When researching the Hudson Valley before arrival, I was intrigued while reading about the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. I like unique and different attractions, things we don’t usually see in our travels and the Aerodrome seemed to be that kind of place. In 1958, Mr. Cole Palen, an airplane enthusiast started his collection with a few planes and created America’s first flying museum of antique aircraft. Although he passed away in 1993, his legacy lives on and more than 60 aircraft from the early 1900’s until World War II are exhibited here. In several hangars you can view some of these planes as well as antique cars and motorcycles. What really sounded fun though were the weekend air shows and I got us tickets online for a Sunday afternoon when they put on a World War I dogfight featuring pyrotechnics, a World War I tank and antique autos.
Unfortunately, we arrived to find the show had been canceled due to weather, which was not surprising since we knew that a thunderstorm was in the forecast. To make up for the canceled show, they offered visitors a guided tour of the aircraft in the hangar and also said they would bring several of the planes out on the airfield and fly them around as long as the weather held out. In one hangar is the plane pictured above, a 1912 Thomas Pusher. In 1965, Mr. Palen flew this plane from Rhinebeck to New York City to appear on the TV show, “I’ve Got a Secret.” A panel of celebrities had to guess his “secret” as to why it took him several days to travel to NYC since it is only about 100 miles. When it was revealed the age of the airplane he flew, Mr. Palen explained that he had to make frequent stops to fix the plane as things kept falling apart on it. The plane was even brought to the TV studio so the audience could see it.
Viewing the aircraft on display was interesting, but the highlight was seeing the planes fly. The grass airfield was quite a bit larger than I expected and had a real look of days gone by since it is located out in the country, surrounded by a thick forest with some old fashioned buildings as storage for planes and props for the shows. There weren’t many people there watching so lots of room to wander plus the opportunity to talk to the people that work here about the aircraft.
The 1909 Bleriot is the oldest regularly flying airplane in the United States and the second oldest flying anywhere in the world. It is also the first type of aircraft to be mass produced. It was one of the planes that took to the air here. Well, it kind of took to the air with great difficulty. It was awhile before they could get the engine started and after a few false starts down the field it finally left the ground only to soar a few yards before touching back down. Two different pilots attempted take offs and we sat in suspense wondering if the plane would ever take flight. It was fun seeing such an old plane and the brave pilots giving it a go since it looks rather rickety. Below is a picture of the plane as it lifts off.
I liked the striking color and markings of the Albatros, which in the 1970’s was built here as a reproduction of the 1917 original.
This type of plane was introduced as a German fighter plane during World War I.
This third plane that was demonstrated was an original Fleet Finch from 1942, built during the “Golden Age” of flight.
During this time period airshows were popular with flying exhibitions and daredevil stunts. After showing us some maneuvers, the pilot did a stunt with toilet paper – dropping a roll while in flight and then attempting to cut it in half with the wings.
As you can see from the photo above, the dark clouds were really starting to come in, so it was decided that the flying should end. We headed back up to the museum and hangar area and then a torrential downpour started. Rainstorms on a regular basis seem to follow us on our journey and today was no exception. But we still had a great time at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Because we didn’t get to see the scheduled show, we were given a rain check. Since we were leaving and couldn’t use the tickets, we gave them to a man who had grilled up Mark some delicious hot dogs at the little RV snack shop. He seemed excited about going as he had never been before and said he would take his wife. As so often happens, it all turned out for the best – we had fun visiting the museum and seeing some old aircraft in flight and someone else will get to see the planes fly as well. In the picture below, Mark heads down to get the truck during the downpour at the Aerodrome.
Thanks for stopping in! In the next blog more Hudson Valley exploring with a visit to a home of the once richest family in America.