Real Airplanes Have Round Engines

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Jun 10, 2013 | By Andy Forch

We asked for the adrenaline junkie package and we sure got our fix.

I'm upside down over Sonoma wine country and the ground is screaming towards me. As the top wing rolls away from my field of vision, a kaleidoscope of earthy browns, greens, and greys appears that's not unlike the salad I had earlier for lunch; a salad that I'm now tasting for the second time.

Brazened by the parachute strapped to my back, I release my death grip on the cold steel of the plane and extend alligator arms into the warm, propeller-chopped air right as the pilot finishes our loop and levels off the plane.

Again, I yell.

Remembering that the pilot can't hear me over the roar of the 220 horse power engine, I look back and give him a thumbs up. Then, once again, up, back, and away we go.

I imagine the feeling you get when you hit terra firma following 45 minutes of aerobatics isn't all too dissimilar from the feeling an astronaut gets upon his return from space. It's a sad moment of realization where you sense you may never experience that level of thrill again in your life.

Thanks to Sheryl Carlucci, our aviator's high never quite left us the day we visited Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma to do some research in anticipation of an upcoming sale.

Sheryl, Tom Morris, Chris Prevost, and David Mace rolled out the red carpet for us, which at Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma invariably leads to hangers with restored P-51 Mustangs and Grumman F3Fs.

Like many small airports in the U.S., Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma was founded a couple of years after WWII, a time when our country had an abundance of both aviators and planes.

Though a controller tower and numerous hangers have been added since then, not a whole lot else has changed, as evidenced by the bumper sticker that greets you when you first walk in (above).

During our visit to Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma, we took up two planes: a lead plane with me, my wife, and pilot Tom Morris (above)...

... and a trail plane (above) with our photographer Jeff Masamori and pilot Chris Prevost. Both planes were 1942 Boeing Stearman PT-17. After WWII, most Stearmans were retired from public service and turned into crop-dusters. While today Stearmans are relatively rare and fetch a pretty penny, they were once so common that a buyer would choose one out of the hanger with "the most gas."

PT stands for "primary trainer." Following 30 hours of flight time with an instructor and 30 hours of soloing, an aviator would graduate to an AT-6 (below), with AT standing for "advanced trainer."

The T-6 Texan was an advanced trainer used to train the USAF, Navy, and Royal Air Force from WWII to the late 1950s.

Our first stop on the hanger tour was the Grumman F3F, which was the last American-built fighter bi-plane. Today there are only five left, and Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma houses one of the two that still actively flies.

This 1943 Curtiss P-40N Warhawk once belonged to Ray Melikian who recorded 3 kills in this plane in the Pacific theatre: 2 Japanese Zeros, and 1 Betty Bomber.

Tom Morris (above) was my pilot. If I was having a dinner party and could invite any five guests, living or dead, Tom Morris would be one of those five.

Chris Prevost was Jeff's pilot and in addition to being an experienced airman, is a master builder, having restored many of the planes that we looked at.

Above, Tom Morris and Sheryl Carlucci tell us about Oshkosh, Dayton, Reno and all of the other upcoming airshows. Note the Huckberry cap.

If you live in the Bay Area of plan on visiting anytime soon, we highly recommend that you pay a visit to our friends at Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma and tell 'em that Huckberry sent you. For a limited time only, you can pickup a Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma flying package at 10% off on Huckberry.

Featuring a range of aircraft – from the workhorse "primary trainer" Stearmans to the iconic P51 Mustang – Vintage Aircraft of Sonoma's packages are designed to accomodate everyone from those seeking a leisurely tour of wine country to adrenaline junkies looking to strap on a parachute and experience some G forces (like us, per our awesome adventure above).