Tennessee Traveler: Biplane Trip

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It's the time of year where the leaves start changing. And while it's one thing to see them in the middle of the Smokies -- how about a few thousand feet up? In this week's Tennessee Traveler, Alan Williams shows us a completely different aerial adventure in a 1920's style biplane.

Marc Hightower is the owner and pilot of Sky High Air Tours in Sevierville. His plane has quite a history.

"This is a 1927 Waco biplane, they were built in Troy, Ohio, 250 miles north of here. Quite a few were built in the 1920's and about 11,600 of these were built. Thirty six of them are registered in the U.S. and maybe about a dozen of 'em flying. This is a true piece of history," he says.

And whenever you're in the mood for some adventure, he's your man.

"You can share the experience," he says. "I can carry two passengers in the front cockpit; a lot of other biplanes you can only carry one."

The leather cap and goggles are optional. But you might want them anyway - it's a powerful ride and the wind whips around you in the air.

" "You are behind a little windshield but it;s like going for a ride on a motorcycle," Hightower says. "This engine is like strapping 4 Harleys together. It's a straight pipe; it's pretty loud out there."

I was a bit apprehensive, but the takeoff and flight are very smooth.

"I've taken more people for their first ever flight in an aircraft - people that have never flown before have gone with me for their first
airplane ride in this," he says. "That's what the barnstormers did in the 1920's and 30's."

You've probably seen many of these biplanes doing stunts - but there are no loopty loops or dive bombing on this ride - it's just easy as she goes, taking in the scenery.

"The world looks totally different when it's framed by the wings of a biplane," HIghtower says. "Get out here and have a look at the colors in pigeon forge and surrounding mountains ... some real beautiful scenery."

And indeed, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg certainly look quite a bit different from our perspective in the sky - you just can't help but be impressed.

"People are so excited, when they get off this airplane, that;s pretty contagious," Hightower says. "That's what I do here; it brings joy to people to go flying in this, in a completely unique experience."

I'll vouch for that! Driving - or FLYING - in your neighborhood, I'm the Tennessee Traveler.

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