BY MELANIE BUCK –
In the trip of a lifetime, two couples from the state of Florida stopped in Mena for a night’s rest from a trek that will take them from coast to coast in two small red biplanes. Beginning in Port Orange, Florida, David and Diana Baldwin, along with Jeff Edwards and Jennifer Jarvis, plan to travel to as far west as the Pacific Coast Highway, and make as many stops along the way as they wish.
One of the perks of traveling in a biplane is the ability to fly low and see what lies below. “Sometimes we get pushed around by weather and interesting places to visit,” David explained. “It feels really free. It’s like flying a convertible in the air. People wave at your from the fields. You can see and smell everything.”
The idea of the trip came from Jeff, who was a commercial airline pilot for 35 years and next year will mark 50 years of Jeff’s flying history. He flew off of carriers in the Navy for a time and even flew the now infamous plane that ‘Sully’ landed in the Hudson, just one week prior to the historical landing.
With both couples in retirement, or semi-retirement, and aviation flowing through their veins, they decided to do something that not many can boast about. “Jeff said he was going and he couldn’t do it alone,” said David. So the planning began.
The couples decided that the weather was too cold in the northern part of the country and felt the central U.S. would be their best lane of travel. They set off on October 1st.
“There are places we want to see and people we want to visit,” said Diana. And there is no better way than in their biplanes. The uninhibited view from the open cockpits, allow for a bird’s eye view of landscapes, homes, and highways. Diana said they hope to see places such as Monument Valley, Sedona, Sante Fe, Seattle, and Las Vegas, where Jeff and Jennifer will take an even bigger leap and be married by Elvis.
Flying two hours at a time, the couples usually make a flight in the morning, stop at an airport and have lunch, then fly another two hours before stopping overnight, which is how they landed in Mena, Arkansas. Their four hours of travel each day gets them around 450 – 500 miles, flying at 115 miles per hour.
Jeff and Jennifer’s biplane is a 1978 and David and Diana’s is a 1940 Waco, both red, and both are used in formation flights, an activity Jeff and David teach in Florida. “People think aviation is scary, but it’s fun,” said Jeff.
As for their cross country trek, David explained it best, “Joseph Campbell said, ‘follow your bliss.’ If you like something, pursue your passion. Some say I could never do that… afford that… just try it.”
If you would like to learn more of their trip, they have a blog at www.biplanebarnstorming.blogspot.com, complete with pictures and captions of their adventures.