With the launch of the newest in the Star Wars chronicles – The Last Jedi – just around the corner, we thought it only fitting to acknowledge the first aircraft to truly open up the skies to the future… the biplane.
In the early 1900s, the idea of the biplane must have seemed as outlandish to the people then as the concept of an X Wing starfighter seems to us today.
The Wright brothers designed and constructed the Wright Flyer, (also called Flyer I or 1903 Flyer), with two main wings stacked one above the other. This became the first successful heavier-than-air, powered aircraft.
The biplane configuration was first developed from the box kite, invented by the Australian Lawrence Hargrave in the late 1880s. By 1896, Octave Chanute, a French-American aviation pioneer who later advised the Wright brothers, was flying biplane hang gliders.
By the start of the First World War, biplanes were preferred over monoplanes because of the monoplane’s structural failure issues. From 1914 to 1925, most new aircraft were biplanes. But by the 1930s, better structural techniques, superior materials and the pursuit of greater speed made the biplane obsolete.
Yet, biplanes remain a crowd favorite today at airshows across the globe. Indeed, modern biplane designs still exist in specialist niche roles such as the aerobatic stunt planes seen at airshows and in competitions, and for agricultural purposes.
If you have been lucky enough to fly in one of these heroic planes, you know the feeling of soaring in an open cockpit with the wind in your face and the ground rushing past, seemingly close enough to touch at times. It is a personal and even intimate experience; indeed, the antithesis of the enclosed, crowded cabin of a modern aircraft with its recirculated air.
Now, imagine flying in a biplane above the African wilderness! Yes, the biplane has returned to Kenya. You can soar in one of the only two open-cockpit WACO biplanes in all East Africa.
With a helmet and goggles, you can revel in fantasies of Out of Africa or create your own! You can capture this thrilling experience above the landscapes of Lewa Wilderness in northern Kenya. Savor a classic aerial safari on one of our Kenya adventures such as Kenya Highlands or Classic Kenya Flying Safari.
P.S. That’s right, I’m a Star Wars geek