What started out as just a passion for vintage aircraft has become a thriving business for Rob Lock and his wife Jill Manka owners of Waldo Wright’s Flying Service. Waldo Wright’s Flying Service, based in Florida, is bringing back the magic and beauty of flight by providing customers the chance to fly in a vintage airplane just like people back in the 20’s and 30’s.
“By the time he was 14 or 15 years old he was already working on his pilot license and wanting to be a part of the aviation community,” Jill Manka said. “He had an affection for all of the vintage stuff, but because he is so tall he didn’t really fit in some of the vintage airplanes that he had an affection for.”
Lock at 6 feet 10 inches tall is too tall to fit into most vintage cockpits. So when he went in search of a vintage biplane the goal was to find one he could actually fly in and the New Standard D-25 fit that bill. In 1990 he found the frames of two New Standard D-25›s and saved up his money to purchase and restore them. He had never actually seen one before finding the two frames, but he knew they were built to accommodate four passengers and had a large cockpit.
“He bought them and it took him ten years to restore the two of them,” Manka said. ”There were only two of them flying in the world when he discovered the frames and there are 7 of them flying today.”
He then got the idea to opened Waldo Wright’s Flying Service in 1995. The flying service now owns 5 vintage airplanes 2 New Standard D-25 from 1929 and 1931, 2 Waco PVF – 7 and one 1942 Boeing Stearman. The name Waldo Wright’s Flying Service was inspired by the 1975 film “The Great Waldo Pepper.” Waldo Pepper was a war veteran that missed flying in WWI so he becomes a barnstormer so he can fly again. This was during a time when airplanes were brand new technology and many people wanted to get a chance to fly in them as well as watch the many maneuvers the pilots could perform.
“That’s how it was in the 20’s and 30’s and this movie kind of captured this feeling of the barnstormer,” Manka said. “When my husband saw that movie with all of his aviation background it was like wow that is something I would like to rekindle in the modern age.”
The New Standard D-25 was built for barnstorming, which means it was built to give plane rides to groups of people so they could experience flying for the first time. The pilots of these planes were called Barnstormers because they would fly throughout the country, usually landing in a farmer’s field, and give airplane rides for a day or two before moving on. So Waldo Wright, Rob Lock’s persona, is one of these barnstormers wanting to give people the chance to experience the beauty and majesty of flight that can’t be experienced in a modern aircraft.
“People go on the airlines all the time and it’s become very much a modern convenience. I think in all that people lose sight of the beauty behind it because there are really amazing things happening to make an airplane fly,” Manka said. “When he acquired the airplanes he wanted to take a step back in time and show people that there is more to flying then just getting into a big aluminum tube and going 4,000 miles an hour to get to your destination.”
The Waldo Wright’s Flying Service will be at the Clare Municipal Airport from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. June 29 during the airport’s Fly-In Pancake Breakfast. They will take two to four people up at a time at the cost of $50 per person. There will also be other planes on display during the pancake breakfast for patrons to view and ask questions.
“There is a lot more at the airport than just airplanes there is a lot of beauty and a lot of comradery,” Manka said, “Support the airport because you are supporting your community when you do so.”
If unable to attend Sunday’s event they will also be at the Big Rapid›s AirFest and will be at the Air Zoo in Portage, Mich. until Labor Day Weekend.
For more information about Waldo Wright’s Flying Service, visit http://www.waldowrights.com/. For more information about the Fly-In Pancake Breakfast call the Clare Municipal Airport, 989-386-0445 or the Clare Chamber of Commerce, 989-386-2442.