By Erica Pennington
BRODHEAD — Chances are you’ve seen it on the weekends: a bright yellow open-cockpit biplane soaring over the Stateline Area.
The aircraft, a vintage 1930 WACO Taperwing, belongs to Gypsy Air Tours based out of Brodhead, and now the public can get in on the fun.
“The idea behind the business was to recreate barnstorming when these planes would travel from town to town,” said Gypsy Air Tours co-owner Kerryann DiLoreto.
DiLoreto and pilot Josh Brownell purchased the restored plane in September 2010 before starting Gypsy Air Tours in 2011. They say the business is a true labor of love.
The duo spends nearly every weekend of the flying season at area airports helping individuals make memories by providing air tours. They also sometimes travel even further to share the WACO with others.
Passengers in the plane have been as young as 5 years old, while others have been well into their 90s, having being born before the biplane was manufactured.
“The WACO Taperwing is really a rare plane and I could have searched for years to find the right one, so I was very lucky,” said Brownell, a pilot for more than two decades. “There are probably less than 20 of these planes still flying...they’re from the Golden Age of aviation.”
Brownell and DiLoreto’s plane has a long history and it has been used for many purposes including for business and agricultural crop dusting. Now the hope is to keep the biplane in tip-top shape and share it with others.
Over this past weekend air tours were offered at the Lakelawn Resort Airport in Delavan and riders were taking to the sky throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Five-year-old Caleb Maple, of Houston, Texas, who was staying at the resort, was brave enough to strap on some goggles and fly, although he had a few worries about “falling out.”
“Don’t you worry,” Brownell said, telling the little boy that he was going to “turn on the fan to cool off” as he revved up the propellers to taxi out for a tour.
Daughter Megan and father Carl Thunboe, of Algonquin, Ill. also enjoyed a half-hour tour over Lake Delavan and Lake Geneva to celebrate Carl’s birthday.
“It was so great!” Carl said of the present.
This weekend the WACO Taperwing biplane will be in Brodhead, where a large fly-in featuring a variety of aircraft will be taking place. The fly-in is a popular stop for pilots heading to AirVenture Oshkosh (July 29-August 4).
All are welcome to stop by the Brodhead airport to watch the planes take off and land. Aircraft will begin arriving on Friday evening, but the most activity will take place on Saturday.
“We’ll also be happy to give rides over the weekend, so just ask for us and we’ll take you up,” DiLoreto said.
Other upcoming opportunities to fly in the biplane include Aug. 2-4 and Aug. 9-11 at Lake Lawn Resort, Aug. 17-18 at the Poplar Grove Airport, Aug. 25 in Burlington, Wis., and Aug. 31 at Lake Lawn Resort.
DiLoreto says even individuals who may not consider themselves fans of flying may enjoy a ride in the biplane, as the experience is quite different from being in a commercial aircraft.
“We really like to encourage people to do something spontaneous and push their own envelope,” she said. “Riding in the biplane is something unique and is very enjoyable.”
Prices for air tours vary based on whether the ride is for a single passenger or a pair, as well as the amount of time spent in the sky.
For more information, visit www.gypsyairtours.com. For more information about the fly-in, visit www.eaa431.org.
Gypsy Air Tours pilot Josh Brownell flies over Lake Delavan on Sunday. Brownell co-owns the beautiful 1930 WACO Taperwing biplane with Kerryann DiLoreto, and is spending his time traveling to offer air tours to individuals this summer.