BLAKESBURG — Clear blue skies made for a perfect day at the largest aviation event in the state at the Antique Airfield in Blakesburg Saturday afternoon.
The 62nd annual Antique Airplane Association and Airpower Museum AAA/APM 2015 Invitational Fly-in at the old-fashioned runway located near Blakesburg was the destination of more than 350 barnstorming flyers from all over the country. The flying enthusiasts navigated their way to southeast Iowa to unite with old friends and meet new club members.
This year's theme is "Record Breaking" with the Curtiss Robin and Stinson 108 Series being the featured aircraft for the weekend.
"The Curtiss Robin of course is representative of the 'Record Breaking' aircraft theme and will help us commemorate this colorful era of aviation history, while the Stinson 108 is representative of one the most successful post-war aircraft produced," according to a statement from Fly-In Chairman Brent Taylor.
Row after row of antique airplanes and their pilots could be spotted across the lawn, including, Willard VanWarmar of Leavenworth, Kansas, and Kevin Nobiling, Oskaloosa, with VanWarmar's Stearman 41-foot antique aircraft. VanWarmar took the two-hour flight down from Leavenworth to participate in the weekend's fly-in.
"I went to this fly-In over 40 years ago," said VanWarmer. "I haven't been to every single one, but I try to go as often as I can. This plane was my father's, and when he passed away, I started working on it. It's been in the family for over 25 years."
There was a lot of flying going on throughout the day. Many find find it entertaining just to watch everyone else fly. This fly-in is a very low-key event to others around the country. It's a time for pilots to socialize and talk about one thing: airplanes.
In order to attend this prestigious gathering, AAA membership is required and is open to anyone with an interest in preserving and flying antique and classic aircraft. Being a pilot or airplane owner is not a requirement for belonging.
Safeguarding a historic environment of aviation’s golden past is the shared mission by both AAA/AMP and its more than 20 active chapters, along with a growing membership, which fuels the organization’s passion for flying by the seat of your pants.
Another member who has a passion for flying is Greg Lucas of Paul's Valley, Oklahoma. His Cessna 180 just might fall outside the antique category of planes, into the newer classic models, but it sure does tell a story.
"I've been coming out here for 20 years," said Lucas.
Since Lucas started getting into airplanes, he's owned more than 17 throughout the span of his hobby "career" but has since scaled back from five to only two.
What makes this plane stand out is two life-size spray-painted portraits of Lucas' late son, Connor, balancing out both sides of the tail wings.
"Connor was an avid aviation enthusiast, and at 16 he went and got in his first solo fly before he even got his driver's license," said Lucas.
According to Lucas, before the fatal ATV accident that took his son's life in May 2010, Connor was set to go to Oklahoma State and then on to the Air Force Academy to become a pilot.
"They saw what potential he had and that immediately had him going the Air Force Academy route," said Lucas.
Matt Grimes, a family friend whose father first got Greg Lucas interested in planes, was the artist that helped with his son's portraits.
"Now I can have Connor with me every time I fly, and I know nothing bad will ever happen to me," said Lucas.
As Connor's smiling face stares up at the sky, there's no doubt that Lucas always has a special co-pilot looking out for him.
— Megan Berberich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @CourierMegan.