The public is invited to take a look behind the fence during an open house at the Richard I. Bong Airport in Superior on June 12.
The free event, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., includes food, yard games, displays, live music, classic cars and free Young Eagle flights, weather permitting.
It’s a party, fundraiser and recruitment drive rolled into one, as well as a throwback to another time.
“Forty years ago, kids would come out and they’d hang out at the airport and they’d have airplanes for airplane rides, or they would wash, service and clean the flying services airplanes for an hour of flight lessons. Kids can’t do that anymore,” said Alan White with the Duluth-Superior chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Fences have gone up around airports, making it harder for people interested in aviation to connect, said Tom Betts with the EAA.
“We’re trying to open it up,” he said. “Come see and we’ll show you how to get involved.”
The Richard I. Bong Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol and Commemorative Air Force Lake Superior Squadron will also be taking part in the open house. Private owners may give the public a peek at their planes as well.
“We’re hoping to get all the hangar doors open,” said DeWayne Tomasek with the Commemorative Air Force.
When the nonprofit moved to Superior three years ago, it brought along a number of restoration projects. The World War II-era PBY Catalina parked by the airport fence is being prepped as a static display. A second PBY is being restored inside the hangar, piece by piece, to return to the sky.
“I want to see her fly again,” Squadron Commander Bill McMahan said.
He discussed the work being done on the plane and its significance as an all-around aircraft.
“The PBY had such an important back-burner role in the war (World War II),” McMahan said, from hunting subs and dropping torpedoes to search and rescue missions.
A Stinson L-5 is also being restored in the hangar. The U.S. Marines medivac plane, which served in the Korean War, came to the chapter in boxes and could be airborne again as early as this year. Tomasek recalled the day a Korean War veteran visited the hangar and identified the plane by its number, 04013. The veteran had been flown to safety in that exact plane when he was wounded during the war.
“Everything we have here has a story,” Tomasek said.
The June 12 event is also a chance for members of each nonprofit to share their story, make connections and try their wings. The CAF has been hosting Saturday workdays throughout the pandemic, working in small groups to maintain COVID-19 protocol. For members of the EAA, this is the first big event they've been able to hold since fall 2019.
White's looking forward to sharing his love of aviation with the community, and hopefully sparking some aviation dreams with the Young Eagles flights.