Note: The original post from 2005 was lost in the 2006 Watchuseek server crash, but gclin's post about flying around San Diego in a biplane brought back many happy memories, and I am copying my post back from TZ-Uk where I had posted a copy of my original Watchuseek post:
Having logged quite a number of miles as a passenger on commercial jetliners myself, I was exposed to a very different sort of flight experience during our family vacation on the Polish Baltic sea coast. While taking a Sunday tour with friends towards Kolobrzeg from our base on the beautiful island of Wolin we noticed a large cumbersome biplane circling overhead, and taking off and landing several times near the main road we were traveling on. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision and headed right for the airstrip before anyone in the car could protest. It soon transpired that there was a troupe offering 10-minute joyrides from an unprepared field strip on a hillside (one end of the "runway" - if it can be called that - was significantly higher than the other end).
The plane they used was the famous Antonov An-2, designed in the Soviet Union as early as 1947 and produced for many decades in Poland. More than 11,000 were built. A single-engine biplane in the 12-passenger configuration (1300 kilos of pesticide are another option to fill the cargo compartment). I include a few links to the plane which appears to have quite a following in general aviation circles because of its ruggedness (see http://home.hiwaay.net/~jlwebs/an2welcome.html and http://www.airliners.de/wissen/flugz...nufacturerid=7 )
So here at last, if unplanned, was the opportunity to expose my wife and the two girls to their first flight experience! (Our son had to stay at home due to his sprained ankle - blame the habitually untied shoelaces for that .) And right excited the three of them were, as our two American friends, concerned about the safety of what must have looked to them like the re-painted Red Baron's plane, looked on in horror. We got all four of us on board for a grand total of about 45 Euros, after the plane had been stylishly refueled from a gasoline drum rolled near the engine. Neither my wife nor the girls were in any way scared, and I wanted them to have a positive flight experience so that they would not be afraid later on in life if they had to get on board a plane in an emergency. Compared to what we would have had to pay for a similar short sightseeing air trip back home it was definitely a bargain. And the An-2 is a classic.
Here is the family before take-off:
I was in the middle seat of the front row with a good view of the two pilots working the controls, a position much like the jump seat in a modern airplane.
Here is a shot of the passenger cabin:
There were two pilots "working" (this is no euphemism in a 1947 design ) the controls:
The family got to see some of the sea coast and the countryside (I watched the pilots, naturally):
The ride was surprisingly smooth, and the only significant differences to my other flights were the constant smell of the engine (doesn't usually happen on a Boeing or a 'Bus) and the loud and sharp whacking sound as during touch-down the weight of the plane came to be put on the landing gear, like a metal rod breaking. It was a sound that would make you stop a car and immediately call for a tow truck without so much as investigating the nature of the sound you just heard. But the Antonov seemed to take it in good spirit, the pilots were unperturbed and the airplane was duly turned around for the next flight, so I assume it was quite a normal event.
So what about watches? The cockpit had a standard Russian cockpit chrono which looked like one of the JLC knock-offs. "Came with the plane from the factory" was all the pilots had to say about it.
The pilots wore everyday watches, alas.
And now, which of his distinctive aviation watches did this regular on the WUS Pilot's and Military Watches Forum wear? The Damasko DC 66 ultimate pilot's chronograph? The purebred Sinn 656? The U.S. mil-spec'ed Hamilton GG-W-113 or Traser/H3 P6500? The RAF G-10? The Yaoized Seiko Navigator? None of the above I took both the Traser (as a quartz reference watch) and the Bison Watch Frankenwatch to Poland, and it was the Bison Watch that got the flight time in the Antonov as the Traser was happily sitting on the nightstand. Rugged enough with the acrylic crystal and the robust 2824 movement in case I should get thrown around (the seat belt was way too short for this charter member of the "Deci-Tonner Club", so I made my first "unfettered" flight). I kept wondering about the magnetic field of the engine and electronic cockpit equipment, and would have preferred the Damasko, Sinn or Traser with the increased antimagnetic rating. But come to think of it, a nice Russian chrono would not have been out of place for the experience, either. :wink:
Here is a shot of the Zegarek Zubrow (the "Bison Watch"):
Here is a final picture of myself with the watch and the airplane. Humungous propeller for a single-engine plane, too:
In sum, a flight in the An-2 is much recommended!