Come one, come all, from large to small — to Antique Airfield in Blakesburg, Iowa!
The airplanes that fill the skies over Antique Airfield every Labor Day weekend are a treat to see and hear, and it isn’t unusual to spot a make or model you’ve not seen previously.
Ever see an open-cockpit biplane in which pilot and passenger sit side-by-side? Know what a flivver plane is? Familiar with Ford-powered airplanes? Recognize the sound of a Kinner engine? Know what a Curtiss-Wright Sedan is?
These rare types of airplanes and engines aren’t static museum pieces — they’re alive and well!
Wonderful weather welcomed hundreds of aviators to the 2017 fly-in at Antique Airfield (IA27).
During the Antique Airplane Association/Airpower Museum’s (AAA/APM) Invitational Fly-In, there is no Unicom at the field, so those flying in have to keep their eyes open for other aviators and for the volunteer flagman at the end of the grass strip.This year, more than 350 aircraft flew in, including a Culver Cadet, Grumman Goose, Pitcairn Super-Mailwing, Meyers OTW, Howard DGA-15P, Mullicoupe, Corben Super Ace, Broussard, Pietenpol, numerous Aeroncas, Cessnas, Pipers, Stinsons, and Wacos, Taylorcraft, Fairchild, Travel Air, Hatz, Rose Parrakeet, Interstate Cadet, Wittman Tailwind, Swift, Stearman Speedmails and PT-17s.
Blakesburg is the place to see, hear, and maybe even catch a buddy ride in airplanes like these.
It’s just one reason people keep going “Back to Blakesburg.”
The AAA/APM fly-in isn’t just about the airplanes, though. It’s also the place to rub shoulders with thinkers, tinkerers, builders, historians, and authors, among others. They come to Blakesburg to enjoy the relaxed and casual atmosphere that seems typical of this amiable and eclectic group of aviators.
For example, Jim Younkin of Arkansas frequently attends, and is a master designer and creator of autopilots and airplanes. Ann Pellegreno of Texas is another regular; she’s an aviation author and pilot who is celebrating her 50th anniversary of the Earhart Commemorative World Flight this year.
John Swick of Colorado also attended this year. He is a Stinson and Luscombe historian and author, and Taylorcraft owner/pilot.
AAA/APM Founder Bob Taylor was also circulating through the crowd, and at 93, continues to share his extensive knowledge of aviation history.
There’s also a younger generation well on the way to accumulating aviation experiences and knowledge to help “Keep the Antiques Flying!” Some have grown up coming to Antique Airfield with their families.
It’s inspiring to talk with young folks — many in their 20s — who are well-acquainted with flying behind a greaser radial or a Ford model engine, or covering fabric airplanes and welding airframes, and flying tailwheel (or even tail skid) monoplanes and biplanes.
And there’s an even younger generation venturing forward to keep ’em flying — antique aviator’s grandchildren.
For instance, Interstate Cadet owner Mike Latta of Washington was there with his 11-year-old grandson, Dane Jensen. It was readily apparent that Dane was thoroughly absorbing everything he could about the old airplanes — and was looking forward to being his grandfather’s copilot on the flight home.
Other families who are passing on stick-and-rudder skills to young pilots include (but certainly aren’t limited to) the Applegates of Missouri and the Pembertons of Washington. Of course, Bob Taylor’s own family is another example of multi-generational aviators.
Numerous knowledgeable restorers attend every year, and always seem willing to share helpful information regarding airplanes.
Interestingly, John Swick has a personal collection of airplane wing ribs (cheaper than collecting entire airplanes!) at home. This year, he found another wing rib in the APM Fly Market.
“I bought it and carried it out to the group lounging around in the shade at the front of the hangars, and asked if anyone knew what kind of airplane it belonged to,” he chuckles, “and immediately, a fellow knew!”
Swick also shared an interesting revelation he’s gleaned through years of aviation research and writing: “It’s the daughters of pilots who keep and preserve their father’s logbooks – so if you’re looking for historical references from logbooks, ask the daughters!”
There were many newcomers this year who plan on returning, and it’s noteworthy that a stalwart host of volunteers help keep the fly-in going.
Brent Taylor, Antique Airplane Association President and Fly-in Chairman, shares: “The continued success and growth of the AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in proves our ‘by-the-members, for-the-members’ approach — where everyone is a participant and not just a spectator — is what the owners, pilots and lovers of antique and classic aircraft desire in an aviation event.”
Whether you stay in local hotels or camp on the field in a tent or RV, you can start your day with a cup of piping hot coffee from the Michigan AAA Chapter-sponsored Dave Warren’s Coffee House.
Meals are available on the grounds (catered by Hy-Vee), as well as evening entertainment, including aviation-related movies.
Luscious homemade pie and ice cream was available again this year, thanks to the Blakesburg Historical Society.
Interesting artifacts are displayed at the Air Power Museum, and research materials may be perused at the Mike Gretz Memorial APM Library of Flight (including materials relating to the history of the 6th Air Force).
Classic Aviation of Pella had its fuel truck on the field.
In short, if you fly in and camp, there’s not much reason to leave the field, unless you want to head over to the Midwest Threshers Reunion in Mount Pleasant.
There is a fee for registration and camping, which can be paid in advance or on the spot.
One caveat: You must be a member to attend the fly-in, but you can join when you arrive, if you’re not already a member.
Just bring a smile and a warm hello, and come indulge your passion for old flying machines.