One of the L-29s at Anoka-Blaine belongs to Dan Sullivan, who is less a collector than a man with a keen interest in machines that are fun to fly. His office, a well-appointed mezzanine above his hangar floor, overlooks two Russian trainers, a MiG-17, a Piper Seneca, and a Super Cub with tundra tires. “I’m in the medical device business, make catheters and things,” he says. “Do something nice for people, make money, waste it on jet fuel.”
Sullivan learned how to fly in college and stayed with it through the years. Like most of the warbird owners here, he was never a military pilot. “I learned in the ’90s they were selling Soviet airplanes. Bought an L-29. Someone taught me to fly it. Went down to a convention and someone showed me an L-39.” He shrugs happily.
“For the MiG-17, I brought a major over from the Polish air force to restore it to perfect specs. If they’d let me buy an F-18 Hornet and I had the dough, I’d buy it.” In 1998 he took his L-39 down to Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Florida and flew with some Navy pilots, who reciprocated by letting him fly the fighter.
Airports are small societies, and it’s only natural that at times some unease arises between those with Russian jets and Mitchell bombers and those with an unfinished Pietenpol in a garage. Nor is wealth the only difference among the various tribes on this field. Warbirders are mainly metal guys, homebuilders mainly fiberglass. People immersed in the varnishes and stains and fabrics of an earlier era don’t like the itchy fibers. Homebuilders prefer sculpting seamless forms from glass to cranking metal on an English wheel. Hardly anyone from the warbird and Golden Age tribes appears in the roster of EAA chapter 237, although there is the rare crossover—someone who built a Kitfox, say, but flies a T-6. These days such stuff doesn’t seem to matter much, nor does what a person flies, or how many airplanes are in somebody’s hangar. They are all passengers aboard the time machine known as Anoka County-Blaine Airport, where all the pilots are above average, and all the airplanes are good-looking.
Sidebar: Fun Facts, Anoka County-Blaine Airport
Anoka’s traditional Discover Aviation Days weekend celebration will differ this year, primarily due to a lack of funding after DAD 2004 was weathered out. All are invited to Blaine Aviation Weekend, May 20–22, which will kick off Friday evening with a hangar party at the Golden Wings Museum, hosted by the Lindbergh Foundation, with Burt Rutan of SpaceShipOne fame as the featured speaker and Erik Lindbergh as master of ceremonies. The weekend includes a fly-in, warbird roundup, and pancake breakfast at the American Wings Air Museum. Visit discoveraviationdays.org.