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Travel Airs Will Take AirVenture 2018 by Storm

By Megan Esau

July 28, 2017 - The American Barnstormers Tour announced that after a six-year hiatus, in 2018 it will be leading a tour of 10 antique Travel Air biplanes across the Midwest to culminate at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.

Organized by Rob Lock, Clay Adams, and Jill Manka, the 2018 tour will take place over the six weekends leading up to AirVenture and will include five static display Travel Airs, which will give rides to visitors at each stop.

The 90-year-old airplane type is a classic example from the golden age of aviation, and it was the top of the line for civilian airplanes in the 1920s.

“At a lot of our stops the towns get behind them, and they’ll have hangar dances and sell popcorn and hot dogs, like old times,” Rob said. “We have costumes that we wear that are vintage, and we try to look the part as well. When you step out on the tarmac and see the airplanes, you’re really going back in time.”

Of the approximately 16,000 Travel Airs that were built between 1925 and 1930, only around 200 still exist, and of those, Rob predicted, only a few more than 40 are still airworthy. That makes the American Barnstormers Tour an excellent venue for educating aviation enthusiasts, and the general population, about vintage aviation.

Jill Manka, who manages events and marketing for the barnstorming event, said during previous tours in 2006, ’08, ’10, and ’12, crowds of between 4,000 and 10,000 made their way to local airports to take part in this celebration of history.

“A lot of times if you’re 9 or 10 years old, and you can ride next to your dad or mom on a plane, that’s a life-changing, meaningful experience,” Jill said. “With the static displays, those folks are there to be the voice of the restorer and to talk about the history of the aircraft and to educate the public as well. … A lot of it is just conveying the passion that each pilot has for what they do, and extending that to people who may not be strongly involved in aviation, but they have a curiosity or an ‘I would love to try that’ kind of attitude. We want to be ambassadors to the industry and promote aviation.”

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