Blakesburg 2020 was a success!
Courtesy of Brent Taylor, here is a video review we know you will enjoy.
One Hour at Blakesburg
Everyone has a “happy place”. Some of us have many. I recently had the extreme good fortune to spend three days at my happiest of happy places. The Antique Airplane Association’s annual fly-in, or simply put for those in the know,,, Blakesburg. There really is nothing else going that even holds a candle to Blakesburg. 2020 has had its challenges. We have all sacrificed heavily in different ways. Maybe that’s why this year’s fly-in was such a huge success. We were all so happy to get together with long-time friends, family, potential new friends, and of course,,, the airplanes. It occurred to me while I was there this year to write this piece. I want it to serve two purposes: 1) I would like to introduce Blakesburg to anyone who has never experienced it in person. 2) If you have been there before and missed it this year, please use these words as an open door to reminisce, or light your fire to set a goal to be there next year.
Join me if you will, for just one hour on the flight line during the one and only…. Blakesburg.
Radial engines. Everywhere. Starting up or shutting down. Taxiing, and taking off. The unforgettable sound of a radial engine on a high-speed pass. Landing and taxiing in. You can honestly hear 5-10 radial engines at all times.
Speaking of radial engines on a high speed pass… Here comes Mister Mulligan at what seems like 250 miles per hour, while only turning what sounds like about 1000 rpm. It really is as fast as it looks.
Right behind Mister Mulligan comes Justin Niemyjski in his beautiful dark red Beech Staggerwing. He does his usual well executed low pass, then sets up to land on the next go-around. Justin hops rides in his Staggerwing like it’s his 9-5 job. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it. He averages 3-4 sorties per hour, all day long. He always offloads his extremely happy riders with a big smile. I suspect that it makes him just as happy to give rides, as the riders are to receive.
Meanwhile, there’s a formation flight of J-3 Cubs forming up. They come overhead with that slow-but-sure style that can truly be seen, heard, and felt when they go by. They go by at such a pace that you can see the pilots and passengers smiling. Sometimes you can even hear the sounds of their conversations and chuckles. Because if you’re not having fun flying in a formation of J-3 Cubs, you’re doing it wrong.
Here’s a raggedy old Champ rolling up for a quick pilot and passenger change. Some airplanes get flown very little at Blakesburg. Some on the other hand, get flown a lot. This particular Champ can have as many as three different pilots during this hour. All enjoying the pitter patter of all (hopefully) 65 horses hammering out their song through small straight pipes. Everyone smiles getting in, and everyone smiles getting out. There is an amazingly honest quality to the fun of flying a Champ with the door off, or a Cub with the door open. No matter your actual age, you’re always just a kid living out the dream of flying with the wind in your face.
Speaking of the wind in your face, here’s a timeless two-tone green Waco biplane with two leather capped heads poking out of the top. True tail skid, a huge wood prop, and liquid-cooled Curtis V-8 power make this particular airplane an experience to behold. This Waco GXE is owned by Les Gaskill. If you’ve ever been to any event at Antique Airfield. I mean ANY event. The fly-in, the pumpkin drop, a volunteer work day, etc. Les Gaskill is there. He is unmistakable in multiple ways. 1) He’s much taller than the rest of us. 2) He brings 3 airplanes to the fly-in. 3) His sense of humor sneaks up on you, then hits you right between the eyes when you’re least expecting it. For example: During this hour at Blakesburg if you were to stroll into the Fly-Market you would hear something like this when Les walks in. “Hey Les, you’re back” Les: “No, that’s my front!” Just let the true comedy of that exchange sink in for a moment.
Back on the flight line, there goes another staple at Blakesburg, Les’ iconic J-2. Similar to the aforementioned Champ, Les invites many pilots to fly his J-2. This airplane is one the purest examples of the old saying “flies on wing, not on power”. With its 40 hp engine, and single ignition system, it keeps the pilot fine-tuned to the feel of flight. It is pure and simple, low and slow flight. Judging by the many pilots’ smiles and fond memories of flying the J-2, it doesn’t get much better than that.
In the time it takes the J-2 to make one spin around the patch, three more classics have taken flight. A beautifully polished Globe Swift, a straight tail Cessna 172, and a pretty blue Stinson 108-2. All three memorable in their own right. My parents had a Stinson 108, as has most everyone else in classic aviation over the last seven decades. Any time I see one my dad’s fond memories and stories come to mind. The Franklin engine has a song of its own, and it’s a pleasure to listen to on take-off. It’s the same with a straight-tail Cessna. A common and less exciting airplane than some, but everyone has flown one, and everyone has great memories made in them. Then there’s the Swift. Any Swift is a beautiful sight, but a perfectly polished one doing a clean, high-speed low altitude pass is another one of those rare experiences that grabs all of your senses. Art deco mechanical beauty at its finest. Why does that Continental six-cylinder sound so much better when it’s in a Swift?
Speaking of art-deco mechanical beauty, here comes a Cessna 195 with a smooth slow landing. Expertly handled by its pilot, you can’t tell by watching how difficult it truly is to land and taxi one of these large beauties. This one appears to be well loved and cared for by its owners. Stuffed to the brim for a weekend of camping and flying. The Jacobs radial engine obliging happily all the way.
There’s also sights and sounds that aren’t just airplanes. Kids playing with toy airplanes outside the Ground Loop Inn. Conversations and storytelling in countless small groups. The constant whir of activity around the flagger’s tents. The “expert panel” of observers judging every landing. The Historical Society with their hand-crafted desserts, and homemade ice cream. Last but definitely not least, the fuel crew with their endless flow of thirsty airplanes.
That is what one hour on the flight line at Blakesburg looks, sounds, and feels like. Now just imagine spending three or four days immersed in all of this. If you missed it this year, take these words describing just one hour, and multiply them times a thousand. With that in mind, I will plan to see you there next year!
Happy landings, Josh Trail
Aviation Events of the Future….Real or Virtual?
I’ve just read where there will be a “Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show” at Lakeland Fl, put on by the Sun ‘n Fun organization in early December.
While I applaud the Sun ‘n Fun group for going ahead with an actual/live event, I note the three panelists at a scheduled AOPA Town Hall during the event are the heads of organizations (AOPA, EAA & Sun ‘n Fun) which substituted Virtual Events for the real thing in 2020.
To be certain, I understand and even empathize with their decisions, plus that of every other aviation organization, airshow, conference and event that cancelled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
However, as the ONLY alphabet aviation organization to hold a live and real event so far in 2020, the
AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in (aka Blakesburg), I wonder what they are going to actually talk about ?
While we are still getting our event wrapped up, and do not yet have totals for everything, we did have
at least 274 display aircraft (antique, classic, warbird, neo-classic & homebuilt aircraft) from at least 28 states,
an above average crowd of attendees (AAA members & guests), and good av-gas sales that included a one
day record for gallons pumped.
We did indeed incur extra expenses and work to make the event as COVID compliant as possible, with
the addition of signage, face shields where appropriate, extra hand wash stations etc., etc., as recommended
by the state of Iowa, plus trusting our members and attendees to take personal responsibility per the above. It
should also be noted we did so without increasing our registration and camping fees.
At present it looks like the 2020 AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in is close to matching the 2019 event in all regards, and well within our average size Fly-in. Considering what 2020 has wrought on our society…. that’s pretty impressive !!
With all the above stated, I do have concerns that lie beyond what might be discussed at the upcoming Town Hall at Lakeland in December. Primary among those is the perceived growing reliance on virtual events when a live event is not possible. Again I understand and empathize, as electronic communication (publications, videos, meetings etc.) provides an affordable, fast, and multi-faceted way to communicate and interact with the members of ones’ organization. The following questions beg though….
– At what point does, or will, a virtual event supplant actual & real events? After all, the liability risks, weather problems, safety and security concerns, etc., are nil with a virtual event. What will be the “new normal” (lowest common denominator) to trigger going to a virtual event as opposed to a real/live one?
– How long or how many times can a virtual event be held before people begin losing interest in ones’ organization & events, and turn to other more interesting endeavors?
– How long will it be before technology can make a virtual event that negates having to hold a real/live event? At that point what happens to the need to restore and fly antique/classic aircraft or build homebuilt aircraft?
– Do the leaders of the various organizations realize and understand that no matter how many tune in for their virtual events, it is not the same, cannot replace, nor in any way is a reason to over emphasize or celebrate a virtual event over a live one?
If not already there, 2020 is forcing sport and general aviation towards a quickly approaching crossroads. It will be up to the leadership of each of the representative alphabet organizations to choose their paths going forward, whether they feel the need for a sure thing, hence falling back on virtual events, or as stated by John Kennedy “….because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.”
I can assure the members of the Antique Airplane Association, as well as the rest of the sport and general aviation community, the latter is the road the AAA/APM plans to take into 2021 and beyond.
Chairman, AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in
It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of AAA founder, Robert L. Taylor, on June 20, 2020, 12 days short of his 96th birthday. Bob—as most of us knew him—had been in declining health. Despite this loss to the antique airplane community, it’s comforting to look back at the amazing life of our cherished friend.
Born on July 2, 1924 in Ottumwa, Iowa, Bob lived through the Great Depression and joined the USAAF during WWII. He served as a crew chief on P-38s and P-39s for the 24th Fighter Squadron, 6th Air Force in the Panama Canal Zone. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and assigned to a detached training unit.
Between wars, Bob earned his private pilot certificate and returned to his Iowa hometown to run the airport’s FBO. He also ran the FBOs at nearby Oskaloosa and Albia airports, as well as Antique Airfield in Blakesburg.
The name, “Blakesburg,” will long be associated with Bob’s vision to “Keep The Antiques Flying.” Imagine a visionary, who in 1953 saw the need to preserve the fast-disappearing airplanes of his youth, and using his own funds placed a 12-dollar ad in Flying magazine, announcing AAA’s creation. He received 12 replies at one dollar per, breaking even (a feat in aviation), and AAA was born. His investment and vision would prove invaluable. AAA’s first national fly-in was held in Ottumwa in 1954. Bob co-founded the Air Power Museum with J.G. “Jack” Lowe in 1965 and in 1970 established Antique Airfield, the nexus of the antiquer’s universe.
Bob kept his own antiques flying by restoring several airplanes over the years, including a 1936 Porterfield 35W, 1939 Porterfield CP-50, 1929 General Aristocrat, 1933 Lockheed Vega and a 1941 Interstate Cadet. The Cadet was the very airplane in which he had soloed in 1946 while earning his private pilot certificate, and—because antiquing is all about family—his grandson, Benjamin, soloed in it at age 16.
For his many contributions to Iowa aviation Bob was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2007, his hometown added him to the Significant Ottumwa Aviators Roster (SOAR). The following year, the FAA honored him with its prestigious Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, and the following year, Bob received the EAA Founders Award. In 2010 Robert L. Taylor was recognized by the National Aeronautics Association (NAA) as an Elder Statesman of Aviation. Additional awards and honors over the years are too numerous to list here but all well deserved. To say that we in the antique airplane community will miss him is to understate the immensity of our loss and the wealth of knowledge, friendship, and affection we’ve all gleaned from this wonderful friend.
Robert L. Taylor is preceded in death by wife Eleanor Lorraine (Swanson) in 2006. He is survived by son Barry Taylor, son Brent Taylor (Marcy), daughter Holly Taylor of Ballwin, MO, granddaughter Nicole Helm (Rich) of Lake St. Louis, MO, granddaughter Dr. Whitney LeFevre (Nick) of Ft Worth, TX, granddaughter Taylor Beck of Indianapolis, IN & grandson Benjamin Taylor of Ottumwa, Iowa, great-grandchildren, John & Joseph Helm, Aidan LeFevre, and numerous nieces & nephews.
(written by, and Thanks to Paul Berge)
The family welcomes memorial donations to the Air Power Museum “Gone West” Memorial.
Welcome to Antique Airfield!
Replicating a typical Midwestern airport of the 1930’s, privately owned Antique Airfield is home to the following:
– The Antique Airplane Association (est. 1953), aviation’s oldest organization dedicated to restoring and flying antique & classic aircraft.
– The Air Power Museum Inc. (est. 1965), over 20,000 sq. ft of display area, featuring historic aircraft, engines, models and displays.
– The Mike Gretz Library of Flight Research Center, with over 5000 volumes, countless periodicals, photograph collections & aircraft drawings.
– The annual AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in, a “By-the-Members”, “For-the-Members” event, showcasing 300 – 400 of the finest and rarest antique/classic aircraft from throughout the country. The AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in is recognized as the premiere aviation event for antique & classic aircraft owners, restorers, pilots, enthusiast and their families.
Here at Antique Airfield, and the AAA/APM, we believe antique & classic aircraft, the pilots that fly them, the mechanics that restore, and maintain them are a window to the explorations, ingenuity, and aviation history that needs collected, preserved, and protected for the future.
We seek to keep those traditions alive by, as our motto states: “Keep the Antiques Flying”
We invite you to peruse the website, check out the various features, encourage you to come visit the APM, and become part of the antique and classic aviation movement by joining the AAA, becoming a donor to the APM, and a volunteer to help preserve & protect aviation’s rich history.
22001 Bluegrass Rd.
Ottumwa, Iowa 52501
On Facebook & Instagram at: Antique Airfield
On YouTube at: AAAAPM1 and also at Brent Taylor Productions
GPS identifier: IA27 Lat. 40-58-40 Long. 92-35-15
Runway: 01/19 (N-S), Length 2350 ft. (turf)
Elevation: 904 ft.
Air Power Museum
Volunteer Staffed & Operated
9-5 Mon-Fri, 10-5 Sat, 1-5 Sun (April through October)
Closed major holidays & Labor Day weekend (Wed-Mon)