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All About Rhinebeck Aerodrome

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Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome:

The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is a true "living" museum of antique aviation located in Rhinebeck, New York. We present one of the largest collections of early aeroplanes in the world, many of which regularly take to the air in all their glory during our weekend airshows. The Aerodrome features aeroplanes, automobiles, motorcycles, early engines and memorabilia from 1900-1935. In addition to the airshows, there are four museum buildings displaying aircraft form the Pioneer Era, World War I and the Lindbergh/Barnstorming era. These were the golden years of aviation.

Our weekend air shows are scheduled from mid-June through mid-October. On these weekends (weather permitting), the Aerodrome turns back the hands of time and relives the years of early aviation. The colorful era of early aviation is brought back to life amidst the roar of rotary engines and is great entertainment for all ages.

The Saturday Shows chronicle the History of Flight with Pioneer, World War I and Lindbergh era aircraft taking to the skies. If the winds are calm you'll even see our 1909 Bleriot (the oldest flying aircraft in the United States) take to the air.

The Sunday Shows feature our World War I & Barnstorming Aircraft. Witness a real dogfight between a Fokker Triplane and a Sopwith Camel! Marvel at world-renowned pilot, Stan Segalla, The Flying Farmer, one of the greatest acts on the air show circuit! You won't believe what Stan can make an airplane do! We promise this is an act you will never forget! - For Admission Rates click here.

Pre-show activity includes a vintage fashion show with audience participation, an old-time automobile parade and early aviation engine run-ups. You can experience the thrill of early aviation yourself with an open-cockpit biplane ride in our 1929 New Standard.

Barnstorming flights over the scenic Hudson Valley are available before and after the shows. Biplane rides are $40.00/person - Rides take you over the beautiful Hudson River, the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge and back again. Flights are of course, " weather permitting" and the decision to fly is always left to the discretion of the pilot. Flights book quickly on a " first-come/ first-serve" basis, so sign up early!

Weekdays the museum buildings are open and the air show aircraft are on static display. Group tours are available by prior arrangement as are the biplane rides and special events.

The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was the life's work of Cole Palen and his dream was to preserve early aviation. We are actively carrying on his work by promoting and preserving a "living" history of aviation for the public. It is our hope to instill aviation's rich heritage and colorful past with all generations and to ensure it lives and flies forever!

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome - PO Box 229 Rhinebeck, NY 12572 Phone: 845-752-3200
Fax: 845-758-6481 E-mail:



Where biplanes still soar

A New York aerodrome celebrates the early days of aviation.

Associated Press

The first time Dan Taylor's parents took him to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, in Upstate New York, he was 10 and infatuated with airplanes.

The love affair was shaped by 1960s movies such as The Blue Max, about World War I fighter pilots, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, about an airplane race.

Now, Taylor lives out his flying fantasies as a pilot in the aerodrome's weekend air shows that run from June through October. He and the other pilots fly vintage planes and replicas, wear period clothing, and engage in endearingly corny narratives.

"You see the old motorcycle or Model T Ford or the original airplane or replica with original engine," Taylor, 44, said. "It's moving, it's making noise, you can smell the castor oil from the rotary engine, you can hear the sounds of the engine, you can close your eyes and pretend it's like World War I all over again."

The aerodrome, both museum and flying circus, was the creation of Cole Palen, a mechanically inclined aviation enthusiast who in 1951 spent his life savings on a bunch of World War I-era planes. Palen died in 1993, and his legacy is carried on at the aerodrome, where the staff also researches and restores or builds airplanes.

"You have to be a little bit of a historian to appreciate the materials and the techniques they used," pilot Bill King said of the pilots and builders of the past, as he prepared to gas up a reproduced World War I-era Albatros D.Va before a recent show.

The aerodrome is in New York's Hudson River Valley, a popular spring-through-autumn destination for travelers. There are cruises on the Hudson River, fruit-picking at small farms throughout the area, and the mansions and estates of the rich and famous to visit.

The aerodrome's Saturday shows have a "History of Flight" theme, while Sunday shows feature World War I and barnstorming aircraft, along with the repeated kidnapping of the hapless Trudy Trulove by the evil Black Baron of Rhinebeck.

"It's live theater with airplanes," air-show coordinator Jim Hare said.

The air shows also use antique automobiles and motorcycles. A boxcar, circa 1916, serves as a meeting place for spectators interested in performing in a historical fashion show. Pilots and crew zip around the airfield on bicycles. Airplanes not used in the shows, including replicas of designs by the Wright brothers, stand in nearby hangars.

Many of the airplanes have complicated controls that require the pilots to use their hands, feet and sometimes their entire bodies as they fly.

"I have a new-found respect for a lot of the early pioneer pilots," Taylor said. "A lot of them were learning the trade as they went along. They were taking great risks, and many paid with their lives."

During one air show, Taylor piloted a fragile-looking 1911 Curtiss Pusher reproduction down the runway, visibly leaning from side to side to work a wing mechanism that controls the rolling movement as the airplane briefly rose into the air.

"I tell you what, that was worth the price of admission," spectator Mike Zebley said to his brother as they watched Taylor take the Curtiss Pusher airborne.

Most Sunday shows include an appearance by Stanley Segalla as the "Flying Farmer," in a routine he's been doing for more than 30 years. Playing the part of a neighboring farmer who has "never flown alone," Segalla, 78, pilots his bright yellow Piper PA-11 in backward circles and other tricks, including a finale where the plane appears to have run out of gas.

Segalla, who signs autographs after his routine, has a simple reason why he's still flying: "People like my act."

Dick and Sandi Crawford were last at the aerodrome in 1967, just after they were married.

"It's just as good, probably better," Crawford, 62, said recently as he displayed a postcard of a 1917 Curtiss JN-4H "Jenny," which he planned to send to his daughter of the same name, a U.S. Army captain stationed in Germany.

Crawford, of Verona, N.J., said he enjoyed the aerodrome because "I believe in saving our history."

Action Footage From Old Rhinebeck  Aerodrome


James Henry “Cole” Palen

Cole Palen, founder and curator of New York’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, passed away peacefully on December 8, 1993 shortly before his 68th birthday. With his passing the aviation world and the early aircraft preservation movement in particular lost not only a unique pilot and collector, but also a great character and showman. 

Following his birth as James H. Palen Jr. on December 29, 1925 the Palen family left Pennsylvania to establish a new home and small poultry farm near Poughkeepsie, New York. As a child he developed an early fascination in aviation and delighted in building model aeroplanes when not dreaming of the wonders of flight. His own first flight was to come at the age of ten when he took a short hop in a New Standard biplane at the old Poughkeepsie Airport.

After graduation in 1944, Cole found himself in the United States Infantry just in time for The Battle of the Bulge. On returning to the U.S. he entered the Roosevelt Aviation School at Roosevelt Field, Long Island to train as a mechanic. Here he was thrilled to find that one of the hangars contained a small museum of World War I aircraft. He dreamed of one day owning his own unique airfield and flying the early aircraft as he felt they should be flown. Little did he realize that his dream would eventually become a reality.

In 1951 Roosevelt Field closed and plans were laid for a vast shopping center to be built on the site. Accordingly the W.W.I aircraft were put up for sale. The Smithsonian had already acquired three of the aircraft so Cole quickly bid his life savings for the remainder. Much to his surprise he found he was the proud owner of a SPAD XIII, Avro 504K, Curtiss Jenny, Standard J-l, Aeromarine 39B and Sopwith Snipe. Given thirty days to remove the aircraft, the story of how his new acquisitions were transported to upstate New York would make an epic tale in its own right! It took nine 200-mile round trips to move the aircraft back to the Palen family home where they were stored in abandoned chicken coops. Typical of the trials and tribulations experienced was the story that involved towing the fuselage from the Jenny behind Cole’s equally tired old car. When the combination reached the Whitestone Bridge the tires on the Jenny disintegrated. What Cole thought were well-inflated tires actually turned out to be solid wooden wheels with tire carcasses around them! Later, on reaching the suburb of Yonkers more difficulties were encountered when the wheels became jammed in active trolley tracks!

In 1959 Cole found a farm for sale near the picturesque village of Rhinebeck. This property included a small farmhouse in which an unsolved murder had taken place. Around this time Cole earned money through the rental of some of his aircraft to a film company in California that was filming the World War I movie, “Lafayette Escadrille” starring Tab Hunter. Between savings from his employment at Texaco as a mechanic and earnings from the film deal he was able to purchase the property by paying the back taxes that were owed on it. He cleared a runway and built makeshift hangars from scrapped materials with his bare hands and the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was born.

Cole collected aircraft spanning from the period of the birth of aviation up to the start of World War II he restored them and flew them regularly, and where early original aircraft did not exist, accurate replicas powered by authentic engines were built. A sizable collection of veteran and vintage vehicles was also collected, nearly all in working order.

The first air show took place in 1960 to an assembled audience of approximately 25 people! Gradually word spread of the Palen magic, and shows were held regularly on the last Sunday of the summer months. As demand grew this was changed to the present format of a show every Saturday and Sunday from mid-June through mid-October.

The simple early shows led to a philosophy of not only showing the aircraft in their natural environment, but also providing a fun and entertaining day out for the whole family. From this the air show that Rhinebeck was to become famous for was developed. This included the zany melodrama featuring the daring Sir Percy Goodfellow doing battle with the Evil Black Baron for the hand of the lovely Trudy Truelove.

Marriage came late for in life for Cole Palen when on March 17, 1967 he married Rita Weidner. Rita took over and brought some order to the administrative side of things. She also brought order to the Palen household, and Cole was no longer allowed to overhaul rotary engines in his living room!

Early in 1993 Cole suffered a stroke. Looking to the future he decided to form the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum Foundation. The Foundation came into being during the course of the year under a Board of Directors and a special new foundation building was erected opposite the Pioneer, W.W.I and Lindbergh era buildings.

Following the end of the 1993 season Cole and Rita made their annual pilgrimage to their winter home in Florida, where Cole also maintained a workshop. Early in December Rita also suffered a slight stroke and was admitted to the hospital. It was at this time that Cole passed away in his sleep. On a much happier note, Rita made an excellent recovery from her stroke.

Thanks to Cole Palen’s foresight in setting up the Museum Foundation the shows will continue to take place every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM throughout the summer months.

Cole Palen followed a dream and made it a reality. No task ever seemed too great. When faced with a mammoth restoration project his typical response would be "No problem, it’ll fly." This would be followed by his raucous laugh. He got his biggest kicks at the end of each show seeing how much everyone (crowd and participants alike) had enjoyed it. Despite his showmanship Cole Palen was actually a very quiet, shy man. His passing marked the end of an era. All those involved with the Aerodrome over the years, myself included, feel privileged to have been a part of it.

Barry Dowsett

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome - PO Box 229 Rhinebeck, NY 12572 Phone: 845-752-3200
Fax: 845-758-6481 E-mail:



A FAA List Of All Aircraft At ORA Click On Link

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome /CA041D
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Piper PA-11   N4588M

For well over thirty years Stanley Segalla has thrilled crowds at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome with his "Flying Farmer" routine. Stan's precision flying in his Piper PA-11 is one of the Aerodrome's most popular acts and he regularly receives standing ovations at the conclusion of his exciting Sunday afternoon performances (through mid-October).