By Debi Lander
mail@floridanewsline.com

Old style leather flying helmet on my head, goggles over my eyes, and a scarf wrapped around my neck: I’m ready to take flight, feeling like Amelia Earhart and those 1920s barnstormers. Actually, I am ready for my photo op. Pilot Marc Hightower at Sky High Air Tours, based in Sevierville’s Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Regional Airport, snaps my pic.

Then he says, “If you’d like you can take off the helmet and let the wind blow through my hair.” I do.

Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue!

Marc instructs me about the biplane and plans for a circuitous flight over historic Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I anxiously sit in the 1927 Model 10 WACO Straight Wing biplane waiting for the miracle of flight. Marc took three-and-a-half years to rebuild the aircraft, his baby, and the engine was fully overhauled. I am more reassured knowing that he has been flying visitors in this area for the past seven years.

Headphones allow me to hear the control tower and communicate with the pilot. Air traffic controllers clear us for takeoff and this flying machine lifts with ease on its feather-light fabric covered wings. To me, aeronautics remains a mystery, but I am tingling with glee as we ascend. I don’t just feel the breeze blowing through my hair; I feel the wind beneath my wings.

Marc’s voice comes through the headphones, muted yet comforting. He points out areas of interest: “There’s the clock tower on the courthouse in downtown Sevierville.” The spot has become an Instagram icon, beckoning people from all over the world to pose in front of the bronze statue of Dolly Parton. Dolly’s considered Sevierville’s favorite daughter, pretty much responsible for tourism and thousands of jobs in the region. She funds a reading program for preschoolers and contributed millions to nearby Gatlinburg residents who lost their homes in the 2017 wildfires.

The struts or wing supports partially obstruct my view, but I’m feeling the glorious freedom and connection with the sky, remarkably different from sitting in a pressurized cabin of a jet. We fly like birds, low and slow about 1,200 feet and 90 miles per hour. I spy the sprawling Wilderness in the Smokies Resort, the hotel’s water park easily identifiable and many cabins available for rent. We pass over the upscale Tangier Outlet Mall that attracts thousands of happy shoppers.

Taking photos becomes a challenge, but I want to document the experience. When you twist your upper body to the side, a sharp blast of air hits you. Whoa! Be sure to put the camera strap around your neck and restrain your sunglasses. Slowly, the plane circles around mist that looks like smoke rising from the mountains — the reason they were named the Smoky Mountains. Then, I get a head-on peek at Dollywood and the amusement rides. A family can have some serious fun in Sevierville.

I want to linger, but introductory biplane rides only last about 20 minutes. We fly lower as we head back toward the airport. Before long we descend and roll down the runway. My open cockpit ride is over way too soon, but I was literally blown away with my step back to the Golden Age of Aviation. Like Charles A. Lindbergh said, “Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see.” I must agree.

 

Visit www.skyhighairtours.com for more information.

Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.

 

Photo courtesy Debi Lander

The author at her photo shoot before the biplane ride.

 

 

  • HarborChase independent & assisted living Memory Care Mandarin, call to schedule your virtual tour
  • Premier Homes Realty Inc. Michael Taylor and Tari Taylor
  • Advertise in our May Issue The Creek Line
  • Memorial emergency We have the compassionate team and technology to take great care of you or a loved one in an emergency
  • Ellegant earth solutions complete lawn maintenance with 28 years experience
  • Fresh Look Lawn Maintenance
  • I.T. Promise Inc. Computer Services Professional Computer Services business and residential
  • Pavers concrete and more Free estimates
  • Snip's Tree and stump service over 25 years experience
  • The right cleaners, LLC House cleaning services
  • Nautilus Behavior Health Let us help you and your family be at your best
  • Nemour's Childrens's Specialty
  • Quality Eye care 25+ years of experience
  • DIscount up to 30% Jim Register state farm agent
  • River City Roofing call today for your free roof inspection
  • Join us for Easter River of Life UMC
  • Vote Rod Hardwick for st johns county sheriff Working together for the strength of our community during challenging times
  • Preddy law firm estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, guardianship
  • Smiles by Glenos & Hadfic Orthodontists
  • Eddie Creamer Property appraiser
  • Luxury living and compassionate care come together at starling. Welcome Home.
  • Staverman Hearing Centers Hear loud and clear
  • Strandz hair studio. For a beautiful new you!
  • Support Community Journalism The Creek Line
  • Prudential Financial Planning Services with Andrew Laino
  • Julington Creek Chiropractic & Wellness Center P.A. serving st. johns county for nearly 21 years
  • Tutoring club. Worried about the FSA? WE CAN HELP.
  • Custom heating and air
  • Academy of Dance
  • Affordable Water
  • Baptist Medical Center South
  • All About Ballroom
  • Central Bank, Come see us for a small business loan!
  • Episcopal Church of Our Savior
  • Irritated Eyes? Your not alone its allergy season! Schedule an appointment with clayeye for some relief!
  • Do you only want cremation?
  • Craig Funeral services, Funeral, Crematory, Memorial Park
  • Cronin Ace Hardware
  • Vote for Christian Whitehurst! for St. Johns county commissioner, District 1
  • Ian MacDonald Mortgage loan originator with Regions Mortgage
  • Doug Nunnery, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices,
  • Vote for Dr. Erick Aguilar Republican candidate U.S. House Fl 4th district
  • Finding the right doctor just got easier, Dr. Levine Baptist primary care
  • Nemetz dental associates
  • Deerwood Academy register now for 2020-2021 VPK
  • Excel Pediatrics 2 locations Durbin creek and Avenues
  • Eye center of st augustine, The eye surgery Center of St Augustine
  • Famous Automotive and tire center
  • Fruit Cove Baptist Church
  • The Goddard School summer camp
  • Havana Printing and office supply Call us today for all your cutome printing needs
  • The Legacy at st johns the ultimate resort styled living
  • Weaver and Stratton pediatric dentistry & orthodontics. Exams. Prizes. Fun!
  • Smart Choice Medical healthcare membership! No VoPay, No Deductibles, No Hassles
  • Memorial Emergency Mandarin
  • Mint cleaning tips for a clean virus free fresh home
  • George R. Hentshcel CPA, P.A. Taxes, Accounting, & Consulting
  • Railing Chiropractic & Acupuncture
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our may issue!
  • Luxury living and compassionate care come together at starling. Welcome Home.
  • Tousel and tease beuaty parlor! family friendly walk-ins welcome
  • Mandarin Garden Club Annual Plant Sale
  • Support community journalism! Subscribe to the Mandarin Newsline today!
  • The Windsor Senior living facility
  • Being Well Florida News line is excited to introduce Being Well magazine
  • The Windsor Senior living facility
  • Westminster Woods on Julington creek. Live well. Be Happy
  • Ackerman Cancer center, Leaders in proton therapy
  • Anytime Fitness summer countdown! Your friendly neighborhood 24 hour gym.
  • College Day School Summer Programs 2020. Rotating themes each week will keep your child learning and excited to come back for more!
  • David Gray Electrical! Get 15% off any plumbing or electrical service. David Gray can save the day
  • Elder Source for senior and care giver resources
  • Forever Vets Animal Hospital coupon for free exam and $5 off heartworm tests
  • Future home loans. North Florida's Premier Mortgage Expert Ryan Proffitt
  • David Jacobson Acounting LLC, We are here for you are your loved ones! We are ready to prepare your Personal and Business Tax Returns!
  • Keith Perniciaro for St Johns Sheriff
  • Millennium Physician Group is bringing back house calls.... Virtually
  • New! Camp Yalla Summer Camp grades 7-9
  • Support Community Journalism in Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue! Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue!
  • Tailored living Premier Garage solutions
  • Vicarslanding retirement resort, surrounded by acres of woods and lakes
  • Westminster St. Augustine. were here when you need us
  • Alive Credit Union Start banking healthier today!
  • Clara's Tidbits Now in Mandarin!
  • Brian E. Floro DMD, PA Dental services
  • JR Dental General, Specialty, Dental Lab
  • JR Dental General, Specialty and Dental lab
  • Havana Printing 904-447-5021