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Where are you going next?

 Africa86 votes
76.11%
 South America3 votes
2.65%
 Europe3 votes
2.65%
 Eastern Asia5 votes
4.42%
 Carribean9 votes
7.96%
 Safeway5 votes
4.42%
 Australia2 votes
1.77%
total votes: 113
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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"We are growing serious and, let me tell you, that's the very next step to being dull." -- Addison

176--California: Aviatrix in a 1940 Stearman
@ CherieSpotting     Jan 17 2004 - 11:13 PST
cherie writes: Travel back in time. Back to the days where men wore trousers and women swooned. The year was 1940, and the first plane Navy pilots flew was a bi-plane called a Stearman. Built by Boeing, it was called a Model 75. The Navy called it an N2S-3.

Gabe Lopez takes passengers for the ride of their life in his bright yellow Navy Stearman. When juxtaposed against a blue sky, it looks like a model-airplane; as if someone from the ground should be operating the controls.

I was hoping that Gabe would thrill me with some steep turns and tricks, so I prepared myself: I ate an ice-cream right before. I figured if something was going to come back up—it better taste good.

Ed Lopez, Gabe’s father, was a fighter-pilot in WWII and the Korean War. Even though he has only owned it for seven years, the Stearman is Gabe’s favorite plane. The 300-horsepower bi-plane has a wingspan of 43-feet and weighs 3,000 pounds.

I tucked myself in the front of the plane and Gabe harnessed me into the seat. “Don’t unbuckle this seatbelt if we are upside-down,” Gabe cautioned me.

I died my hair red specifically to avoid comments like that. “Don’t worry about that,” I said.

“I wasn’t talking about when we are in the air,” Gabe clarified. “I meant if we land upside down.”

I remembered the quote from George Bernard Shaw, "Both optimists and pessimists contribute to the society. The optimist invents the airplane, the pessimist the parachute."

At this point I thought it pertinent to ask some questions.
“How long have you been flying?”
“My whole life,” Gabe answered.
“How old are you?” I questioned.
“Old enough to be flying over 20 years,” he said.

That was enough for me. I let him be the backseat driver (which is normally my job.)

The reason the Stearman pilots sit in the back (when they solo) is because the bi-plane was used for Navy-training. Sitting in the aft of the aircraft better mimicked the pilot’s future flying conditions. War-birds had a lot of fuselage in front of them.

Norm, my college neighbor, met us at the El Monte airport to shoot photography from the ground. I clacked away from the cockpit.

Gabe and I darned our leather caps and goggles. Even though the sun gleamed bright, I had to wear a scarf. Like a prodigy of Amelia Earhart, I wanted to look like a traditional aviatrix.

This was my first time in an open-cockpit plane. It’s like driving a car versus being on motorcycle. With the wind in your face, riding in a Stearman is like riding a Harley through the sky.

Once I was belted in, the prop roared to life and we snaked down the tarmac. The Stearman thundered down the runway and then, we were flying!

With the growl of the engine, communications between Gabe and I were garbled and weaved with static. I couldn’t understand what Gabe was saying, but I think he was talking to air-traffic control. He probably said: “Ghost-rider requests fly-by.”

We made a few loops around the airport and then we headed for the San Gabriel Mountains. There were some unsuspecting hikers that needed a buzz. The hikers cheered and we waved as we zoomed over their heads.

I’m glad that Gabe put me in front. I if I was behind him, I would have been taping him on the shoulder the whole time saying: “Excuse me; I think we are about to crash again.”

Gabe and I were having a one-way conversation with me only catching a few words here and there. I thought I understood most of what he was saying. One time I heard “blah blah blah wing over.”

I glanced over the side and gave Gabe a thumbs-up. I got it. He said must have said “look over the wing.” Then the sky became the ground and my stomach became the sky. Later I learned we did a “wing over.”

Next Gabe informed me that we were going to “fly sideways.” After a wad of my own hair took residence in my mouth, I realized flying sideways must have been the cause of the 100 mph winds slamming into my face. Norm was there to capture the moment on film. The things I do for photos.

Perhaps the worst thing a girl can say to a guy is, “we need to talk.” Something bad always comes after that. The worst thing a pilot can say to a girl is, “hold on.”

Gabe said I was going to feel a few Gs; I was glad I had the foresight to eat ice-cream before.

Our light aerobatics were just enough to have fun, but not enough to make me sick. Plus Gabe’s “clean-up-your-own-barf” policy helped me keep everything down.

Like Amelia Earhart said: “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

If you want to fly in the plane that's been featured in the TV show JAG, call Gabe at (626) 893-1774. He charges $125 for a flight—it’s well worth it.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Cherie spends the day buzzing around LA, flying a 1940 Stearman with pilot Gabe Lopez. *Photo by Norm

Cherie spends the day buzzing around LA, flying a 1940 Stearman with pilot Gabe Lopez. *Photo by Norm

You try to look cute in goggles. *Photo by Norm

You try to look cute in goggles. *Photo by Norm

Ready to move her. *Photo by Norm

Ready to move her. *Photo by Norm

This shot is for my Uncle Steve, who never thought he'd see me on a tractor. *Photo by Norm

This shot is for my Uncle Steve, who never thought he'd see me on a tractor. *Photo by Norm

Gabe Lopez, the pilot who learned to fly from a fighter-pilot (his dad.)

Gabe Lopez, the pilot who learned to fly from a fighter-pilot (his dad.)

Norm tests the air in the tires.

Norm tests the air in the tires.

1940 technology is so charming.

1940 technology is so charming.

Lady, you want me to answer you if this old airplane is safe to fly? Just how in the world do you think it got to be this old?

Lady, you want me to answer you if this old airplane is safe to fly? Just how in the world do you think it got to be this old?

Fake smile, real fear.

Fake smile, real fear.

I call this the "Forrest Gump" shot. *Photo by Norm

I call this the "Forrest Gump" shot. *Photo by Norm

Why am I getting into a plane that is decades older than my dad? *Photo by Norm

Why am I getting into a plane that is decades older than my dad? *Photo by Norm

Norm's armed with his camera.

Norm's armed with his camera.

Ready to roll.

Ready to roll.

Cherie gets the front seat! *Photo by Norm

Cherie gets the front seat! *Photo by Norm

The JAG symbol. *Photo by Norm

The JAG symbol. *Photo by Norm

Do you know why the pilot sits in back? *Photo by Norm

Do you know why the pilot sits in back? *Photo by Norm

We have lift off. *Photo by Norm

We have lift off. *Photo by Norm

Flying away. *Photo by Norm

Flying away. *Photo by Norm

Lean into the turn. *Photo by Norm

Lean into the turn. *Photo by Norm

Thumbs up from the pilot.

Thumbs up from the pilot.

Not so high! *Photo by Norm

Not so high! *Photo by Norm

Self-portrait at 120 mph.

Self-portrait at 120 mph.

The view from the front.

The view from the front.

We "buzz" some hikers.

We "buzz" some hikers.

Let's go wave at Norm. *Photo by Norm

Let's go wave at Norm. *Photo by Norm

We look like a model airplane. *Photo by Norm

We look like a model airplane. *Photo by Norm

"If helicopters are so safe, how come there are no vintage-classic helicopter fly-ins?"

"If helicopters are so safe, how come there are no vintage-classic helicopter fly-ins?"

Real plane or model plane?

Real plane or model plane?

Real plane or model plane?

Real plane or model plane?

Rose Bowl fly-by...but there is no one there to cheer for us.

Rose Bowl fly-by...but there is no one there to cheer for us.

Santa Anita horse-racing.

Santa Anita horse-racing.

In the rear-view mirror.

In the rear-view mirror.

Coming in for a landing. *Photo by Norm

Coming in for a landing. *Photo by Norm

Almost home. *Photo by Norm

Almost home. *Photo by Norm

I don't mean to be rude, but does it seem like we are going to crash to you?

I don't mean to be rude, but does it seem like we are going to crash to you?

Note to ladies: Don't worry about doing your hair before an open-cockpit airplane ride. *Photo by Norm

Note to ladies: Don't worry about doing your hair before an open-cockpit airplane ride. *Photo by Norm

Gabe and his favorite plane.

Gabe and his favorite plane.

Gabe's flight-jacket.

Gabe's flight-jacket.

Norm with the model-airplane.

Norm with the model-airplane.

Cherie and Gabe after a great flight. *Photo by Norm

Cherie and Gabe after a great flight. *Photo by Norm

There's no place like ground. *Photo by Norm

There's no place like ground. *Photo by Norm

Gabe tucks her in for the night.

Gabe tucks her in for the night.

Ed Lopez, Gabe's father, was a fighter-pilot in WWII and the Korean War.

Ed Lopez, Gabe's father, was a fighter-pilot in WWII and the Korean War.

On the way out, Norm found a street with his first and middle name on it!!  Way to go Norman Lee!

On the way out, Norm found a street with his first and middle name on it!! Way to go Norman Lee!

Up, up and away!

Up, up and away!