Anoka County-Blaine Airport hosts Discover Aviation Days

Large crowds came out to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport June 1-2 to discover or reminisce about airplanes, both historical and contemporary.

The “Miss Mitchell” B-25 bomber completed over 130 missions in North Africa and Italy without suffering any casualties during World War II.
The “Miss Mitchell” B-25 bomber completed over 130 missions in North Africa and Italy without suffering any casualties during World War II.

Discover Aviation Days featured general, corporate, experimental, home-built, World War II fighters, trainers and bombers along with vintage and modern military aircraft. Fly-overs took place throughout the day, including a couple of passes by a T-6 Thunder Squadron.

The event was just as fascinating away from the planes inside the education tent where World War II veterans such as Wayne G. Johnson of Beaver Bay, Owen Mobley of St. Croix Falls, Wis., and Betty Strohfus of Faribault shared their stories or sold their books.

Johnson was part of the Flying Tigers fighter plane squadron that protected bomber planes on missions to bomb Japanese strongholds in China. The Flying Tigers were American volunteers who assisted the Chinese Air Force during World War II. Johnson enlisted in the Army Air Corps Dec. 8, 1941 — just one day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — and was in the service until 1946. He was in China from 1944 to 1945. He is a member of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.

Mobley was an aircraft mechanic for United Airlines when World War II started, He used these skills to assist the military air fleet during the Aleutian Islands campaign and later during the advance from France to Germany late in the war. He was part of the Third U.S. Army and had the privilege of meeting Gen. George Patton and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.

Strohfus was part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). With there being a limited number of male pilots and with all of them needed in combat, these women trained the men and ferried planes from factories to bases. There were only 1,074 WASPs. Strohfus said some of the men were skeptical when they saw her sitting in the pilot’s seat during the initial training flight, but she quickly gained their respect and made a few of them queasy after she showed what she was capable of. She was first based at the Laredo Army Air Field in Texas and then Las Vegas. She served from August 1942 through December 1944.

Astronaut Curt Brown was one of the featured speakers in the education tent. He is a veteran of six space flights and has many other duties for NASA since becoming an astronaut in 1988.

An Edgley Optica was one of the unique planes on display at Discover Aviation Days in Blaine. The plane was designed by British man John Edgley to give a cheaper observation alternative to helicopters. Photos by Eric Hagen Anoka County Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol members (listed in alphabetical order) Tyler Chouinard, John Fladebo, Autumn Handke and Caleb Molitor raised the United States flag Saturday morning. Joe Wyant of St. Francis checks out the gun on this Huey helicopter with his sons Chandler, 10, and (right) Blake, 9. This Cirrus plane was one of many that flew over the Anoka County-Blaine Airport during Discover Aviation Days June 1-2. Max Carbaugh, 4, Coon Rapids plays with his new toy fighter jet. James Rasmussen (left) of East Bethel explains to Eric and Joe Musolf of Eagan how German 14- and 15-year-olds were trained to fire these heavy 88-milimeter artillery shells in World War II. Once they turned 16, they had to join the military. Rasmussen was in the 100th bomb group based in England from December 1944 until the war ended. Left to right: Jay Washburn and Tucker Nygaard, 3, of Blaine and Abrielle Mann, almost 9, and Baron Mann, 9, of Anoka look inside the bomber bay of the “Miss Mitchell” B-25 bomber that flew during World War II. The “Miss Mitchell” B-25 bomber completed over 130 missions in North Africa and Italy without suffering any casualties during World War II. Greg Peters of Blaine looks at a World War II-era biplane. Steve Shumaker and others cleaned this Stinson model plane, which is American Airlines’ oldest surviving airliner. Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Bo Azfink of Coon Rapids directs this T-6 warbird to the runway for take-off. Sylvia, 7, and Wyatt, 9, Miller of Blaine. Noah Desrosiers, 9, of Roseville inside Huey helicopter. The Anoka County Composite Squadron's Civil Air Patrol presenting the colors. David and his son Brody Pett and wife Jessica (not pictured) check out this aircraft at Discover Aviation Days. Wayne G. Johnso of Beaver Bay (right) describes to Mike Montag of Stillwater where he had some of his missions in China with the Flying Tigers. The maps were made of silk because they were easier to fold to put in pockets and they held up better to sweat than paper did. T-6 warbird World War II era planes did a couple of fly-overs each day. Multiple planes on display inside the Golden Wings Museum Betty Strohfus trained male pilots and ferried planes during World War II as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots organization.
<
>
James Rasmussen (left) of East Bethel explains to Eric and Joe Musolf of Eagan how German 14- and 15-year-olds were trained to fire these heavy 88-milimeter artillery shells in World War II. Once they turned 16, they had to join the military. Rasmussen was in the 100th bomb group based in England from December 1944 until the war ended.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]