The joy of flying is one reason Monty Miller started Indy Biplanes.
However, the desire to give back to the community has become an even greater reason.
Miller launched Indy Biplanes about five years ago, but the aviation group took off in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When people saw their formation, Miller said they got requests for flyovers when people were at home during the lockdown period in the spring of 2020.
“In 2020, we did 90 flyovers for charities of one kind or another,” the 58-year-old Carmel resident said. “There are 13 different charities we’ve done. We do the Carmel Farmers Market and Carmel Christkindlmarkt. We never charge anything. It’s 100 percent free. We’re similar to the Blue Angels, except we’re in biplanes and amateurs.”
Amid the pandemic, air travel was down 60 percent in the U.S. in 2020, so commercial airline pilots’ work was scaled back and they had more free time.
During 2020, the group even did some flyovers for kids’ birthday parties.
That has become scaled back because of the cost of gas and the time commitment. In addition to the larger charities, Miller said the group mainly performs flyovers for funerals of veterans or first responders and weddings.
Indy Biplanes is based at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport in Fishers.
A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two main wings stacked above each other.
Miller said the biplanes, which weigh approximately 1,000 pounds and cruise about 140 mph, are worth between $30,000 and $100,000. Miller was in the crop-dusting business for 22 years and has worked at an aerospace firm for 12 years.
“We try (to fly) three or four times a week during the summer if the weather is good, because it is a perishable skill,” he said. “If we don’t have a flyover to do, then we’re training.”
The main period for flyovers starts in late April or early May. They have been invited to some air shows.
The pilots don’t fly if it is too windy or during thunderstorms.
There are seven full-time Indy Biplanes pilots. One pilot has a military plane that is a little larger. Another pilot is a sub who will borrow a biplane.
“The things we do that require a lot of maneuvering, we’ll do with just two biplanes, like gender reveals,” he said. “If they are going to sing the national anthem, we try to show up with four or five (biplanes) for the flyover. Five is our best-looking formation.”
Don Anderson is one of the biplane pilots. Anderson, who already had his own plane for his company, Carriage Cleaners, saw the biplanes fly over his Fishers home.
“I found their hangar was three doors down from my hangar,” Anderson said. “I wanted to know what these guys are all about. I said, ’This looks fun.’ They said, ‘You ought to buy one and go with us, so I did.’ They took me under their wing to train me. It’s an extraordinary amount of training.”
Anderson said it has been an amazing experience.
“It’s a great camaraderie of friends,” Anderson said. “In what we do, you are literally trusting the man next to you with your life since we fly close together. We build great friendships. We are extremely well-known in the Fishers, Carmel and Noblesville area because they see us all the time. It’s nice to be a silent, little local celebrity, but no one knows it’s you. You go and help people raise money, honor veterans, fallen police officers. You go out and do these things and no one knows who you are. It’s a unique, fun way to be part of the community.”
For more, visit Indy Biplanes on Facebook.
Craig Bowen is grateful for the Indy Biplanes’ visit to the Lights over Morse Lake Festival in Cicero.
Bowen, co-chair of the nonprofit festival, said Indy Biplanes usually makes one or two visits each year before the concert. This year’s festival runs June 30 to July 4.
“We’ve been able to coordinate their visit with the national anthem each year, and it’s been spot-on,” he said. “After they fly over, the crowd just goes wild. They can’t hear it in the airplanes, but, man, when you are on the ground and they fly over, it gives you chills. It kind of makes the hair stand up on your back. The crowd absolutely goes wild.”