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Galveston Gains Another Gem

by Ruth Ann Ruiz
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By Ruth Ann Ruiz

The Post Newspaper Features Editor

The newest lady in red has arrived in Galveston, and she’s ready for passengers to board her for an open cockpit flying tour of Galveston Island. Guests will be required to put on earphones. Goggles are optional. All objects that that might fly out are to be secured with straps or not brought on the flight. 

Flying at 100 miles an hour above the island in a plane made of fabric and wood, a replica of the 1920s Waco YMF-5 is a historic treat. Passengers will feel the air rushing across their skin and see a birds’ eye view of the many iconic buildings below. 

The plane takes off from Scholes International Airport and travels along the coast. As your pilot approaches East Beach, you will be asked if you’d like a little bit of excitement on your tour. If you say “yes,” then your pilot will make some 30-degree turns.

“We want to keep the ride gentle and exciting for our customers, so we offer this simple maneuver for those who want to add a little more excitement to their flight,” explained Chip Ferguson, owner of Scallywag Air.

Ferguson created the logo for Scallywag Air back when he was a student at Texas A&M Galveston in 2006. 

“I knew one I day wanted to use the name and symbol for a business in Galveston,’ he shared. “After all Galveston has its history with pirates.” 

Scallywag Air is Chip Ferguson’s second air flight tour business. He and his wife operate a cabin and offer air tours in Alaska during the summer months. This business is seasonal, so the couple is planning on Scallywag Air providing them with income throughout the year. They live nine months of each year in Jamaica Beach. 

Ferguson’s wife surprised him last summer with a website promoting his vision for Scallywag Air. There was no more dreaming. It was time for action. He had to find the airplane. 

“It had to be a Waco because we needed the two seats, and I wanted a black and red plane,” he shared. 

But the plane wasn’t the only part of the business plan. He also needed the perfect pilot. He needed someone who had the pilot skills to fly and someone who had a willingness to take guests up on a sight-seeing tour over a town filled with the lure of ghosts and pirates. 

“I wanted someone who really just loves flying,” explained Ferguson. 

Finding the right pilot was a bit of a process. Ferguson shared he really had to have someone who had flying in his or her blood. 

Then he met Emma Herrington. She earned her pilot wings at the age of 17. 

Currently she is 22 years old. 

The story goes that she and he talked by phone, and she got to Galveston from North Texas the next day for an in-person interview.

Emma has been flying on the seat of small engine planes for as far back as she can remember. Her daddy is a certified private pilot, and A&P and IA certified airplane mechanic. “My dad would say ‘come on Emma, you need to learn some life skills’ when I was growing up and we’d go work on planes together,” shared Emma.

Her childhood home sits near an air strip. She remembers her yard at times was filled with up to ten airplanes that daddy was fixing. The other half of the property housed farm animals, mostly horses. Her mom and sisters were the husbandry members of the family, while she and her dad were the avid flight enthusiasts. 

“I loved it that with a plane, you could go up in the air, but with the family’s horses you, just stayed on the ground,” shared Emma. 

As part of her home-school education, she was taught to work on airplanes. 

“I got a lot of technical training from my dad. I also learned to read and love classical literature,” Emma added. 

Senator John Cornyn gave her an appointment to The United States Air Force Academy as a class of 2024 cadet, reports Emma. But then came the decision to be vaccinated or not, and Herrington choice not.

Her vaccine decision caused her to separate from the Airforce Academy according to Emma. 

Returning to her hometown of Honey Grove, Texas, she worked as a flight instructor. This occupation gave her time in the sky, but she shared that it was lacking in the feeling of really being one with her plane and the air. Then one day, her father spotted the job announcement for a pilot to fly a replica of a Waco YMF-5 in Galveston. 

Emma shared her excitement about flying the red and black plane. 

“It captures aviation during the golden age. You get in and with an open cock pit, and you feel the wind hitting your face, it has a romance to it. It feels like what flying should be for me,” 

As Emma reaches out to shake the hands of people who approach the plane, they might not expect her firm and confident grasp. She has the grip and strength in her hands of a mechanic, which offers potential flyers a sense of confidence in her skills to fly the plane they are about to board. 

Emma is knowledgeable of the island’s glory days and will point out historic landmarks to her passengers. Guests are welcome to ask her all kinds of questions. But if a guest would rather fly and take in the view and immersive experience with a little less chatter from the pilot, she is willing to offer a less chatty flight. 

Both the replica of a 1920s airplane, and Emma, its pilot, are standing ready to take guests to explore from up in the air, the historic and modern landmarks of Galveston an island off the Coast of Texas.

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1 comment

Kevin May 27, 2023 - 5:13 am

Wonderfully engaging article and delightful photos!

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