12 June 2011
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome: Airborne for the 52nd Time
By Robert G. Waldvogel
When the yellow-and-white striped tent, bathed by the morning sun, rose from the ground next to the still boarded-up Snack Stand on June 4, so, too, did Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome for the 52nd time in its history.
Its lift, as always, was provided by its enthusiastic volunteer corps, whose ever-younger complexions blended with those of its more established members under the tent for the annual, pre-season Safety Briefing given by Tom Daly.
The year’s turnout was “the strongest ever,” according to Tom, promising a season of improvements, including new safety and weather teams, enhanced procedures, an aerodrome map and guidebook, audio tours, and weekday programs.
“The aerodrome is famous because of our air show presentations pioneered in 1959 by our late founder, Cole Palen,” said Neill Herman, Old Rhinebeck’s Air Show Director. “This new way of presenting our museum collection will add excitement for people on group and motor coach tours…The enhanced weekday program is being made possible by a grant from the Hudson River National Heritage Area—Greenways.”
“Experiential tourism…has become a tourist industry buzz word that means involving the visitor in the tour," explained Don Fleming, Old Rhinebeck’s Public Relations Manager.
Integral to the expanded program are docents who are being prepared to educate groups about the museum’s vintage aircraft and vehicle collection after completing their own training programs.
“The weekday tour enhancements are intended to capture more motor coach tours that have predictable arrival dates and times,” Don continued. “More than 80% of these arrive on weekdays.”
After the briefing, Old Rhinebeck opened both its ground-based and aerial doors as the first visitors filtered through its covered-bridge time portal and a fly-in saw Piper Cubs and Boeing PT-17 Stearmans alight on its rolling grass runway.
As the members of its young and old team scattered to their appointed stations, the Snack Stand’s winter-indicative boards were removed, the pioneer and World War I aircraft emerged from their hangar hibernations, brooms swept the gift shop’s floor, and the model shop’s door cracked open for the first time—as did the barnstorming field’s silence by the first sputtering engine. The latter was fueled by avgas, the former by passion. But both ensured that Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome became airborne for the 52nd time.
Weekend “History of Flight” and “World War I” air shows run June 11 through October 16, weather permitting, and visitors can don goggles for flight experiences in an open-cockpit, four-passenger New Standard D-25 biplane over the lush Hudson Valley.