High on Sedona

Continued (page 3 of 3)

In a biplane, two passengers sit up front while the pilot sits in the back. Passengers are outfitted with cloth flying helmets (think skullcaps) that include headsets so they can hear the pilot as he points out red rock formations and area landmarks. The company offers tours that range from 20 to 60 minutes, though the 30-minute Mystic Canyon tour is the most popular, and it’s the one we experienced. It’s definitely loud in the cockpit, so don’t expect to spend much time conversing with your fellow passenger. A windscreen does its best to shield you from the noise of the engine and the wind. During our morning flight in the late spring, it was warm enough that we didn’t need jackets, but we do recommend sunglasses.

As we took off from Airport Mesa, we were immediately flying over our favorite rock formation: Cathedral Rock. If you think Cathedral is impressive from the ground, just wait until you fly above it and look down on the top of the spires and domes. Next we were flying over the Village of Oak Creek and Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. We flew close to Lee Mountain, looked down on the pine trees along the edge of the Mogollon Rim, and soared across colorful Munds Canyon and lush Oak Creek Canyon. Aside from seeing Cathedral Rock from above, exploring the rugged terrain of the Seven Canyons region was truly breathtaking – either that or it was the fumes from the biplane that was making it hard to breathe. We made a pass around Capitol Butte before landing at the airport 30 minutes after takeoff.

“There aren’t many places where you can pay your money and get to ride in a biplane,” says James. “And there’s nothing like flying over the red rocks of Sedona. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Based on this most recent flight, we couldn’t agree more.

Red Rock Biplane
Rates: $149 per person for the 30-minute Mystic Canyon Tour
928-204-5939; www.sedonaairtours.com.
Tips: Taking photos from the cockpit of the biplane is difficult because you always have the wing of the plane in your frame, so we recommend you leave the camera behind and just enjoy the scenery. A representative with the company will take your photo in front of the biplane and inside the cockpit before you take off.

Sedona Airport’s 2011 Family Fun Day

If you aren’t familiar with the Sedona Airport or if you’ve never seen Sedona from an aircraft, Sedona Airport’s 2011 Family Fun Day is the time to do it. The event takes place Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the airport. More than 20 aircraft from all over the Southwest will be on display including “experimental” planes built by their owners, World War II-era aircraft, antique planes and new, state-of-the-art aircraft.

The festival will also feature the Sedona Car Club’s car show with more than 100 cars and trucks competing for trophies. In between the cars and planes, Camp Soaring Eagle, a local nonprofit for seriously ill children and their families, will host a kids’ zone filled with activities, a climbing wall, crafts and entertainment. And for kids of all ages, kettle corn, ice cream and food will be sold. Festival admission is free.

One of the highlights of the day will be the opportunity to see Sedona from the air thanks to discounted (and abbreviated) helicopter and airplane rides. Sign up for a flight early in the day because the event is expected to attract a crowd.

“In the past, we’ve attracted several thousand people,” says Al Comello, who’s been helping to organize the festival since 1999. “Because of its capacity to park hundreds of cars, the airport has become a fairgrounds of sorts for Sedona.”

The airport definitely seems like September’s hot spot. The new airport restaurant, Mesa Grill, is also scheduled to open this month – it boasts a glass enclosure overlooking the runway and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. And Sedona Winefest, which features wines from more than a dozen Arizona wineries, returns to the airport on Sept. 24 and 25. Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. For details, visit www.sedonawinefest.com. For everything you need to know about Family Fun Day, visit www.sedonaairport.org.

MORE SEDONA ADVENTURES AND SPORTS: Mountain and road biking, skiing, snowboarding and ice skating, four-wheeling, kayaking, hang gliding and skydiving, hiking, biking, rock climbing and backpacking, baseball, golf

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