Stearman pilot Sarah Wilson, who is participating in the American Barnstormers Tour, files this report from the tour’s fifth stop at Bismarck Airport (BIS) in North Dakota:
About 30 miles south of Bismarck, we had a flight of seven behind the Stearman. The two Fairchilds were low on fuel as we were all fighting a head wind on the long leg from Aberdeen. Ted “Scooter” Davis was in the Travel Air 4000 below my left wing, dipping up and down over the farms and playing in the fields all morning, but now I noticed he had pulled up to our altitude and moved in closer. He made a call that his engine was running rough and asked for the nearest field. I told him two private grass strips were coming up and the nearest was three miles east, then added, “Come up on me Ted I’ll lead you in.” We turned the formation east and once Scooter had the field in sight, he and his partner Bernie, who was flying their New Standard, went in to land. They called the field “was made” and our flight of five turned back on course direct for Bismarck. Ted and Bernie had no idea when they landed at Saville Airstrip in Hazelton, N.D., that Clarice would be home that Sunday morning, watching the two biplanes land on her field. How could they have known that her husband, a life-long pilot, had died the week before? These two biplanes were a gift, not a nuisance to Clarice, especially on this Sunday, especially after what she had lost last week.
We landed in Bismarck and pulled into our spot in the shadow of the airport’s formidable 1930’s vintage hangar. Twenty vintage cars waiting to join the tour aircraft in a pristine corral were idling by. It was picture perfect. The people were stacked on the ramp; riders were waiting in lines before we even shut our engines down. Bob was waiting for me with a World War II parachute as a gift and anxious to fly with “Pancho.” We all had an instant fan club and it stayed that way for the three days. When it all comes together there is a magical quality about the tour. When the setting matches, when the crowds are thick, when the food and the ramp and the winds are in our favor, there is an indescribable sense of accomplishment and joy in what we do.
The truck went back to repair the Travel Air and the two biplanes joined us by Sunday afternoon. Clarice also joined us on Monday. Sitting in the tent, now one of our family, she brought her children and grandchildren to fly and meet the rest of the group. Why that strip on that morning? Perhaps a little divine intervention — even for the Barnstormers — is possible.
For more information: AmericanBarnstormersTour.com