On the river, guides are always asked, “what ever happened to ‘Five Dollar Frank?’” Well, ol’ Frank has flown off to that great airport in the sky, but his spirit lives on at the Fayetteville airport.Frank Thomas used to fly tourists on ten-minute flights over the gorge in his raggedy old Cessna 172. The “five-dollar” part quickly succumbed to inflation, but airplane rides out of Fayetteville were always popular. It seemed that, with Frank’s demise, these airplane rides were over.
They were, until 2008 when folks in the area started to notice a brightly-colored “old-timey” lookin’ airplane in the skies over the New River.
It turned out to be a vintage Stearman biplane that was used as a flight trainer by the U.S. Army prior to World War II. Investigation at the airport revealed an immaculately restored gem that looked just as it did when it rolled out if Stearman’s Wichita, Kansas, factory in 1940.
The guy in the helmet, goggles and flight suit climbing out of the back seat turned out to be Chris Kappler, an EMS helicopter pilot. And, yes, Chris will gladly take you for a ride in his incredible airplane. And what an airplane it is!
If you’ve ever envied Snoopy in his imaginary jousts with the Red Baron, you need only strap on a parachute, climb into the Stearman’s open cockpit and take off for the ride of your life. Chris will take you through all the basic aerobatic maneuvers of the WWI dogfight. Loop, barrel roll, split-S…this is flying at its absolute best!
If you’d prefer a calmer ride, Chris will show you the gorge with gentle turns and shallow banks. Make sure your friends on the ground have their cameras ready as the grand finale is a low-level, high-speed pass before landing. Check out Chris’ website for more fun details.
Yeah, old Five Dollar Frank may be gone but the flying lives on at the Fayetteville airport.