Sunday, July 23, 2017

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Part 4: World War One Dogfight Spectacular--July 23, 2017

The show at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome began at 2 pm when the announcer climbed the ladder to his stand and started proceedings.  First of all there was a fashion show of period styles, modelled by willing audience members, who were then driven around the airfield in the Aerodrome's collection of vintage cars.

1929 Franklin

1913 Brewster Brougham

1909 Renault "Marne Taxi"

1927 Ford Model T Sedan

Before the World War I Dogfight Spectacular and other flying began, we were introduced to two of the characters, Trudy Truelove and Sir Percy Goodfellow, stars of a melodrama that has run for decades with different actors.  Cole Palen himself played the nefarious Black Baron, and various henchmen were also in evidence.

Trudy Truelove and Sir Percy Goodfellow

Sir Percy out for a spin
Trudy Truelove and Sir Percy Goodfellow out for a spin in a 1920 Buick
The flying part of the show began with a very fine demonstration featuring the Great Lakes Sports Trainer in which a roll of toilet paper was thrown from the airplane and the pilot then was able to fly down and cut through it on multiple passes.  This showed the exceptional maneuverability of the airplane (as well as considerable skill on the pilot's part).

Another elegant airplane that took to the skies was the lovely DeHavilland Tiger Moth.

The melodrama then began, with the abduction of Trudy Truelove by the Black Baron and his henchmen, in spite of the rescue efforts of Sir Percy Goodfellow and Madame Fifi, in the Baron's 1916 Studebaker Touring Car.  Studebaker claimed it was the most powerful six cylinder seven passenger car on the market, so a good choice as a getaway vehicle.

The immediate response was the take-off of the Fokker D.VII and some aerobatics.

Next up was one of my favourite airplanes--the replica 1910 Hanriot, so fragile that it was only flown down the runway in one direction, landed, turned around, and flown back.  It was charming to see this ancient design take to the air, albeit barely.


The Hanriot was followed by the Caudron G.III, also barely able to fly but looking terrific anyway.

1942 Fleet Finch 16-B
The Fleet Finch was built in Fort Erie, Ontario, for the Royal Canadian Air Force as a primary trainer.  404 of the 16-B variants, powered by a 130 hp Kinner radial engine, were built as the Fleet Finch II and operated in 16 training schools in Canada as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  They were phased out of RCAF service by 1947.

Trudy Truelove's kidnapping story continued with her, somehow, ending up on the wing of the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, with catastrophic results.  But Rhinebeck heroines always bounce back!

As some comic relief from Trudy's story, we were entertained by a classic act, the Flying Farmer.  The farmer arrived with his tractor, complaining about the toilet paper on the airfield he had to pick up, and then went over to look at a yellow Piper J-3 Cub, which the pilot was attempting to start by hand propping.  He instructed the farmer to sit inside and adjust the throttle but "somehow" the airplane got away, with the hapless farmer inside.  The J-3 is a very light airplane and quickly bounced down the runway and into the air.  The subsequent flying demonstration showed just how much abuse a Cub is able to withstand and was very entertaining. 

With Trudy Truelove still enemy hands, it was decided to launch an attack on the Black Baron's lair (you could tell it was his as it had a big sign "Der Bad Boyz").  The airplane chosen for the bombing raid were anachronistic, all being from the post-World War I period, but it was nice to see them flying in formation.

The bombing run was something of a failure as the pilots missed the Bad Boyz clubhouse and instead scored hits on the hotel where Sir Percy Goodfellow was staying, along with Madame Fifi's lingerie shop.  The Rhinebeck fire truck was brought into action, as in "Keystone Kops" action.

1922 American LaFrance Fire Truck

Time to get serious: the highlight of the performance is the much-anticipated dogfight as the Black Baron in his Fokker Dr.I Triplane meets Sir Percy in his Sopwith Pup, with some spice added with the addition of the Fokker D.VIII "Flying Razor" into the mix.

The Sopwith Pup closing in...

Sir Percy triumphs, of course, as the Black Baron's airplane is soon trailing a cloud of smoke and disappears over a nearby ridge.  But it turns out it is not fatal as he reappears, lands his airplane in front of the audience and then accidentally blows himself up with a bomb.

The Black Baron--safe after all!

The Black Baron about to catch a bomb.

The Black Baron lies in front of the 1917 Columbia Ambulance
Another entertaining show at Old Rhinebeck ends with the airplanes lines up and the cast and crew taking a bow.

We noticed signage for Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome sponsors included an historic diner and in the mood to continue our vintage journey, we took our leave of the airfield and went off for a light dinner in nearby Red Hook.  The Historic Village Diner has been around since 1927, making it the oldest one in New York State, but it has been moved three times, arriving at its present location in 1957 (its second time at this site!).  An example of a Silk City Diner, manufactured by the Paterson Manufacturing Company in New Jersey, it has become a local institution.

The interior is pretty much original, although an additional wing has been added in a more traditional restaurant form. (Photo by Daniel Case, Creative Commons)

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