BLAKESBURG — Late Thursday afternoon, more than 200 airplanes were tied down in long rows with another one landing every few minutes at Antique Airfield located on Bluegrass Road midway between Ottumwa and Blakesburg.
According to Cynthia Hallinger, who was keeping count of Luscombe airplanes, 45 of this year’s featured aircraft were already on the ground with more coming.
Don Luscombe of Iowa, founder and designer of the Luscombe airplane, is buried in Iowa City. The Luscombe line began with the Phantom model in 1938 after he had developed the Monocoupe. It was the first all-metal civilian airplane and quite innovative for the times, explained Harold, Cynthia’s husband. He built them to last; in fact, he advertised “built to last forever.” Manufacturing discontinued in the 1950s, he said.
First-timers Ben Cox and his girlfriend, Ann Marie Liszczyk, of Coventry, England, probably came the farthest to attend the Antique Airplane Association/Airpower Museum (AAA/APM) fly-in. They flew from Spokane, Wash., in the red and blue 1931 DeHavillan DH Puss Moth tied down in front of the main hangar. The two-place, single-wing, tail dragger is one of the biggest attention-grabbers at the fly-in. An interesting feature is the fold-up wings, which allow more compact, easier storage.
Produced in Edgware, England, the airplane was finally sold in 1934 to an air service in Ontario, Canada, said Cox. One of the airplane’s many admirers related a bit wistfully, “It was sitting in a barn in Ontario many years ago when I tried to buy it, but I couldn’t, so finally gave it up,” he shrugged. The airplane was “pretty much in this condition,” said Cox, who found it sitting in a barn in Spokane a couple of years ago but had not flown it until this summer.
"We have been working really hard since the second week of July," said Liszczyk.
“Timing was really tight with just under two weeks,” agreed Cox.
In addition to reconditioning the airplane with installation of new undercarriage and engine as well as some wing repair and regular maintenance, he had to pass the American Airplane Maintenance License exam.
“Three weeks ago, the new motor was sitting in a crate in Coventry,” he laughed.
Prior to obtaining his pilot license four years ago, Cox was an aircraft mechanic. After logging a successful three-hour test flight to Ontario with the new engine, the pair headed to their longtime goal, the Oshkosh, Wis., fly-in, then on to the AAA/APM fly-in, so far logging 75 hours of flight time this summer. Vacation is almost done, and they will return to England Sept. 6. Saturday evening or Sunday morning they will start to Spokane, where they will “put the airplane to bed” before going home, where Cox flies for a survey company doing mapping and Liszczyk is a physicist in exploration.
Ryan Combs of Kansas City, Mo., flew the oddest aircraft on the grounds, a Rans Airaile experimental. Basically, the aircraft is only a glass, semi-enclosed two-place cockpit, motor, propellers and a tail perched at the end of a long tube. First produced in 1990 in Kansas City, Mo., and still in production, Combs said the airplane is designed as an ultra-light trainer and exported to developing countries because it is light, can easily take off from small grass air strips and is relatively inexpensive.
Refueling in Centerville, he needed only eight gallons of fuel.
“It handles well, more like a traditional airplane,” said Combs, who is more accustomed to flying a Cessna. He plans to add doors before colder weather.