By HELEN HANNAN
---- — BLAKESBURG — This weekend, Antique Airfield will be the busiest airport in Iowa as antique airplane enthusiasts gather for the annual Antique Airplane Association/Airpower Museum (AAA/APM) fly-in and to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee.
The fly-in annually attracts antique, classic and home-built aircraft and their owners from across the nation and often Canada.
According to Brent Taylor of the Airplane Association, as part of the celebration, a USPS-sanctioned air mail flight will originate at Antique Airfield, fly to Ottumwa, then to Oskaloosa and back to Antique Airfield to represent the three major fly-in sites of the last 60 years. This year marks the 40th AAA/APM fly-in to be held at Antique Airfield, located at 22001 Blue Grass Road about midway between Blakesburg and Ottumwa. On Friday night, “footage of movies and slides from the old days” will be shown in the hangar, Taylor said.
Taylor says attendance is looking good this year with about 30 more pre-registrations than at this time last year, including 26 Luscombe. Each year, a different airplane is featured, and this year it is the Luscombe, he explained. Officially, the fly-in runs from noon Wednesday through noon Monday, but several airplanes were already on the grounds late Tuesday, including one Steerman, arriving from Seattle via New York and Kansas City. So far, pilots has flown in from both coasts and locations in between.
Early arrival Mike Araldi, of Flordia, flew in his red-and-white five-place Waco Custom Cabin 1938 model to Antique Airfield by way of the EAA Fly-in at Oshkosh, Wis. Araldi is one of the old-timers, having attended the AAA/APM fly-in “off and on since Ottumwa days.”
Araldi began restoration of the Waco about 15 years ago but was side tracked several years when his children and other responsibilities took precedence. Restoration was completed in 2012 after “working on it just over a year.” This airplane “has been a delight” he said, while polishing away a bit of grime on a gleaming wing. TWA bought the airplane originally, he said, indicating the big TWA on her tail.
Attendance should be good this year. It will be hot, but no storms are forecast anywhere, Araldi commented as he watched a pilot skillfully land a Steerman Trainer on the grassy runway then slowly taxi to tie down among earlier Steerman arrivals.
The AAA/APM fly-in at the Antique Airfield is held exclusively for members and their guests. Anyone wanting to see these historic aircraft should be at the Ottumwa Airport by 11 a.m. Friday to see them land. Friends of NAS Ottumwa will be inside the terminal building with books, hats and T-shirts for sale. Author Elsie May Cofer will be autographing copies of her book. The first day covers will be around 3 p.m., when one of the original Stearmans returns with the canceled mail. These will be available for $5 each.
The public is welcome to visit the museum in Blakesburg during the rest of the year, which includes many restored antique aircraft, most in flying condition, as well as an interesting assortment of other antique airplane-related memorabilia.