I browse Groupon sometimes, especially on my lunch break when I’m feeling that travel itch. You never know what you’ll find on there – crazy adventures, scavenger hunts, food you’ve never heard of but suddenly need to try – lots of stuff. Some businesses use Groupon for a few weeks or for a limited number of discounts to draw business and get their name out there, so it’s often a way to discover new places that I might not have found otherwise.
I never thought to search “where can I fly a WWII bomber” but I found it on Groupon. It pays to surf around when you’re getting that travel itch but don’t want to spend your grocery budget on an adventure. For instance, this jaw-dropping flight on the Bamboo Bomber, a World War II training plane, would normally run about $300 for four people. There was a discount on Groupon, and then I found a 20% off coupon offered that week on any adventure on Groupon. It brought our cost down to $140 for the four of us. I learned something else too – it is sometimes more cost effective for vendors or businesses to book you direct rather than through Groupon, because they have to pay Groupon to host their product while they’re having their sale. It doesn’t always work out, but if you call the business directly and let them know you see their adventure on Groupon, you can ask them if it’s better to book through them directly.
The Bamboo Bomber.
It’s a 75-year old, painstakingly restored piece of history, and you can be the copilot.
We drove to Lincoln, California, and met with Andy of Adventure Flight. He has more than 20,000 hours in the air, and flew bush planes in Alaska before moving to California. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and he’s great with kids. Ry had the copilot seat first, and while Ally was fairly nervous, she was not about to be outdone by her brother. Andy helped her through the whole flight, made her laugh and made her feel comfortable.
The plane has room for four guests – one in the copilot seat and a bench seat in the back with room for three. If you’ve got two kiddos who are blown away by the chance to fly a WWII bomber, Andy will let you switch seats mid-way through the flight if you’re careful with your feet and say please. He rocks.
Our flight took us up and over Folsom, California, over a sparkling lake and past farmlands. Pretty picturesque. The entire time you’re in the air, Andy is checking gauges, adjusting flaps and talking his copilot through what it takes to fly the plane. Ry was fascinated by the altimeter. And Andy, being accommodating, put the bomber through some maneuvers to show Ry how it changed with altitude. I’m not going to lie, it freaked me out. I screamed a little, but there’s a bit of an ambient roar, so thankfully it didn’t raise too many eyebrows. I got over that shock, took a deep breath, and looked up to see my 10-year old with his hands on the yoke, FLYING THE PLANE. Once the copilot is feeling comfortable, Andy has a little toggle to switch from pilot to copilot, and he hands over the controls. He can switch back at any time, but it was both disconcerting and an incredibly proud moment to be in the back seat of a plane my kid was flying. Ry took us past the bridge, executed a nice and easy turn for his mama with just a little dip of the wing towards the lake, and we started our journey back.
Ally had her turn next. She’s my more cautious kid, and was not keen on the dips or turns. We landed back in Lincoln, and both kids had perma-grins. Andy happened to mention that he has three other planes at the hanger, and the two-seater does aerobatics. He actually managed to make Ry speechless while he pondered the possibilities.
When we got home that night, Ry flipped all the couch cushions over looking for spare change. He offered to do the dishes, and asked if I might pay him to take care of the yard. After an afternoon with Adventure Flights, he’s decided he is going to be a pilot when he grows up. Hopefully he’ll fly us on some adventures!