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What do like to see in a Vintage Fly-in?

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Kevin Pratt
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#1 Posted: 12/25/2009 23:16:53

Like most VAA / EAA chapters, ours struggles for membership.  We put on an annual fly-in as a way to attract members, as well as our primary fund raising event of the year.  What do people want in a fly-in.  I grew up in the shadow of the EAA and the AAA and have gone to fly-ins since I was a baby, some 50 years ago.  So I know what old time fly-ins were like.  But is that what the modern antiquer wants?  How does Blakesburg and Brodhead bring in the antiques, what is the draw there.  For sure grass strips are a must, but what else? 

Give me some feed back Waco, Staggerwing, and Travelair guys!

Thanks!

Kevin Pratt VAA 16 Kansas City  http://www.vaa16.com/Fly-In.html

Video of our fly-in   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8sQ5jjbsZc



Kevin Pratt
Joe Norris
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#2 Posted: 12/28/2009 10:26:04

Kevin,

Blakesburg is the fly-in if you ask me.  Of all the events I attend over the course of the year, Blakesburg is my favorite.  Why? I'm not 100% sure I can explain it in words.  The best I can do is say that it's the atmosphere there that really does it for me.  Laid back, relaxed, friendly, easy-going.  All those are descriptive terms, but I'm not sure they completely capture what I'm trying to say.  All I can say for sure is, if you can emulate Blakesburg you're on the right track!!

Good luck!!

Joe

 



Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
Kevin Pratt
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#3 Posted: 12/30/2009 11:59:16 Modified: 12/30/2009 12:00:47

Joe:

 

    Ain't that the truth about Blakesburg.  It's hard to quantify what it is that makes it a must do for so many of us.  I attend Osh every year and wouldn't miss it for anything either, but there is something about the Blakesburg state of mind that is like a long relaxing vacation.

    We are trying to get that sort of atmosphere at our fly-in too, we even booked it as "Blakesburg with a better runway" one time.  We try to keep the food good, the atmosphere relaxed, and the commercialization to a min.  I do think that the location at Blakesburg add a lot to the event.  When you go there, there is nothing else to do but the fly-in.  I think this helps to keep people there for more than 1 day.  So many fly-ins (our included) can't keep people there past 3 in the afternoon on Saturday.  Blakesburg gets em showing up on Thursday and staying till Sunday.  I think the antiques are a real draw for so many people as well, we are trying very hard to get more antiques at our fly-in.  We have a beautiful N-S grass strip, so we are very antique friendly. 

Thanks for your feedback!

Kevin

    

 



Kevin Pratt
Kevin Pratt
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#4 Posted: 1/5/2010 17:56:10

Still need more feedback!  Come on you antique guys, what would make you fly down to Kansas City to a fly-in in your Waco, etc.  It's John Swander's home airport!  Would that help?   goggles



Kevin Pratt
Gilbert Pierce
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#5 Posted: 1/7/2010 19:22:36

 

 

Blakesburg is a must for me. I can go to OSH and look at antiques and classic airplanes.

 

I can go to Blakesburg and Brodhead and see those same airplanes flying, hopping rides every day and putting on flight demos and then talk to the pilots when they come back. These are very laid back restful fly-ins  with the same social interaction you get at OSH or SnF but with lots of flying going on.

 

 



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#6 Posted: 1/7/2010 20:48:03

OK.  I'm kinda new to forums.  I recently purchased a 1956 Cessna 172 Skylane to restore.  Do I have a vintage or an antique aircraft?  What determines each?


Jim Faix

Sarasota FL



Jim in Sarasota FL
Robert bach
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#7 Posted: 1/7/2010 21:19:08

Excellent question! Why is it that these two fly-ins are nearly perfect? What makes a guy fly a Porterfield from California to Iowa 20 years in a row? I mean, he spends more time traveling to and fro than he does at the fly-in itself?

How does Lockhaven attract people in Cubs from every coast in crummy weather? The Northwest Biplane Fly-in in Spokane is doing it, too. Why did Bartlesville fail? Why is Lee Bottom growing as fast as it is?

For me, and I admit extreme bias here, Blakesburg has a nostalgia steeped into the very grass we land on. Brodhead has better grass, better camping, and interesting wings hidden in hangars equal to the museum at Blakesburg.

Both are fairly laid back with few rules and no corporate entities begging for my dollars. I can fly to each of them, pitch my tent with or near my plane, fly three times a day around the patch in formation with my pals without having to fill out forms or wait for a slot time to do so. Food is easily accessible (though Blakesburg has the edge there in quality). Each one attracts the rare and unusual aircraft as well as the regulars: 30 Champs and 40 Cubs, 20 T-crafts and a dozen Stearman.

Good people at each, serene scenery, ATC-free flying, great campfire or pub nightlife. Forums and fascinating folks to talk to at each.

Creating a fly-in with all these attributes is a matter of creating a petri dish that is equal parts grass, timing, comfort, and people.

Gimme the grass! I'll land on it, sleep on it, walk around all day on it. Cement won't do, no sir, thank you.

The date can't conflict with, well, anything else important but timing is critical for weather and a pairing with other local events. (Love the steam thrashers convention in Iowa)

Pilots and their families will fly a long leg if there's a shady campground or frosty root beer at the other end. Some need access to hotels, some won't go anywhere there aren't showers (both Blakesburg and Brodhead have them). Some folks like a rental car and all some need is a place to park a chair near the runway.

People, of course are the key. I imagine there will be a day I can't manage to fly any more, but I'll still go. In fact, I'd go if either one of these events ceased to exist! Can't say I'd go to Bartlesville, OK in the heat of the summer without that fly-in there.

But if you manage to get good people (like Swander and Pemberton and Applegate and Younkin and the Hatz Boys) to show up, the rest of us will follow just to hang out in their genuine or hilarious presence.

Now, Oshkosh and Sun n Fun have great people, too...sometimes it's hard to share my friends with 10,000  strangers. The more intimate setting of a fly-in with a local feel is what I like best. It's a way to get away.

Give me 5 nights under a starry Iowa sky, a sunrise flight over the corn with a buddy in a Clipper off my wing and a sunset I can taste. Give me Iowa corn and Wisconsin bratwurst, pancakes for breakfast and an Arnold Palmer when I'm thirsty at lunch.

Even if it rains it still feels like I'm in just the right spot and just the right time.

 And where else can you say something like that?

 



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Mike Dean
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#8 Posted: 1/8/2010 06:40:49

What Rob said. Sums it up rather nicely. One thing worth pointing out again however, is that both Blakesburg & Brodhead are multi-day events.

Kevin, you didn't mention how long your fly-in was, but I think that if you want to attract more than a relative small handfull fo antiques, it needs to be 2 or three days, at least. Mainly due to the travel time for so many. If you're flying hundreds of miles, you don't want to arrive at 9:00, just to leave at 11:00. There are plenty of "local" fly-ins, scattered around the country, for those quick "one day" fly-outs.

A few days of relaxation with great people, a "nice" setting, good food, and basic amenities. Oh, and the old planes. What more could you want?



Andrew Heins
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#9 Posted: 1/8/2010 08:20:06

I agree with Rob as well. Grass is a key factor for many of us who fly these old birds. A laid back atmosphere is key as well. Distance in relation to length of event plays a huge factor as well. Starting a fly-in is alot of work and getting people attracted can be difficult. However, once you have the first successful one, word of mouth works well. That is what has happened at Lee Bottom. I regularly attend Brodhead and have been to Blakesburg several times as well as host my own (National Waco Club Reunion) each year. The only reason I do not attend Blakesburg regularly is because Brodhead starts about 4 days later and is closer (I can make it non-stop). Not overcharging pilots who attend, keeping a hassle free environment, giving people the ability to come and go whenever they please and providing shelter for people to gather is important. At the NWC Reunion, Doug Parsons and I make it a point to greet each and every pilot as he/she arrives and thank them for attending. All newcomers are asked to join in events during the fly-in and are made to feel welcome. That is the only way to get people to return. Look at our success this year....52 Wacos....the largest gathering ever!

 

Andy Heins



Jerry Rosie
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#10 Posted: 1/8/2010 09:37:46

What you all are describing sounds like the Fathers Day Fly In (June18-21 this year), and the Assembly of Aeroncas (and other flying machines) (Sep 17-19 this year) held at Shreveport North (62PA), a well maintained and lighted 70x2600 private grass strip located south-east of Harrisburg, PA.  In addition to the great runway located on the property of the Footlight Ranch and Keys Restaurant, the venue provides camping or the use of the on site bunkhouse, Olympic swimming pool, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts and the Cross Winds Cafe serving lunch and snacks on the flight line. The Father's Day Fly In, now in its 21st year, features an all you can eat Prime rib dinner served at the restaurant on Friday night and an old fashioned picnic on Saturday.  Flying activities vary from year to year but have included poker runs, spot landing competitions, bomb drops, and the usual stuff.  The kids like the "Bear from the Air", stuffed toy drop, and last year we had a Parade of Triumphs scheduled in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Triumph auto club.  There is usually a sky diver or two who drops in (no pun intended), and Saturday night John Shreve taps a keg after sundown.  For those who don't imbibe, a free movie and popcorn is available at the flightline outdoor cinema.   A full breakfast is available all three days.  The Aeronca Fly In is less ambitious since it is only in its second year this year but we are working on a tour of a local aircraft rebuild facility in addition to the other amenities.  You all are certainly invited, and I can answer any questions you may have if you care to contact me by email or phone 717-243-7923.  Check the EAA events schedule for the latest as the year develops.

 

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Joe Norris
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#11 Posted: 1/8/2010 11:23:38
James Faix wrote:

I recently purchased a 1956 Cessna 172 Skylane to restore.  Do I have a vintage or an antique aircraft?  What determines each?

Hi Jim,

The answer to your question depends on who you ask.  That is, the different organizations define the terms differently.  EAA judging would classify your aircraft as a "Contemporary".  Antique Airplane Association would not consider your airplane at all since their judging cuts off at 1955.  Other organizations many have differing definitions.

To see EAA's vintage judging categories, go to this web page.

Cheers!

Joe



Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
Terry Bowden
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#12 Posted: 1/23/2010 08:42:41 Modified: 1/23/2010 08:51:24

I hate to sound like an "elitist", but one of the things I think that makes Blakesburg so great is what you don't see (and hear) there.  You don't see many nosewheels, not many homebuilts, especially not many homebuilt designs that came in after the 1960s... you just don't see them there.  Also... you don't see a lot of commercialism, not a lot of flashy trade-show type displays.  You don't see (or hear) turbine engines. You don't hear the constant drone of aerobatic propwash with an accompanying fast-talking announcer over the loudspeaker. In my opinion, these are the things that take away the laid-back atmosphere from a fly-in. OH.. and of course you don't see any pavement,  Thats a big deal.

Something you do see at Blakesburg (and I am not sure you see it anywhere else) is that these stately old golden age airplanes are honored with a parking place close to front and in the main line of traffic.  All the people get to see them up close and personal so to speak.  These great old airplanes are treated with the utmost respect, somewhat like the way we treat our elderly ladies and gentlemen at a family reunion.  They are and should be the center of attention.

 



TERRY BOWDEN, Consultant DER barnstmr@aol.com http://barnstmr.blogspot.com/
Kevin Pratt
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#13 Posted: 1/23/2010 20:12:18 Modified: 1/23/2010 20:14:59

    Isn't it strange that all the post here refer to Blakesburg in almost a magical way, in that there is something about that fly-in that you just can't put into words.  I started this thread because we want our fly-in to be "Blakesburg like" and I needed help in understanding and putting into words exactly what that means.  I have been around these fly-ins (Oshkosh & Ottumwa then Blakesburg) my whole life and I have trouble putting the antique fly-in into words.

    We have grass strips, basic amenities, decent food, and a really good folks.  I think what we are missing is more antique airplanes.  We regularly have at least one Staggerwing, Cessna 195, Waco UEC, and sometimes one of Yonkins birds, but we need more.  Our event encourages actual flying, and our 3900 ft strip is great for doing just that. in old airplanes.  We have no fancy corporate booths trying to sell anything, although we do have a fly-market.  We don't have an airshow, although sometimes when I fly it looks like one.  We have an announcer (well know fly-in announcer Bill Hare) but he is laid back and not trying to sell anything.  Our event is centrally located in the Kansas City area, and it goes on from Friday night until Sunday noon, so it's not just a one day quickie, although most people just come for Saturday despite our best efforts to keep them around.  Weather has always been very nice and not hot at all in late June.  We even have pretty girls on golf carts greeting arrivals.

What are we missing?

 



Kevin Pratt
Greg Heckman
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#14 Posted: 1/25/2010 12:11:56

I hate to miss Brodhead and it's because of the atmosphere, but there are other reasons:

  1. Grass runway
  2. Open hangars for everyone to browse around in.
  3. No judging or competition - all aircraft are treated equally.
  4. Sept. is a great time of year to hold a fly-in - cool evenings, days are not usually too hot.
  5. OK...I may get in trouble for this one, but real airplane people show up.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to tell kids to quit hanging off the wing of my airplane while the parents stand there and smile and look at how cute they are, or someone leaning over the cockpit with and ice cream cone in there hand!  Why don't you see this kind of stuff happening at car shows?!?!

The grass-roots events like Brodhead and Blakesburg just can not (and have not) been matched.



Bob Gandy
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#15 Posted: 2/18/2010 21:09:09

Kevin:

I like really good food!!!!!

And by the way, Kevin, there are other airplanes besides WACO's, Staggerwings and Travelair's . . . . .  you probably shouldn't forget all of us Luscombe, Cub and T-Cart guy's or you are going to have a really small fly-in.

The VAA 16 Fly-In Food Chairman

 



Joe Swithin
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#16 Posted: 2/20/2010 07:59:38

Please do not take offense to this, but Oshkosh is like going to the mall. Blakesburg and Brodhead are like going to a family reunion/picnic. Each event serves a purpose and are enjoyable, but to compare them is not fair. I spend my vacation at Blakesburg every year as it is laid back and relaxing. No sense of urgency, less traffic and less people make it more intimate. I do not know if you can create such an atmosphere just anywhere, but mix in equal amount of grass, decent food, friendly people who are eager to explain or help you with you projects and questions. You want the site to be clean and neat but not to polished.

 



Kevin Pratt
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#17 Posted: 2/20/2010 09:48:09

Joe:

No offense taken.  We struggle with the future of our fly-in, in that it we try to strike a balance between making the fly-in bigger (for fund raising reasons), where you attract the general public, and keeping it intimate and for mostly antique airplane folk.  If we don't try to appeal to the masses, how can we ever grow our ranks.  But getting too carnival like in trying to attract some of the public, we loose the antique folk.

We have the grass strip, the laid back feeling, descent food, and friendly people covered.   However, our airport layout does not lend itself to a fly-in as well as a Blakesburg does, it's too linear.  Our flightline is skinny and long.  We really struggle with getting people to stay for more than just Saturday.  By 3pm most people are bugging out, and it's just the hard core locals that stay for the Sat night dinner usually, and it's a shrimp boil that should keepum here.  Some in the group say we need more activities to get people to stay, some say we don't need anything but flying going on, cause thats what they do at Blakesburg!

Some of it is the simple fact that people don't stay at fly-ins overnight as much as they did 25 years ago.  These day most fly-ins are 1 day affairs.  I don't know if there is just too many other things competing for peoples time these days with kids in soccer, etc.  But for some reason certain events keep people there for the whole weekend.  How do we make ours one of those fly-ins?

I think you do it by getting people to come and FLY at our fly-in.  We have one of the best grass strips in the mid-west, and cold drinks.  Hop rides, have fun, eat shrimp, talk trash and enjoy.  When night comes, lets watch a movie, eat popcorn, crack open a cool one, and talk more trash!

PS: Bob your right.  We do want Cub, T-carts, Funks, Champs, and any other bird that can make it here.  We love all things that fly!

And thanks for taking on the food....dude!



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Kevin Pratt
Jeffrey Sullens
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#18 Posted: 6/29/2010 17:11:15

Kevin,

I never once heard you mention Stinsons, "the aircraft standard of the world". Maybe your refusal to recognize a good airplane when you see one is keeping a lot of people away!  OK, I'm kidding.... sort of.


OK, seriously, guys. How much do you think it affects a Fly-in to have it in the close proximity of a large city. Blakesburg and Brodhead in particular are not real close to large cities. (unless you call Radar O'Reilly's hometown large). It seems to me that those fly-ins are DESTINATIONS, and there aren't any "distractions" to the fly-in. No place else to go close by to pull people away. It seems to me that if you have it at a suburban airport, no matter how grassroots it is, there's always the lure of being able to run home to the air conditioning and take the kids to soccer games or the ice cream store. At Blakesburg, once you're there, you're there. 

Do activities throughout the day help or hinder the event? It seems right now, like people get bored and leave. Would getting more planes up and flying help the situation? Maybe a parade of flight? EAA and their lawyers have taken most of the fun stuff out of the equation... things like balloon busting, Toilet Paper cutting, flour bombing, etc.   



David Pitcairn
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#19 Posted: 10/15/2010 01:25:29

Jeffrey,

This is hard to describe with few words other than to say "Friends" so sorry in advance for the excessively long post.

Having just attended Blakesburg, Brodhead and Galesburg (stearman flyin) for the first time, I will take a crack at answering your question from a newbie viewpoint.  I have also attended local flyins for a few years so can contrast with them.

For the local flyins I can get to easily, I so see no reason to spend the night since very few others do either  I just look at the planes, visit a little and leave and since one and two day flyins mainly attract local people, I am already friends with a number of them and see them on non-flyin days also.  We also often bug each other to go and will fly enmass to the flyin, which is 80% of the fun for me.  The most successful ones in my opinion are the one day events because everyone shows up the same day.  I view two day events as really one day events and probably always will.  Also, I can't justify flying very far to even a two day event, at least not until I am retired.  To even consider going long distances to an overnight event, it needs to be at least 3 days minimum.  Imagine flying 5 days to and 5 days back and only staying for a day and a half.  I did it once due to weather and it was no fun.  Speaking of weather, when an event is 4 or 5 days long, you are bound to have some good flying days.  And if you get held up getting there by a day or so, you have not missed the event.  Then try to get family members to fly all that way for a day or two of looking at airplanes.  Not likely to happen.

Next point, many of us go to OSH every year and to add Blakesburg and or Brodhead is a lot of vacation time used up.  Another event would have to steal from those two events, which is unlikely since they are so close geographically and time wise, people go from one to the other before flying home.  I planned to just go to Blakesburg but after the 15 hours in headwinds to get there, was not excited to go straight home so I, ended up going to Galesburg and Brodhead also since it was convenient.  Luckily my boss likes old airplanes so I still have a job :-)

I think another competing multi-day event will just make all three events worse since there will be too many options. "which event do I attend this year?"

Like you realize, having a lot of antiques is an attraction, one that got me to attend Blakesburg.  I found the reason people go back is to see the friends they made on previous trips.  It only takes one day to see the planes, especially when most of the planes are the same each year.  It takes multiple days to visit with friends and friends are necessary for a fun overnight experience.  An analogy would be asking a stranger on a date because she is pretty, and going on the second date because she is fun to be with.

Regarding your question about  big cities.  If the event is easy to get to for the majority going, people will fly in for one day.  The out of the way events ensure that people will only come if they are going to stay for multiple days.  I noticed that a greater percentage of people came in for the day at Brodhead compared to Blakesburg and suspect that is due to the closeness of the event to the Chicago area.

Regarding activities for your event, I think keep them low key.  I really like how Galesburg is run and have made great friends there such that even if I don't have a Stearman,  I may just go to the event anyway.  While most of us could care less about seeing 100 Stearmans, that event has fun activities to go along with the great people, which makes the week go by really fast and keeps everyone in the air.  They do aerobatic competitions, formation flying, lunch fly-outs, buddy rides, flower bombing etc etc. however to really participate in all that, especially if it was a grueling trip to get there, requires at least a 3 or 4 day event, unless of course it is tacked onto another nearby flyin that combined makes for a longer trip.

As you can see, the main theme is friends so while pretty girls on golf carts is welcoming and creates a good first impression, unless they are airplane crazy and have similar interests, they will not get people to return.  So maybe base the activites around themes that will interest the whole family and help people get to know each other so they will become friends and come back for a yearly reunion.  How about a campfire, smores and games that get people talking to each other.  Family friendly and fun for all.

Good Luck and I hope I did not mislead you too much.

David