Time flies, and so do I when I’m having fun. Call me a purist, but flying an open-cockpit biplane has always seemed the simplest and most elemental form of aviating. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to fly a dozen or so open-cockpit machines, all but one of them biplanes, and nearly all dedicated to one form or another of flight training.
The Great Lakes was the first of those classic designs. “My” occasional rental biplane was a truly tired machine based in Compton, Calif., in the early 1970s. Dan Rihn, builder of a single-place Pitts in the hangar next to mine at Compton and an engineer for Northrop in the real world, shared the rental with me of that barely flyable, old Great Lakes as we explored basic aerobatics off the Southern California coast. We’d rent for an hour and trade off a few minutes at a time, complete a short sequence, then hand off the biplane with a shake of the stick.