“Follow that Bicycle!” Greg’s January column & photos

Living the airpark lifestyle

“Seems a lot shorter, when you stop for fun along the way,” observed Jean. “And like more of a vacation, too.”

Usually we fly from Arizona to Chicago in a one-day marathon – 10 hours each way with a refueling stop at Garden City, Kansas. But this trip we’d planned in a more leisurely fashion, overnighting with friends in each direction. Flying east, we’d called on new pilot acquaintances in Iowa.

Now westbound toward home, we were headed to visit longtime buddies Julie and Mike Filucci at their new home on Lloyd Stearman Field near Wichita. Julie and Mike enjoy a lifestyle that most pilots would envy – they live on an airport and both fly professionally. Mike is an American Airlines captain, while Julie is Cessna Pilot Centers Manager. The two originally met, appropriately enough, at a formation-flying course.

Just 3-1/2 hours after departing Chicago’s Aurora Municipal Airport, we joined Stearman Field’s traffic pattern at Benton, Kansas. We’ve landed at residential airparks before, but this would be our first time actually staying at one.

“Where’s the fuel pump?” I radioed after touchdown.

“Continue to the north end of the runway, and you’ll see it on your right,” replied Julie’s voice from the ether. Sure enough, a gaggle of parked airplanes soon materialized ahead. Next to them, however, was a surprise. Just steps from the self-service pump we discovered the Stearman Field Bar & Grill’s bustling, boisterous outdoor patio. To the chattering of diners and the aroma of grilling burgers, we topped our tanks.

“Here comes Julie!” said Jean as I teetered on the refueling ladder. Up rode our friend on a reproduction 1940s British military bicycle. Instead of bearing urgent dispatches befitting her steed, however, she delivered welcoming hugs.

“I could direct you to our house,” offered Julie, “but it’s probably easier to just follow me back.” So we cranked up the Flying Carpet, and trailed our bicycling host down the parallel taxiway past residences and airplanes, and across the runway to an imposing new home and hangar. There, Mike greeted us with the couple’s treasured Visla hunting dogs, Fred and Mirra.

“First time we’ve ever followed a bicycle in our airplane!” chuckled Jean… Continue reading Greg’s January Flying Carpet column, “Follow that Bicycle!” here. (Please allow a moment for the article to load.) This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine, 1/12 issue.

Photo: Stearman Field Bar & Grill outdoor patio, Benton, Kansas. See more photos here.

©2011 Gregory N.Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

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