Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome

At 2:30 Rhinebeck held an airshow. Imagine an assisted living facility talent show… but for airplanes!

I don’t know how I knew the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was there. I just knew there was a grass strip airport over-the-border in New York State that featured classic airplanes. That’s all I knew when I asked my friend Harvey Kliman if he wanted to go?

Harvey knew less than I knew!

We both knew it was a photo op. For Harvey that means video with his HD camcorder. For me stills–lots of stills.

Sunday was forecast to be beautiful so we planned to meet around 10:00 AM for the two hour top down drive. The automated routemakers from Google and Garmin wanted us to drive the fast way but I had other ideas. We headed up Route 8 to Winsted, then west-northwest through the corner of Connecticut and into New York.

With less than three miles to go and no other automotive aerodrome traffic in site my GPS turned us onto a neighborhood street which quickly became a gravel road. Before Harvey and I could get a handle on what was going on the gravel turned back to pavement and a small sign assured us we were on the right path.

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is what the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum might aspire to, if it could just use the Washington Mall as a runway!

Rhinebeck is a museum of the living. Its home is an idyllic strip of land nestled between the trees. A few handfuls of very old planes sit adjacent to a grass runway. These planes fly!

I walked to a cotton rope which separated the hoi polloi from the exhibits. A man dressed as a mechanic circa 1935 said I could come in and take some photos.

Good God, flying was different back then. These planes were simple–yet intricate. Simplicity meant a minimum of adjustments and controls. What was intricate were the cables and spars and fasteners that held it all together.

Safety was never a design consideration. Pilots were outside and exposed to everything the plane had to take.

For $65 I got to climb into a 1937 New Standard D25 and fly a few circuits over the Hudson Valley.

I have flown in everything from an F/A-18 to an ultralight. This was a totally new experience.

With four passengers and a lone pilot the plane taxied to the end of the runway and up a tiny rise. That little molehill provided a extra speed for our lazy takeoff. On this calm day there was more connection to the atmosphere than I expected as we clumsily lurched skyward.

Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe our view. We flew low and slow toward the Kingston-Rhineclif Bridge. The sky was blue. The air was warm. Beneath us were farms and the huge homes of rich city folk who sometimes bought them. There were mountains in the distance in nearly every direction.

It was loud in the open cockpit–and windy! I held Clicky tight, wrapping its strap around my arm.

The trip didn’t last much more than 10 minutes, but that was enough. I was convinced.

At 2:30 Rhinebeck held an airshow. Imagine an assisted living facility talent show… but for airplanes!

One-by-one small crews of men gingerly coaxed the engines to fire. There was smoke as propellers began to spin. Sometimes the engines made it clear by their sound there was only so much they were willing to do! The planes taxie to the runway’s end, turned and then ran toward takeoff.

For the oldest few takeoff meant a few feet up before setting back onto the turf. I heard someone say they don’t fly “higher than the pilots would want to fall.”

Most rolled down the runway at full throttle then eased off the ground and over the trees.



5 thoughts on “Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome”

  1. Glad that you had a great time but the plane you flew in was a 1929 New Standard D-25


    Too bad you hadn’t been at the The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in the old days when cole palen ( The Curator & Founder of ORA) was alive and ran the place!!! Cole Palen Passed away in 1993 and after that, the show hasn’t been the same. I first went up to Old Rhinebeck in 1972 and every year after until 1995. I was sad when I went a few years ago, I wanted to show my Grandchildren what Old Rhinebeck was all about. They had spectacular Dog fights and the Bombing Raid were Incredible with Bombs that fell from the planes and exploded in a big fireball on the ground.

    Still, I’m glad that you had a great time there!! Buddy

  2. The site is a little confusing, but it does say: “The airplane on exhibit was built in 1937, after the rights to the design were sold White Aircraft. It was assembled at at the Schenectady County Airport in New York by Ben Jones Inc.”

    Yes, we had a great time and I definitely recommend the place.

  3. Kristin the “web bunny” sent me this link to your latest adventure with assurance I would find it way cool. And of course she was right.

    I was also surprised and enlightened.

    I always wondered how you weather guys know in advance what the skies are going to do… I didn’t realize that you actually drive up there exposed to the elements dressed like Rocky the squirrel to check out the weather BEFORE it gets to us. Smart. Very smart.

    Of course, my first thought is to plan a field trip with Kristin (a.k.a. Dootsy or Doots) to have one of those father/daughter days from which lifelong memories are forged. But then I remembered “Superman, the ride” at Six Flaggs… when I found out Doots is a screamer. And I’m talking non-OSHA compliant levels. I think they stoped the ride. They may have even closed the Park.

    If we were to go and get airborne, I’m afraid those well-preserved pilots might all experience AIR-RAID siren flashbacks, kick into WWII fighter ace mode, and start with the evasive manuver crap.

    which could be devestating.

    She gets nose-bleeds. And I wear boxers so I don’t believe I have the FAA mandated support needed for that kind of stuff. Especially because my hands would be grabbing the nuts driving the plane.

    But who knows – I’ll bring Doots to the rocking plane ride at the from of Walmart tomorow with a roll of quarters. And if that works, some Jocky’s are just 100 feet away.

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