Probably half the people out there have no idea what a biplane is. They may have seen them before, but never knew what they were called. At some point, you owe it to yourself to take a biplane ride.
So what is a “biplane”? It is a fixed-wing aircraft that has two major wings of similar spans. They are normally mounted one above each other. Typically, the upper wing will overlap the lower wing, and vertical struts are often positioned symmetrically on either side of the fuselage. It’s known as a stagger if the upper and lower wing overlap just a bit.
Essentially, this minimizes aerodynamic interference between the two wings. If the upper wing is further forward, this is known as Forward stagger, which is the most common set up for all biplanes. Most biplanes also have a tailplane or third horizontal surface to control the pitch, or angle of attack of the aircraft.
Of course, anyone that has watched old war movies can attest that Biplanes were used the most in the early days of aviation when the wing sections used were very thin. Because of this, the wing structure needed to be strengthened by external bracing wires. The design helped to increase the structural strength by allowing the two wings to be braced against one another.
The compact layout and shorter wing span also gave the plane its other big advantage: greater maneuverability, which is great for all types of bi-plane rides.
The big disadvantage of the biplane? The two wings technically interfered with one another aerodynamically, each reducing the lift produced by the other. What does this mean? For a given wing area, the biplane produced more drag and less lift than a monoplane. Once this was realized, the biplane suffered a quick demise. As thicker wing sections and improved structural materials were introduced, it removed the need for external bracing. As a result, monoplanes became the defacto standard around the world. Modern biplane designs now exist only for aerobatics, agricultural aircraft and for specialty tours and biplane rides.
If you are familiar with any of the famous bi-plane models, you’ll probably remember the Stearman. This plane is particularly associated with stunt flying with wing-walkers. Famous sesquiplanes include the Nieuport 17 and Albatros D.III. Most biplane designs have been fitted with reciprocating engines which have lower power. Exceptions to this include the Antonov An-3 and WSK-Mielec M-15 Belphegor, which are fitted with turboprop engines. Some older biplane designs, such as the Grumman Ag Cat and the An-2 are available in upgraded versions with turboprop engines.
If you’re going to go for a biplane ride, be prepared to have some fun! You’ll be magically transported into the past when you jump a board.
(c) 2006 California Dreamin, offers hot air balloon rides and biplane rides since 1977. Featuring sunrise flights in the Temecula valley wine country and sunset flights over the Del Mar coastal valley. To take a flight, contact http://www.californiadreamin.com/ or (800) 373-3359