Take a biplane ride with Summit Scenic Flights
|Greg Westcott of Lancaster stands with his two-passenger WACO biplane on the 4,001-foot-long runway of the Mount Washington Regional Airport in Whitefield. His new company, Summit Scenic Tours, is designed to provide another new adventure from one of the country’s most beautiful small airports in the Northeast. (Photo by Edith Tucker)
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June 03, 2009WHITEFIELD — Another Grand Adventure is opening up in Coös County, now branded as the land of "Grand Hotels: Grand Adventures."
Greg Westcott of Lancaster has purchased a classic reproduction of the 1934-style WACO YMF5 biplane, built in 1991 by the Weaver Aircraft Company. The 2,900-pound biplane boasts a 275 h.p. engine on which only 25 hours of flying time has been logged. Remarkably, the rest of the plane, which was stored in a hanger on Cape Cod for years, has only been in the air a total of 900 hours. The plane was outfitted with the avionics needed for intercontinental travel by a previous owner.
Mr. Westcott flew it solo — 15 hours in the air — from Owatonna, Minn., an hour south of Minneapolis, to his home airport, the Mount Washington Regional Airport on Airport Road near the Jefferson town line, and landed it on Saturday, May 23. On his long flight east, Mr. Westcott spent one night in Auburn, Indiana, and then touched down at three more airports on his way to New Hampshire.
Already a licensed pilot, Mr. Westcott qualified last summer in Laconia for a commercial pilot's license and then traveled to Minnesota twice this spring for intensive training on his newly purchased fully-restored open-cockpit biplane.
The WACO can take two passengers who sit cozily side-by-side in front of the pilot, from seats that command panoramic views of the landscape.
Mr. Westcott has already talked with the two nearby Grand Hotels — the Mountain View Grand and the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods — and reports that both their managers were very enthusiastic about his venture. He plans to spread the word to other area attractions.
A two-passenger ticket will cost $220 for a half-hour ride in the air with another half hour devoted to in-flight preparations and then a short debriefing. Gift certificates are available, which the entrepreneur hopes will not only appeal to visitors but also to area residents and their families and friends.
"I anticipate that the two most popular routes from the Mount Washington Regional Airport will be flying around the cone of Mount Washington and flying down through Franconia Notch and back," Mr. Westcott said. "Other routes can certainly be worked out, however."
Leather helmets outfitted with goggles and an intercom are available for those who would like to wear them.
"A flight in an open-cockpit biplane is a experience, really an adventure; it provides a different perspective on our notches and the Presidential range," Mr. Westcott said. "I know I'm going to enjoy the experience of showing our grand part of the world to visitors and residents alike."
Mr. Westcott has turned over much of the day-to-day operations of the Marshall Insurance Agency in Lancaster to his wife Lynette as they prepare to be "empty-nesters."
Their daughter, 20-year-old Paige who is a 2007 graduate of White Mountains Regional High School (WMRHS), is a rising junior at Norwich University where she is a civilian student majoring in communications.
Their nearly 18-year-old son, Rushton, will graduate from WMRHS on June 13 and head in August to study navigation at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Me.
Mr. Westcott said he expects to handle the reservations side of the business on his cell phone — 915-3438 — now that service in the region has improved so much.