There’s a new airplane in pilot Robert Preston’s life, and he’s anxious to share her with others at the National Stearman Fly-In.

The 46th annual Fly-In will be held Sept. 4-9 at Galesburg Municipal Airport.

Preston’s new plane, Tillie, is a Super Stearman. It’s powered by a 450-horsepower Pratt and Whitney radial engine. The engine is under a custom-fitted Beech 18 cowling.

Tillie “… sports a pair of matching wheel pants, a sleek headrest and turtle deck” and is finished in a “bright red and yellow checkerboard and starburst paint scheme,” Preston says. “It was everything I was looking for in a custom Stearman.”

Preston flew two stock 220-horsepower Stearmans, both configured as military aircraft, for 10 years before acquiring Tillie. She was owned by an airline pilot in San Jose, CA. She was flown to her new home in Akron, OH, in April.

This will be the eighth consecutive year Preston has given rides at the National Stearman Fly-In. He says he “can’t imagine being at the Fly-In without an aircraft to share.”

A number of companies in the U.S. offer rides in stock Stearmans but, Preston says, as far as he knows only he and one other operator give flights in a Super Stearman.

David Brown has been giving rides in his Stearman for more than 15 years.

He’s owned his Army Air Corps plane since 2002, when he purchased it from a friend he flew airshows with for several years.

“The Stearman is a great ride airplane as well as a great aerobatic plane,’ Brown says. “My goal when I bought the plane was to sell rides and hopefully be able to pay for the plane’s expenses. So far that has worked as planned, and now I am actually using the plane as my full-time retirement venue.”

Brown says “…most folks attend the Fly-In to see the Stearmans. But if you could actually get to ride in one that would be better, right? We offer the chance to fly in a piece of history and experience aerobatics in the Stearman as well.”

Here’s how to arrange a Stearman ride during this year’s Fly-In:

  • Robert Preston, a professional pilot, is from Canton, OH, and is based in Akron, OH. He operates his Stearman flights under the banner of Heritage Biplane, Ltd.

>>> Preston will offer rides daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Sunday, Sept. 3, to Saturday, Sept. 9.

>>> Rides may be scheduled by calling (330) 328-4527 or online at rides@heritagebiplane.com. Walk-ups also may schedule a ride with the pilot in front of the Jet Air Inc. hangar at Galesburg Municipal Airport. Preston can be contacted directly at (330) 328-4527.

>>> Heritage Biplane, Ltd. offers three ride options —  a 20-minute sightseeing ride around the Galesburg area for $160; a 30-minute “hands on” flight allowing the rider to take the controls during the flight for $210, and a 1-hour-long flight that combines sight-seeing and the “hands on” experience for $395. “Flights can be straight and level, allowing plenty of time to see the countryside, or they can be a little more spirited to suit the taste of the more adventurous,” Preston says.

  • David Brown, Warrenton, VA, teams with another professional pilot, Brian Rosenstein, Stanley, NC, to offer Stearman rides under the banner of Brown Aviation, LLC. The Website is www.brownsbiplanerides.com.

>>> Brown and Rosenstein will offer rides daily from 9 a.m. to about 6 p.m. – and later if asked – beginning Sunday, Sept. 3, through Saturday, Sept.9.
 Rides may be scheduled by calling (540) 219-3259. Walk-ups also may schedule a ride with the pilot in front of the Jet Air Inc. hangar at Galesburg Municipal Airport.

>>> Flight description: “A world-class 30-minute aerobatic flight in an authentic Stearman biplane from World War II. During this flight you will experience a spin, loops, rolls, a hammer-head stall, a Cuban-8 and several other aerobatic maneuvers in addition to seeing the countryside surrounding Galesburg from altitudes up to 3,000 feet.”

>>> Rides cost $300, the same as previous years, and are discounted 10 percent from Brown’s normal charge especially for the National Stearman Fly-In.

>>> Brown and Rosenstein both have many years of experience doing aerobatics in the airplane. Brown won the Master’s Aerobatic competition during the 40th National Stearman Fly-In in 2011, and is an air show pilot with the Flying Circus Airshow of Virginia. Rosenstein won the 2015 National Stearman Fly-In aerobatic contest.