Celebrating 40 years at Antique Airfield

BY SPARKY BARNES SARGENT

The annual invitational Antique Airplane Association (AAA) fly-in every Labor Day weekend is a closely-held tradition for hundreds of aviators. Through the years, it has evolved into an exciting-yet-relaxing “old home week” — providing a respite from the frenetic pace of the world. It’s a terrific place to see antique, vintage (including homebuilts), and classic airplanes, and have the opportunity to visit with their respective caretakers.

AAA was founded in 1953 by Bob Taylor, and the annual fly-ins were held at Ottumwa and Oskaloosa, Iowa, through the 1960s. In 1971, the fly-ins moved to Blakesburg, where Taylor owned a grass strip.

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A very rare airplane — William Fields’ 1939 Bellanca 14-9, powered by a Ken Royce engine. It won the Butler Brown Insurance/People’s Choice Award.

This year, at least 340 airplanes flew into the field to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the fly-in’s first year at Antique Airfield. As a special highlight, Monocoupes were showcased, with a dozen displayed on the flight line, plus a Mullicoupe (pictured below). Monocoupe models on the flight line included the Monoprep, 113, 110, 110 Special, 90AW, and 90AL.

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Commemorating the 40th was a time for reflection, and Brent Taylor, fly-in chairman, handily summed up the airfield operations through the years: “Antique Airfield has arguably seen the largest and most varied collection of antique and classic aircraft in the world operate from its grass runways.”

Upon arriving at the field, there’s really no reason to leave during the fly-in, unless you prefer fine dining and staying in a hotel. AAA members register at headquarters and then are welcome to pitch a tent or camp under their wings (hot showers are available onsite). Hearty servings of stick-to-your-ribs food for breakfast, lunch, and supper are made available by the local Hy-Vee, and the Michigan AAA Chapter revived the old coffee house tradition this year. The Blakesburg Historical Preservation Society offered luscious treats of homemade pies and ice cream.

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A gullwing 1956 Piaggio P.136 L-1 gets the green flag for landing.

The Library of Flight offers an air-conditioned respite from the heat and a quiet place to peruse a nice collection of aviation books, while the Air Power Museum provides a variety of historical artifacts to enjoy, including a World War II Link trainer, recently restored by AAA members Tom and Elaine Huf. Airplane parts are always for sale, and AAA authors have their books available and welcome the opportunity to meet fellow aviators.

Flying is encouraged if not expected (after attending a safety briefing), and pilots must obey the flagmen on the runway for permission to take off and land — no radio communication! Fly-bys happen spontaneously throughout the day, creating a great opportunity for spectators and photographers to behold antique and vintage airplanes in their element.

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Aviator friends and families casually stroll the flight line at Blakesburg.

The Pilot’s Pub opens in the evenings and offers adult beverages, and aviation films are shown each night. And, of course, Grand Champion aircraft awards are selected during each fly-in, by a majority vote of registered fly-in participants.

The AAA Blakesburg fly-in, in a word, is special — just ask those who return each year! To see more photos and videos of the fly-in, as well as a list of the award winners, go to AntiqueAirfield.com

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