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Wings of the North Air Mail Newsletter Header
Wings of the North Air Mail Newsletter Header

Wings of the North AirExpo21 Recap

Sep 4, 2021 | Wings Quarterly

7500 tickets sold for Wings of the North AirExpo21
7500 tickets sold for Wings of the North AirExpo21

Presidents Message

Thank you to all our fans. The Wings of the North AirExpo21 was a huge success to put it mildly! Public turnout for the show was at an all-time high, and we saw many happy faces walking among the planes and seeing them as they flew by overhead. The C-130 from Minnesota’s 133rd Airlift Wing was a big hit as were the many other warbirds from our partner museums that graced the skies over Flying Cloud. Our crew made sure the planes were flying throughout the day and provided you up close and personal access to all the aircraft.

Enjoying the show from one of the best views on the field
Enjoying the show from one of the best views on the field

We saw many of you bringing your kids and grandkids to talk with our distinguished veteran heroes and hope you enjoyed hearing their stories. Follow this link to see some memorable photos of the weekend and mark your calendars for next year’s AirExpo22 scheduled for 23-24 July 2022 at Flying Cloud Airport.

Jack Larsen

Special Thanks to the Sponsors, Partners, and Vendors

The BT 15 enjoying its place in the awesome Jet Linx hanger
The BT 15 enjoying its place in the awesome Jet Linx hanger

Much gratitude to all of our sponsors and supporters, including Jet Linx, for allowing us to use their massive hangar for our VIPs, company displays, and the presentation of our nearly ready BT-15.

We also want to thank all of our other sponsors:

Thomson Reuters

Premier Jet Center

Airport Foundation

American Legion Chanhassen Post 580

Lastly, we give special appreciation to all our vendors and partners, including Suburban Waste Services, MAC, the team in the FMC Control Tower, Luke Carrico announcing, The Packaging Lab, and the many EMTs, Sea Cadets, and Civil Air Patrol who supported us at AirExpo21.

Wings of the North AirExpo21 Volunteers

Our biggest heart-felt thanks to over 200 Volunteers of AirExpo21, which made for one of the best turnouts ever. Not only did they show up, but they brought their enthusiasm and willingness to sign-up and fill in for jobs wherever needed. During the two days of AirExpo21, there were specific times in which the situation was very fluid despite all the upfront planning and organization; “…fun; but in an organized, chaotic sort of way.” Without the level of excitement and dedication of our volunteers, it would have been a greater challenge to shift, and sometimes swap, the roles of our volunteers to go where they are needed the most, at any given point in time. The flexibility demonstrated by our volunteers helped our attendees have a great experience, and ultimately making AirExpo21 a great success.

One example, and some of you may have first-hand witness to this, was our parking. As we stated, we broke our overall attendance record this year. It also seemed most of the attendees started coming to AirExpo21 all at the same time on Saturday morning. With the overwhelming in-flow of cars at that time, Scott Gilman (one of our lead volunteers) stepped-up to take control of the situation. He was able to adapt, and subsequently opened an overflow parking area for the seemingly endless line-up of cars anxious to get into AirExpo21.

Much of the credit, and the ability to coordinate this, and other scenarios like it, goes to our lead volunteers. These individuals put in additional time on the two days of the event, as well as all of the hours and days before the show, and long after the crowds have left.

We’d like to give special thanks for these lead volunteers:

And to all of our volunteers, we simply cannot thank you enough.

Some of our flight line crew watch the Corsair taxi out during AirExpo21
Some of our flight line crew watch the Corsair taxi out during AirExpo21. Picture by John Chvatal.

Whether you made the lanes safe for pilots to move to and from the runway, or you helped a child select the right toy, ensuring the memory of AirExpo21 lives on in the mind of a future aviator. We are grateful to you in upholding our mission and never forgetting it was about the attendees, and the pilots who perform for them. We appreciate all your efforts, and the role you had, in making AirExpo21 one of the best and most successful to date.

We Need you – Come Join Us!

Are you interested in volunteering your time and talent doing something cool with like-minded aviation enthusiasts? As a WOTN Volunteer, you will be able to participate in several activities only our Volunteers can access.

Volunteer Brian Eidam checks on the TBM Avenger during AirExpo21.
Volunteer Brian Eidam checks on the TBM Avenger during AirExpo21. Photo by Pete Markham.

Volunteers are needed to work in a wide variety of jobs that can be tailored to your interests. We will match you up with a mentor who will show you the ropes.

The best reason to get involved; you’ll be joining our community of aviation buffs and have a great time and be appreciated for doing it.

We have availability for those who are interested in leadership positions, and we will be rolling out our volunteer recruiting efforts in the days to come. For those of you who volunteered, we’d love to have you back. For those of you who are interested in joining a team of volunteers, please contact Brande Searson ([email protected]) for more information.

Aviation Merit Badge Classes in conjunction with Air Expo 2021

Northern Star Scouting Badge earned at Wings of the North AirExpo

This year we were able to help 44 scouts earn their Aviation Merit Badges during Air Expo 2021 under the able guidance of Matt Markham, Jessi King-Markham, and Dmitri Markham; scout leaders with the Northern Star Scouting of Minnesota. The scouts and their families learned all about the aviation industry and had a great time enjoying the airshow the show. 

“Thank you both for your continued support of this program! I ran a few numbers, and the Merit Badge Day at the AirExpo has been responsible for 208 Scouts earning the Aviation Merit Badge since 2017. What I think is possibly more impressive, is that 40% of the Aviation Merit Badges earned in Northern Star Scouting since 2017 have been a result of the courses offered at the AirExpo. I truly appreciate the role that the museum has had in exposing Scouts to wonders of aviation.”Scout Liason – Ben Coder, Activities/STEM Director, Northern Star Scouting, BSA

Taking flight on an AT-6 Texan

By Danielle Hemmingsen

On July 24, 2021, I had the pleasure, once again, to have a booth at AirExpo21 exhibiting WWII Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) artifacts and information. In my booth, I teach the public the importance of the WASP and their contribution to the war effort during WWII.

Photo by Travis Hemmingsen
Corinne Nienstedt’s WASP Flight Suit

I have been reenacting as a WASP for a few years now but never had the opportunity to experience what it was like to be up in the air as they had. All that changed this year!

I got a chance introduction to Karl Knisley who pilots an AT-6 Texan, one of the many aircraft flown by the WASP and my personal favorite. Karl heard that I did historical reenactments as a WASP and had a dream to take flights in all the aircraft that the WASP trained with including my favorite, the AT-6 Texan.

He rearranged his passenger list to let me ride with him if I could be suited up and at the flight line by 3:30. The immediate excitement was unexplainable. Today my dream was coming true! This opportunity would allow me the chance to get to know the airplane’s characteristics and allow me to share a little more of what the WASP may have experienced with all the many people who stopped by my booth.

I decided this would be a fitting time to wear Corinne Nienstedt’s WASP flight suit that was on display in my booth and among my personal WASP collection. This would be the first time in over 70 years that this article of clothing has been in the air, much less in an AT-6.

Suited up; I was off to the flight line!

When I approached the airfield where Karl’s plane was parked along with the six other Texans, I was introduced to Karl’s son and other family members and friends.

While we waited for Karl to go through his ground flight-check prior to takeoff, I got an explanation of the different components on the outside of the AT-6 and what they did, how to get in and out of the plane, etc. I got the signal to take my spot in the seat behind Karl in the cockpit. The crew were so thoughtful to strap me into a period appropriate parachute, to give me the full WWII experience and look the part.

After Karl finished his preflight checklist, he then fired up the engine. What a beautiful sound that made, it was like music to my ears! The AT-6 Texan has been a favorite plane of mine since the first time I saw one fly overhead during my first Air Expo about 10 years ago.

As we were taxiing down the runway to the end of the line with the other AT-6 Texans, Karl informed me that he had also given Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strofhaus, a ride in his plane years ago. One of my heroes, Betty Wall was our Minnesota WASP native to Faribault, MN. All I could think of after learning this was what she must have been feeling during her early flights while training to serve her county.

Once given the signal from the control tower, we started down the runway. I watched the people and ground go by me faster and faster until suddenly, I felt the plane start to lift into the air and in no time, we were soaring up into the sky.

Danielle and the AT6 Texan flying in formation.  Photo by Andy Chow
Danielle and the AT6 Texan flying in formation. Photo by Andy Chow

Once airborne I thought to myself that this was what a WASP would have seen while in flight training or when ferrying an aircraft from one point to another. As we were flying over Flying Cloud Airport and Valleyfair, I was able to see the amusement park grounds with all the rides. After a few minutes we were flying in formation with the other AT-6 Texans! What a beautiful sight it was to see, especially from my seat at that moment! I started thinking about what those daring women must have felt like when flying with their fellow Women Airforce Service Pilots!

Danielle and the AT6 Texan flying above AirExpo21.  Photo by Andy Chow
Danielle and the AT6 Texan flying above AirExpo21. Photo by Andy Chow

A few passes over Flying Cloud, it was time to head home. Descending the skies back to earth is another amazing, and somewhat scary experience, as you lose altitude toward the ground. It almost feels like the ground wants to come up and swallow you. All my fear was for nothing. Karl made a perfect landing, touching down like silk.

This was an amazing experience that Karl and Air Expo were able to give to me! I want to thank them for making one of my dreams come true, taking a flight in my favorite plane while wearing my WASP flight suit.

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

By Douglas Ahmann

It was a hot and humid summer morning in Eden Prairie, and typical for a Wings of the North AirExpo. The first day of the event was crowded and little did we realize at that time the attendance for the day would break all previous records for the show. But then again, this was no typical Wings of the North AirExpo.

It was shortly after 10am when the announcer introduced the arrival of the A-10 Thunderbolt II. There were four of them from the Maryland and Indiana Air National Guard that flew formation over the AirExpo21. The two from the Maryland Air National Guard, one piloted by Aaron Berry and the other by Capt. Katherine Conrad, would land and stay static for the rest of the show, so attendees could get an up-close look at the military craft.

Wings of the North volunteer ushers two A-10s onto the ramp during AirExpo21.
Hot stuff! A Wings of the North volunteer ushers two A-10s onto the ramp during AirExpo21. Photo by Pete Markham.

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin-turbine, straight wing jet aircraft introduced by the United States Air Force in October 1977. Nicknamed “Warthog”, the craft itself was designed around a 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon. This Gatling-style cannon is extremely accurate and can fire up to 3,900 rounds per minute without complications. Additionally, the airframe was designed for durability with 1,200 lbs. of titanium armor which allows it to absorb damage and remain in the air during combat. In addition to its battle features, its ability to take-off and land from relatively short runways permits operations from airstrips close to front lines, making the A-10 a superior close air support craft.

Although it was known to have been an unwelcomed addition to many pilots in the Air Force, who favored speed and appearance, it would soon distinguish itself during its first use in combat. During the Gulf War in 1991, known as “Operation Desert Storm”, where the A-10s were responsible for destroying over 4,000 tanks, military vehicles, and artillery pieces. The A-10 also participated in other conflicts such as Grenada, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and against the Islamic State in the Middle East in 2014.

The A10 flying above AirExpo21.  Photo by James Griffith
The A10 above AirExpo21. Photo by James Griffith

It’s this last conflict that brings us to one of our pilots; Capt. Katherine Conrad, call sign “Slam”, was part of the first major deployment known as Operation Inherent Resolve, the successful campaign against the Islamic State led by the US.

Currently, there are nearly 11,000 pilots in the U.S. Air Force today. Approximately 700 of those (or about 6.5%) are women. Fewer than that, about 3% of them pilot fighter aircraft. Capt. Conrad is not only a hero, but a trailblazer. We were fortunate to have her at AirExpo21 for the first time. Just think of the impact she made to the young girls in the crowd as she stepped to her aircraft to prep for flight, knowing someday they’ll be an aviator just like Capt. Conrad.

As a member of the WOTN volunteer flight line, I was honored to have the opportunity to be part of the A-10s trip down the ramp to the taxiway as they prepared to depart from the show. I hope these pilots, especially Capt. Conrad, know the positive impact they made on the attendees, and how even the small “wing wave” good-bye added a special touch after they lifted off the runway and roared off into the sky.

Buzz poses with a future aviator at an upcoming Wings of the North AirExpo!
Buzz poses with a future aviator who someday may fly with us at an upcoming AirExpo!

Well, that’s a wrap; but before we go…

The first to arrive….is often the last to leave. See you July 23-24 in 2022!

Photographer Andy Chow captured the Minnesota ANG C-130 as it prepared to depart the AirExpo21.
WOTN Volunteer Photographer Andy Chow captured the Minnesota ANG C-130 as it prepared to depart the AirExpo21.

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