August 15, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
When members of the Antique Airplane Association head to Blakesburg, Iowa, in late August for the group’s annual fly-in, they will celebrate 60 years of joyful labors dedicated to preserving and restoring aviation’s past.
As is customary, the membership will pay tribute to an aircraft that emerged on the scene when aviation was young, this year by marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of certification of the classic Luscombe Model 8.
Taking a break from preserving and planning to celebrate what’s been accomplished is also an affirmation of sorts.
"We’ve proven that private aviation still works," said Brent Taylor, the organization’s executive director, and chairman of the by-invitation-only event scheduled for Aug. 28 to Sept. 2.
Formally, the event at Antique Airfield goes by the name of the Antique Airplane Association’s Diamond Jubilee, but to long-time members, the annual celebration is simply "Blakesburg," the organization says Membership in the organization hovers around 6,500 members, Taylor said, but over the last decade, new members have joined the ranks at an increasing rate.
This year’s celebration will give some of those newcomers, along with AOPA and the general aviation community, an opportunity to honor Robert Taylor, the organization’s 89-year-old founder, and hear directly from him how he began the organization with a classified ad in an aviation magazine, and how aviation’s AAA grew to its present size and scope. (New members quickly capture the spirit of the group when looking up directions on its website for flying into Blakesburg. The directions begin, "If you're not flying with a GPS…")
Every year’s fly-in honors an aircraft from the past, and this year’s Luscombe motif will be multi-faceted. There’s the anniversary of the Luscombe Model 8’s certification 75 years ago. Donald Arthur Luscombe, the founder of Luscombe Aircraft, was an Iowa City native. The Airpower Museum, located on Antique Airfield, has the only Mono Aircraft Monoprep open-cockpit aircraft that the organization knows to still exist. It was a Donald Luscombe design.
Luscombes, therefore, will be parked in a row of honor on the flight line for classics; two weeks out from the fly-in’s start, 26 Luscombes from as far away as the east and west coasts were pre-registered. Brent Taylor expected about 50 Luscombes to come to Blakesburg, "which would be a hell of a showing."
If hard work and volunteering keep devotee organizations humming along, turning preparatory chores into fun is the name of the game. Taylor said that the weekend before the fly-in, "a big mowing party" would be held, with 15 or 20 tractors preparing the grounds. Aircraft will still be coming and going, "But be careful!" Taylor said.
Among a variety of activities and tributes will be a commemorative mail flight to Ottumwa and Oskaloosa airports and back, including two airplanes that participated in the first Blakesburg fly-in, in 1954. A Fleet biplane—the same one that gave Robert Taylor his first ride in an open-cockpit biplane—will participate. (Keep it under your hat, but Robert is going to get another ride in it this year.)
From smaller classic aircraft to big radial-engined taildraggers, Brent Taylor was making ready for 350 to 400 aircraft to appear, weather permitting. Advance registrations were running a bit ahead of last year’s record turnout, with aircraft from 31 states already expected.
Aviation has its challenges, such as the still-contracting pilot population, Taylor said, but the annual event at Antique Airfield confirms that the pioneering spirit endures, proving "that you can have an organization and a movement based on its own airport that is not getting any outside help."
"It’s true private aviation," he said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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