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Airport commission: Bringing barnstormers back to Brainerd

Recreational pilot Mike Peterson poses for a photo Thursday in a vintage pilot’s costume. Peterson is helping bring the American Barnstormers Tour to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport in 2018. The tour includes vintage airplanes, period costumes and other historic props. Spenser Bickett / Brainerd Dispatch

A blast from the past will be landing at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport in 2018.

Thursday, the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport commission learned the American Barnstormers Tour will be coming to Brainerd in July 2018. The tour last landed in Brainerd in 2012.

Recreational pilot Mike Peterson, dressed up in a throwback pilot's outfit complete with leather jacket, silk scarf, goggles and leather cap, told the commission about the opportunity. The tour includes vintage airplanes, period costumes, historical information about the airplanes and other vintage props.

The tour has been on hiatus since 2012, Peterson said, and is getting back in the air July 5-29, 2018, throughout the Midwest. The tour stops in Brainerd July 15-17, 2018, in conjunction with an airport open house.

The tour is an opportunity for the airport to do community outreach, Peterson said, and a chance for the public airport to give back to the public. The tour is a chance to market the airport and to show people everything the airport does. Car shows, ice fishing contests and craft shows can be anywhere, he said, but only the airport can host the vintage airplane tour.

"We're in a unique position to do something for our community that can't be done by anybody else at any other place," Peterson said.

The tour doesn't typically visit the same city twice, Peterson said, but the tour is returning to Brainerd because of the outstanding turnout from the 2012 event. The previous event drew more attendees than tour stops in Fargo, N.D., and Eau Claire, Wis., he said.

"This community embraced the tour," Peterson said.

As soon as airport director Steve Wright joined the airport, everyone he spoke to asked him when the barnstormers tour was returning, he said.

"It seems like that is their connection and sometimes that is their only connection to this airport," Wright said. "It really does help get public interacting with the airport quite a bit."

The 2018 tour will feature a minimum of 10 airplanes, Peterson said. Instead of a variety of makes and manufacturers, the airplanes will all be different years and models of Travel Air airplanes.

"Travel Air was sort of the Cadillac biplane of the '20s and '30s," Peterson said.

For $80, people can take a ride in the open cockpit of one of the vintage airplanes, Peterson said. There will be five airplanes giving rides, as opposed to just three airplanes in 2012. This will hopefully alleviate the long lines and wait times for rides from the 2012 tour, he said.

One pilot with a 1932 Travel Air airplane competes in aerobatic competitions, Peterson said. This pilot will put on a brief demonstration Sunday, July 15, he said.

"That's a pretty special thing, to see an 85-year-old airplane doing aerobatics," Peterson said. "That's kind of cool."

In 2012, it cost about $11,000 to bring the tour to the airport, Peterson said. Because of previous experience putting on the tour, it's possible to cut some costs and bring the tour in for about $10,000 in 2018, he said.

The barnstormer appearance fee is $4,000, which Peterson asked the commission to fund. Donations and private sponsorships will cover the remaining costs, he said. Brainerd Community Action was enlisted to serve as the fiscal agent for donations.

The commission unanimously approved a motion to cover the $4,000 appearance fee and to pay the $2,000 down payment to secure the tour. The appearance fee could come out of the 2018 marketing budget, Wright said.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has a large annual expo, commission member Trudi Jacobson said. The airport is trying to bring the expo to Brainerd in the coming years, she said, and hosting the barnstormers tour shows the AOPA Brainerd can handle a large event.

In other business, the commission:

Welcomed new commission member Paul Thiede to the commission. Thiede, a Crow Wing County commissioner, is switching places with Rachel Reabe Nystrom as the Crow Wing County Board's representative on the commission. Commission President Don Jacobson thanked Nystrom for her years of service to the commission.

2018 American Barnstormers Tour dates

July 5-7, Jefferson City, Mo.

July 8-10, Ames, Iowa,

July 12-14, Watertown, S.D.,

July 15-17, Brainerd,

July 19-21, Marshfield, Wis.,

July 22-29, Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture show, Oshkosh, Wis.

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

 
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