Sunny Iowa skies, homemade pies, one-of-a-kind airplanes, and colorful aviators all mixed together this past Labor Day to create the special type of ambiance for which Antique Airfield is known.
Known by most as just Blakesburg, it’s the kind of fly-in where pilots don’t need radios. Red and green flags control the air traffic, and neatly-mowed grass cushions each and every landing.
And even if your ear isn’t attuned to the different types of radial engines, you’ll soon learn that there’s no mistaking the sound of a six-cylinder Challenger engine laboring to keep a 1929 Curtiss Robin cabin monoplane aloft, or the roar of a 600-hp Pratt & Whitney radial as the replica “Mister” Mulligan zooms by!
Though numerous aircraft were flying multiple times a day — buddy rides are popular at this event — it seemed as though Dan Wilkins’ 1941 Waco UPF-7 and Ed Lachendro’s Cub were continually airborne.
Additionally, John Ricciotti’s very rare 1934 Waco Model S3HD and Justin Niemyjski’s 1946 Beech D18S were flying frequently throughout the days, joined by Russell William’s 1938 Ryan SCW and many other aircraft in the early evenings. These fliers provided photographers with ample opportunities to record living history.
The Antique Airplane Association/Airpower Museum’s (AAA/APM) Invitational Fly-In allows its members to come together annually and enjoy the camaraderie of grassroots aviation. While it was “old home” week for hundreds of folks who went “Back to Blakesburg,” there were numerous first-timers who were welcomed into the fold as well. Visitors may join AAA upon arrival at the grass field.
The old timers noticed many improvements to the AAA/APM building and grounds this year. Thanks to staff and volunteer laborers, new hangar doors and a new sheet metal façade were installed on the main museum hangar, and a new roof was installed on the annex. The exterior wall of Powell Hall was rebuilt; the Library of Flight’s porch and various signs were freshly painted; and 100 yards of mulch that was donated by B&B Bedding of Oskaloosa was spread on the high foot-traffic areas. New gravel was spread on the driveways/roads, and a newly-constructed BTB Airlines “Gate #1” was recently installed, in addition to various landscaping beautifications. Much of the work was facilitated by generous donations to the 2015 APM Capital Improvement Fund.
The fly-in theme for 2015 was “Record Breakers — Featuring Curtiss Robin and Stinson 108 Aircraft,” and two Curtiss Robins and 17 Stinson 108s flew into Antique Airfield.
The grand total of airplanes sparkling under the late summer sun this year was 365, which more than doubled last year’s rain-soaked 152. The delectable range of aircraft included: a Mister Mulligan replica, a Mullicoupe, three open-cockpit Meyers OTWs, a Fairchild 71, Rose Parrakeets, Howard DGAs, Stearmans, Taylorcrafts, as well as Aeronca Chiefs and Champs, and various Piper, Luscombe, and Waco models.
Legacy and modern homebuilt aircraft were also on the flight line, including a Bentzen Sport, Wittman Tailwinds, a Cabin Ace SJ, a Pober Pixie, and seven Hatz biplanes.
Morning coffee was served with a smile by members of the Michigan AAA Chapter at Dave Warren’s Coffee House onsite, and the Blakesburg Historical Society offered sumptuous homemade blackberry, apple, gooseberry, peach, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, and cherry pies, along with homemade vanilla ice cream.
Classic Aviation of Pella, Iowa, kept its fuel truck busy pumping fuel, and the Hy-Vee did its usual fine job of providing meals at the 24th Fighter Squadron Mess Hall. The APM Fly Market offered its eclectic array of aircraft parts for sale, while vendors were selling items including commemorative fly-in t-shirts and caps, books, sunglasses, aeronautical treasures, and historical magazines.
Refreshing libations were available at the Pilot’s Pub to quench aviators’ thirst after days filled with buddy rides and hangar flying, and the Runway Cinema screened classic aviation movies in the evenings.
AAA members enjoyed visiting with 91-year-young AAA Founder and Chairman Emeritus Bob Taylor throughout the fly-in as he circulated through the crowds. His son Brent Taylor, who was elected as AAA president in January and has been working to ensure a smooth transition of leadership for the organization, kept a watchful eye to make sure that runway and fly-in operations were handled safely and efficiently.
The 2015 “Record Breakers” fly-in was a resounding success, and attendee’s memories have no doubt been happily recorded in their collective “logbook of life.”