Postcrossing ID: NL-13092637
Originating City: Boskoop, Netherlands
Distance Travelled: 5,946.5 miles/9,570 km
Date Sent: 29 July 2015
Date Received: 10 August 2015
Days Travelled: 12
My first Postcrossing card to arrive in almost a month brought a bit of a challenge. The sender, Jessica, wrote that I would have to be pretty old to have flown in a plane such as the one pictured on the card. Well, yes, I am old. But not that old, only celebrating my first half-century on Earth in early December. And yet I have flown in a biplane, somewhat similar to this Avro Tutor. More on that in a little while.
On her Postcrossing profile, Jessica describes Boskoop as a village in the western part of the Netherlands. Wikipedia tells the full story, stating that it is assumed the town originated from a settlement founded by William I, Count of Holland, in 1204. The Abbey of Rijnsburg became the owner of Boskoop in 1222 and decided to enlarge its tree and shrub inventory by making the farmers grow more trees than they would need for their own orchards. Today, it is the world’s biggest joined floriculture area and is famous for its nurseries, particularly those of woody plants and perennials. Some 774 nurseries are situated on long stretches of land, divided by narrow canals. Prior to the Second World War, almost all transport was conducted using narrow boars. A few exceptionally high footbridges crossing some of the broader main canals remain from those days.
Between the World Wars, the transition was made from fruit culture to decorative garden plants and Boskoop has a worldwide reputation as a source of technical knowledge about the art of growing decorative plants. The town has given its name to varieties of apples, grapes and blackcurrants.
The Avro Tutor (model number 621) was a simple but rugged two-seat radial-engined biplane used as an initial trainer by the Royal Air Force between 1933 and 1941. Designed by Roy Chadwick, more than six hundred were built. The plane featured heavily staggered equal span, single-bay wings and construction was based on steel tubing with some wooden components in the wing ribs. Doped linen formed the covering. A conventional, fixed divided main undercarriage with tail skid was used in all but the latest aircraft, which had a tail wheel. The Model 621 was powered either by a 155 hp (116 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose or Armstrong Siddeley Lynx IV (180 hp/130 kW) or IVC (240 hp/179 kW) engine. The later Lynx-powered models had the engine enclosed in a Townend ring cowling. The Mongoose-powered version was called the 621 Trainer and the more numerous Lynx-engined aircraft the Tutor. The Tutor also differed by having a more rounded rudder.
The card pictures an Avro Trainer with the designation K-3215 but it was originally lettered G-AHSA and was used for communication duties during World War II. Struck off the rolls in December 1946, it was purchased by Wing Commander Heywood and used in the early stages of filming Reach for the Sky in 1955 but soon suffered engine failure. It was then purchased by the Shuttleworth Corporation and restored to flying condition. It is now the sole flying Trainer wearing the 1930s yellow training color scheme.
On the card, Jessica stated that I probably hadn’t flown in a plane like the Avro Trainer but indeed I have, in the American equivalent in fact. Yes, that’s me – the chubby 12-year-old boy in the light blue tank top – getting ready to climb into a Model 75 “Stearman” Kaydet, a military trainer biplane used by the United States from 1934 until the end of World War II. More than 10,600 were made after Stearman Aircraft Company became a Boeing subsidiary and they were the primary trainer for the U.S. Army Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force throughout the war. After the conflict was over, thousands were sold on the civilian market and became popular as crop dusters, sports planes, and for aerobatic and wing-walking use in airshows.
My sole flight in the Stearman biplane occurred in August or September 1978 in a field to the south of Nashville, Tennessee. My father arranged the flight for the two of us but I have no memory as to whether it was part of an airshow or if the pilot was one of several of his aviator friends. Nor do I have any memory of the flight itself other than grinning as the air buffeted my face. My only other flights in small planes were enclosed in cabins in such aircraft as the Piper Cub (another of my father’s friends was a Cessna salesman and would take us up whenever he was in town). Or, jumping out of them when I was during my (brief) membership in the Kansas State University Parachute Club, circa 1985.
Thank you, Jessica, for bringing back some wonderful memories of a time long ago by the arrival of your postcard. It was indeed a challenge to find the photographic record of my biplane flight.
You never know what the mail will bring you!