We thought it a wonderful way to honor our recent college graduates here in Memphis, who are now flying themselves, experiencing the "thrill" of having the whole world laid out before them.
Meagan and Tim met myself and Backbeat music guide Nancy Apple at Colonial Air Park outside Collierville to enjoy 20-minute flights in the lightweight, open cockpit AirCam. As I strap myself into the tiny plane, I see a crude instrument panel and joystick in front of me, and some pedals on the floor. Pilot Tim tells me not to touch anything or we'll crash. "Well, except for that red handle behind you," he says. "If we start going down, just pull on that. It's a parachute." (No, not for me, for the whole plane.)
The AirCam isn't for everyone. The kit itself costs $50,000 and takes an average of 1,100 hours to build, and you need a pilot's license to fly it. It was first designed for the National Geographic Society for aerial photography in remote areas of Africa. Powered by two engines mounted on the wings, the AirCam flies low and slow, and provides a wide, unobstructed view of the ground below, making it perfect for wildlife photography. Or, as it turns out, for buzzing over waterskiers on a beautiful Mississippi afternoon.
By Bill Patton, President of Backbeat Tours and adrenaline junkie.