer for World War II pilots, is beyond exhilarating. It is an unforgettable feeling to be so close to heaven.
To book your flight or learn more, visit www.brownsbiplanerides.com or phone David Brown at 540-219-3259.