The San Juan Islands are located north of Seattle in the Puget Sound. Some of the islands are touristy and some are privately owned. Depending on the time of year, orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, porpoises (Harbor and Dall), seals, and sea lions can be seen in Puget Sound. With such a variety of marine and wildlife to see, it is a great destination for nature enthusiasts.
Flying over the San Juan Islands
Take a ride on Magic Air Tours for a great narrated flight above the islands of Washington. The biplane that Rod, the owner, flies is a 1929 Travel Air plane. The pilot controls the plane from the backseat while the riders are in the front. Since the nose of the plane obstructs the pilot views, Rod has to pay extra attention when taxiing.
Before taking off, chill out in the hanger that looks like a large living room. Rod’s office is great and has plane memorabilia and photos for sale. Since it was a nice October day with low winds, we did not have a problem just walking into the hanger for a tour without prior reservations (we did call ahead though). Rod also gave us awesome yellow fleece vests to wear to keep our hoods down from flying in his face. We borrowed headsets to hear his one-way commentary throughout the tour.
A Unique Hangar
Matching Yellow Vests
The tour lasts 30 to 35 minutes and is well worth the $299 price tag for two people before taxes. Rod flies May thru September and on warm days. I sat beside the left wing facing forward, which is a good side for taking photos. Rod has a wealth of knowledge about the islands, and we learned more on this tour than the other tours we would take on our visit. Rod bought the plane in 1986 and flew it up to the islands from Arizona. Rod and his wife have been living in the area ever since.
Ready to Fly
On a brisk October day, the open cockpit was not as cold as I was expecting; the protection from windshield worked wonders. However, Andy’s head was just above the shield, so he quickly got used to the wind forcing his head backwards. Unfortunately, a haze was in the distance, which covered some of the surrounding volcanoes and mountain ranges. The sun would peak out making the yellow wings shine and adding color to the deep blue and green earth below.
Cascade Mountain Range in the Distance
Throughout the flight, Rod makes jokes while narrating the tour. I don’t think we could have had a better pilot, plane, or experience. Rainier was a faint outline in the distance. As we flew over the small towns on the islands, Rod would share the populations. Most of the islands have populations of 4,000 people or less.
Towards the end of the trip, we did some coordinated turns on a dime. The plane was tilted to its side as the plane spiraled around the downward wing tip. Rod would do the left side and then the right. It was fun to get a chance to see how the plane maneuvers.
Coordinated Turns to see Anacortes Ferry
Rod decided to show off his pilot skills and headed to the airstrip. He increased his speed as we lost elevation before pulling up from the airstrip. It was amusing to see his playful techniques. Did I mention he flew in the Vietnam war?
Touch and Go
Orcas Island Airport, located in Eastsound, does not have a control tower, so communication is key. A student pilot miscommunicated her position while approaching the airstrip, so Rod made another pass as the other plane landed.
Rod, Pilot and Owner
I did not receive any compensation for this post. I enjoyed the Magic Air Tour and wanted to share it with my readers. All opinions and observations are 100% my own.
Would you ride on a biplane?
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