The weather sounded like it could be bad—high winds and storms were forecast—but Anoka County-Blaine Airport stayed warm and breezy all day Aug. 22, delighting visitors, especially those who chose to camp under the Minnesota summer skies.
AOPA’s third 2015 fly-in was a resounding success even though initial attendee numbers were low and the forecast was iffy. Minnesota, it seems, is a laid-back kind of place and people take their time to consider their plans for the day.
Those who flew or drove in on Aug. 21 were truly the lucky ones. The camping was in a perfect setting at the airport and the evening entertainment included a Barnstormers Party at a nearby seaplane base. Surfside Seaplane Base and Wipaire hosted the event, which featured the throaty roar of seaplanes taking off and landing, music by the Front Porch Sitting Liquor Pigs, and great barbecue. As the sun set, campfires were lit, torches were set, and new friends and old swapped flying stories. The party was such a success, extra runs for provisions had to be made. Nearly 600 people attended.
And then Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. The sun was an orange orb over the airport as the first attendees arrived for their pancake breakfasts. At the Rusty Pilot breakfast and seminar 130 hopeful returning pilots chased their dreams of seeking the sky again and received inspiration from AOPA’s You Can Fly team. Pancake breakfasts were prepared by some of the more than 190 volunteers—including AOPA President Mark Baker’s wife, Vicki, their four children, and friends. This, after all, is the Baker’s home airport.
Baker and his friend Greg Herrick, founder of the Golden Wings Flying Museum—where much of the day’s events took place—entertained breakfast goers with stories about the aircraft in Herrick’s remarkable museum. Feasting on heaping plates of pancakes and sausage, attendees ate surrounded by some of the most remarkable aircraft of this century.
The day’s events were marked by a comfortable camaraderie as young and old strolled along the airport grounds enjoying the aircraft—from a giant Albatross at one end to the EAA One Week Wonder at another—and stopped in to hear seminars by aviation notables such as Rod Machado, Cmdr. Kirk S. Lippold of the USS Cole, AOPA Pilot’s Thomas B. Haines, and more.
A total of 2,700 attended the event, with 950 automobiles and 160 aircraft arriving.
Later in the day, Baker hosted a Pilot Town Hall and—along with EAA’s Jack Pelton and other AOPA staff—informed the Midwest audience of the association’s activities. Third class medical reform stood at the top of Baker’s concerns and resounding applause greeted his comment that the best way to convince Congress to get “them off their butts” (a member comment) and get the measure passed was “vote them out of office.” Baker noted that 60 senators support of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 and that the association will be working tirelessly to get the measure passed.
“I was born and raised here,” Baker said of Minnesota, and that returning home for an AOPA Fly-In was special for him. “The people I have talked to have all had a great time.”
“I think it was a great success,” added Herrick. “I heard positive comments all day. AOPA did a really good job.”