Fly-In set for Saturday, Sunday

Spectators look over two of the attractions at the 2012 Milaca Fly-In. At left is a 1943 Stearman, flown in by Ray Johnson of Buffalo. At right is a 1998 Aviat Husky A1B seaplane owned by W. Greiner. It was flown in from Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

Spectators look over two of the attractions at the 2012 Milaca Fly-In. At left is a 1943 Stearman, flown in by Ray Johnson of Buffalo. At right is a 1998 Aviat Husky A1B seaplane owned by W. Greiner. It was flown in from Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

Milaca Airport patrons and guests expect anywhere from 100 to 150 airplanes to land between next Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10-11, during the annual Fly-In.

In its 45th year, the Fly-In attracts planes big and small, reconstructed or built by hand, old and new. The two-day event offers camping and a hearty breakfast served Sunday morning by the Milaca American Legion. Airport Commissioner Ken Muller said it’s an event you won’t want to miss.

“There are some people who fly in and stay over night,” Muller said. “They camp out under the wings.”

In the past, Muller said the Fly-In has included a hot-air balloon ride with the Prisoners of War, Missing in Action balloon. That event has been canceled several times during the past few years due to weather concerns.

“We do have a really good turn out when the weather’s been nice,” Muller said.

Winsted resident Glen Weible, a retired air-traffic controller, volunteers his time during the Fly-In to help keep the planes coordinated. Weible also teaches local Boy Scout volunteers how to park the aircraft. His directions can be heard by all Fly-In participants through a speaker system for a broader experience of the event.

“It really helps with the safety and coordination,” Muller said.

Greg Herrick, owner of Golden Wings Flying Museum in Blaine, has been known to make an appearance at the Milaca Fly-In as well. His 1927 Ford tri-motor, flown by Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and other famous pilots, has been featured in the past.

“He knows about it, and he’ll fly in unannounced sometimes,” Muller said.

From biplanes to antique replica aircraft to open cockpit, to Cessnas, the Milaca Fly-In often highlights the entire spectrum of aviation history.

“It’s a whole variation of planes from World War II on up,” Muller said. “The public is welcome to come see the planes we have. There is an amazing amount of pilots out there who have built or restored their own planes.”

One aspect that has made the Milaca Fly-In so successful all these years is the rather unique grass runway the airport offers. Sometimes used for training professional and military pilots, the natural runway is certainly a feature that attracts aviation fans near and far.

“Most of the pilots swear it’s the best one in Minnesota,” Muller said.

If piloting, flying or the mechanics of aviation piques one’s interest, the Fly-In is a great way to see how far that curiosity goes. Muller, who grew up with brothers who are pilots and have their own planes, said he was inspired by a prominent Milaca man to take his interest one step further.

“I didn’t really get the bug until Pete Allen got his pilot’s license when he was 60,” he said. “So, I thought that was something I could do, too. I got my pilot’s license at 65.”

Muller enjoys taking his wife and friends flying and talking shop with the dozens of other pilots who keep their aircraft in the hangars they lease from the city.

Those hangars will be opened during the Fly-In this weekend for attendees to check out some of the local planes as well as those that come for the annual event.

A potluck dinner will be served at 5 p.m. Saturday evening with the Legion’s flag retirement ceremony following at 6 p.m. On Sunday morning, breakfast is $7 for adults, $4 for children 12 years and younger and free for children ages 3 and younger.

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