Up High in the Sky, The Best View in Nashville
In the Golden Age of Aviation, when men and women took to the skies in open cockpit biplanes, barnstorming pilots criss-crossed rural America looking for adventure. They landed in grass fields to the cheering waves of townsfolk who ran to greet them, and trade a pocketful of coins for a flight aloft in one of their wondrous flying machines.
Maybe we aren’t so different! In a magic moment we climb aboard the gleaming Waco biplane parked on the ramp at Nashville’s John C.Tune Airport. The control stick has been removed so two people can fit in the roomy, luxurious, leather-lined cockpit. We give pilot John Summers, owner of Music City Biplane Tours, the thumbs up before he climbs into the rear cockpit and begins his pre-flight checks.
Once aloft, the wind catches our hair and I lean out the side, snapping pictures as a patchwork of fields slip by 2000 feet below. Engine heat from two vents near our feet keeps us toasty warm. Summers has designed a custom tour for today – a combination of Nashville country music sites mixed with homes of several country music celebrities.
We fly over the Tennessee Titan’s LP Field Stadium, Country Music Hall of Fame, the guitar-shaped roof of the new Music City Center, and easily identify the distinctive Ryman Auditorium – home of the original Grand Ole Opry.
Turning north, we follow the lush valley winding through Whites Creek. Barb grins and points down. In the forested hills below we spy the former home of Country Music Hall of Fame artist Barbara Mandrell. Fontanel is an impressive 27,000 square foot log home, Nashville’s only country music mansion open for tours, concerts and weddings.
This unique Waco biplane is not a rebuild or a kit plane, but a hand-built, FAA certified production aircraft built in 1992, a reincarnation of a 50-year-old design. Between 1919 and World War II, the Waco Aircraft Company built twice as many aircraft as any other manufacturer, their crown jewel being this open-cockpit model for the barnstorming pilots of the 1930s.
Sun glints off the wing as Summers banks the plane and pulls into a tight turn. Old Hickory Lake sparkles enticingly. I’m usually on a sailboat catching the wind, but today I’m once again breathless with the beauty of Middle Tennessee from the air. This is the golden hour, when the light is perfect and you wish you could fly forever.
North of the lake we find the distinctive terracotta-colored home of the Oak Ridge Boys’ baritone singer, William Lee Golden. The house, built in 1786 on a military outpost by Revolutionary War Captain James Franklin, is possibly the oldest brick home in Sumner County.
Music City Biplane Tours offers a variety of 15, 30 or 60-minute flights. “Sunset flights are popular with romantic couples,” confided Summers. “We’ve had several proposals on those flights.” One can only hope she always says yes! There are also aerial tours of Civil War Battlefields, the Cumberland River, and Downtown Nashville.
For the perfect corporate event, Music City Biplane can even host a hangar party at John C. Tune airport, giving a series of joy flights while the rest of the group is entertained on the ground. Creative ideas? The sky’s the limit!
This could be you! What are you waiting for?