Sep 062010

I got up at 5am Friday morning so I could get some airfield movies as the sun came up. My effort was well rewarded. Hardly anyone was stirring yet so the field had a surreal quality. I didn’t have any time to shoot stills with my pocket cam so after I get some time I will pull a few screen grabs from my HD footage so you can see. It was a little chilly but it was dead calm. That was to change later….

Fairchild 24R-46 "Yellow Bird" arrives

Owner Leon Whelchel standing next to his Fairchild

Leon Whelchel flew in from Vinton, Iowa in his immaculate Fairchild 24. In the caption two pictures above I used the name he has given it which is “Yellow Bird”. Actually this is only partly correct. The real name is Dalonige Tsisqua which is Cherokee for “Yellow Bird”. He has both the Cherokee written language and the English transliteration painted on the side of the cowling. Leon is an Airline pilot retired from Continental.

Next is a sequence that will illustrate an event that brought great sadness to me and all who were at the show. The night before we had a cloudburst the likes of which I had not experienced in many a year. It came down in buckets and completely drenched the field. I was doing a quick circuit of the field on foot in order to scout good shooting locations when this T-6 entered the pattern. I snapped this shot as he touched down. As you can see in the foreground, the ground was very wet and slippery.

T-6 touches down on ill-fated landing

Blakesburg’s N/S runway is 2350′ and has a pronounced drop on the north end with trees at the base of the hill. When the pilot could not get his plane slowed down enough on roll out he attempted a ground loop but still ended up smacking some trees. This was very sad as no one likes to see that kind of thing anywhere. The good news is that the pilot and his wife were not hurt and the plane was left relatively intact. A bent prop and damage to the left wing will be expensive to repair, though.

You can see the T-6 being extracted from the tree line at the base of the hill

The T-6 being towed tail first to its tie down

Wingtip damage

Tree trunk damage near the wing root

A Beautiful Bonanza V-Tail taxis in

One of the stars of the show. A 1927 Fairchild 71.

This Fairchild drew such a crowd that even a half hour later this was the least obstructed view I could get of it that morning.

Brian and the Fairchild

The Fairchild landed in the increasing west crosswind sweeping over the field. The wind finally reached a pretty consistent 35mph with gusts above that. To compound matters there are tall trees on the west side of the runway that produce mechanical turbulence of a greatly unpredictable type. My friend and interviewee Larry Boehme and his wife (Stinson Gullwing) were the last to attempt to land in these conditions. I say attempt because he wisely decided to land at Ottumwa airfield a few miles away after the turbulence made landing too risky.

After that, for the first time in the AAA Fly-In history, the airfield was shut down. For about an hour planes circled overhead and made passes only to get the red flag. The blustery winds continued for the entire day right until about 7pm when the field was re-opened. Because of this, I called my wife on the cell phone to see if she could get me another night in the motel so I could stay until Sunday. Miraculously a room reservation had just been cancelled and she was able to grab it for me.

I did shoot some video during the wind storm but was not able to get much of airplanes on the move or in flight. Here are some pix of the securely tied down planes that caught my eye.

1963 Bucker Jungmann C.A.S.A. 1.131

A 1932 Great Lakes Model 2T-1A

1929 Stinson "Detroiter" Model SM-2AA

"Detroiter" prop blade and motor

The "Stearmen"

There was an exceptional number of Stearman Biplanes evident at the field. The Stearman is one of the most recognizable biplanes to the general public. It has the “brand name” quality of “The Piper Cub”. Those not familiar with aviation will tend to call any small plane a “Piper Cub” and any biplane a “Stearman Biplane”. Every one of these was in excellent condition. On more than one occasion they took to the air in flights of two or more. On the final day they graced the field with an “missing man” tribute fly-by.

The "Stearmen" shooting from the east

A 1943 Howard Model DGA-15P

A 1940 Howard Model DGA-15P

Some cockpit detail of the 1940 Howard

A 1952 Rawdon Model T1

I had never seen a Rawdon before. This is the type of rarity you find in abundance at the Blakesburg event. I have more such aircraft shot in HD.

A 1956 CallAir Model A-2

I may be able to embellish this report later with some screen grabs from my HD movie footage.

Until then, this is Brian FitzGerald signing off for the day!

Blue Skies & Tailwinds!