Emma ‘Top Gun’ Herrington Offering New Open Cockpit Biplane Rides in Galveston

The story and photographs were created by photojournalism students at Texas A&M University at Galveston Sea Camp.

There’s a new maverick in town! You might have seen her flying over Historic Galveston Island in a bright red biplane. Emma Herrington is a 22-year-old pilot for Scallywag Air, where she provides open cockpit biplane rides at 1,000 feet.

Herrington provides many different flight options including a 30-minute ride around Galveston Island, or bays/beaches on the West End, or historical points like the Battleship Texas. She offers a 40-minute ride experience of the Bolivar Peninsula and the historical lighthouse. She offers a 60-minute air tour, which includes Galveston Island, historical points, the West End, West Bay and Bolivar.

Herrington offers a magical 45-minute golden hour sunrise flight toward East Beach of our own pirate Island and as the last rays of light disappear from the sky, a 45-minute golden hour sunset flight toward San Luis Pass and West Bay.

As a little girl growing up, Herrington worked several hours a day with her airplane mechanic father, in his shop. She has come a very long way from those younger years, to now flying a 1994 WACO YMF-5 for a living.

Although Herrington was around aircraft her whole life, at age 14 she still didn’t know what career path she wanted to pursue. So, she thought to herself, what am I good at and what do I like? This encouraged her decision to attempt flying aircrafts instead of building and fixing them. After her first flight, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life and stuck to it. This led to achieving her first solo flight at age 16 and earning her wings at the age of 18.

Next, Herrington applied for and was accepted into the United States Air Force Academy. She studied for two years, then COVID struck the country, causing the United States Air Force to require all their students to be vaccinated. Herrington stood her ground and refused to get the COVID vaccination, which led to her departure.

After leaving the Air Force Academy, Herrington started training to become a flight instructor to teach others the joy of flying. Then her dad informed her of a job opportunity that she couldn’t resist. When she heard of the job post, she seriously considered her options. She could either teach and struggle with students on the ground or take to the sky to fly an awesome airplane.

Herrington was in Galveston two days after Chip Ferguson, owner of Scallywag Air called and explained the full parameters of the job. After an in-person interview, Ferguson expressed that Herrington’s “enthusiasm for the job and aviation background in general made her the right person for us. Herrington has been around planes her whole life and her flying experience is predominantly in tailwheel aircraft which is a perfect foundation for learning how to fly the WACO YMF-5. She has also held a job helping build and maintain fabric aircraft which is extremely useful in looking after this kind of aircraft.”

“Herrington is doing extremely well. We are having our ups and downs like any new business, but demand continues to grow and I think Scallywag Air will be a great addition to the Island tourism scene,” said Ferguson.

Herrington currently flies all the aerial tours, manages the Galveston business and performs basic maintenance on the biplane. She also assists local airframe and power plant mechanic, Winston Larison, with the major inspections that are occasionally required on the biplane. “I have worked with Emma in maintaining the WACO for a few months now. It's great to see someone her age interested in aviation, it's so rare these days. Emma is a good pilot and a very capable mechanic. It has been a pleasure working with her,” said Larison.

George H. Gould, a fellow pilot, airframe and power plant inspector, communicated that Herrington is an excellent neighbor and that everyone enjoys seeing her “classic biplane” in the air.

When asked if she had ever faced prejudice in this male-dominated industry, Herrington replied that she believes “the only thing that matters when you are in the cockpit is competency” and that gender, race and religion have nothing to do with flying ability.

Mike Shahan, Executive Director of Scholes International Airport Galveston, concludes Herrington is one of the luckiest people in Galveston. She has an amazing job where she can do what she loves and “provide an experience most people only dream of. She is an inspiration to anyone who has a dream to fly. We could not have a better ambassador for the airport than Herrington.”

Editor: Julia Berley
Co-Editors: Sofia Vertiz and Robert Mihovil
Writing Contributors: Mia Steele, Olivia Gilliam, Dane Bowers, Alexander Harris, Haylee Giroux, Bella Marquez, Lilah Gresham, Travis Fojt, Natalia Frost, Alexander Dragan, Isabella De La Paz, Sophia Vertiz, Julia Berley
Photography Instructor: Robert Mihovil
Sea Camp Teacher/Counselor: Mayra Ferrel-Segovia