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Leon Basler Reunited with First Airplane He Flew

Posted in Members | September 15, 2014

Leon Basler has been piloting since the age of 14. His interest in flying has paved the way for a multitude of opportunities and jobs over the years, from his service in the Air Force to work as a corporate pilot. Throughout his career he has owned several planes, most of which have come and gone. But these days only one particular plane remains in his possession – a 1946 Aeronca Champ 7AC. And it just so happens the plane he owns today is the very plane he first flew in as a teenager.

Leon was raised in historical Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, a small town 60 miles south of St. Louis and located along the west bank of the Mississippi River. Having a fascination with flying as far back as he can remember, Leon lived only a couple of miles away from a neighboring farm that contained an airstrip and hangar. “I loved chasing after planes as a kid,” Leon said. “It didn’t matter what I was doing – whenever a plane flew overhead I stopped whatever I was in the middle of, jumped on my bike, and followed it to the airstrip.”

Leon’s curiosity led to a friendship, both personal and professional, with the operator of the farm, a man in his 30s named Louis Sexauer. Louis, who was known by others as Louie, soon took Leon under his wing and began teaching him the mechanics of flight and the various functions of the plane.

Where most kids his age were learning to drive cars, Leon was substituting his bike for planes and learning to fly with Louie at the helm, serving as Leon’s instructor and taking him up in the air in his 1946 Aeronca Champ. Instruction from Sexauer was conducted in an informal and non-conventional fashion. Leon learned how to become a pilot by receiving flight lessons whenever Sexauer was able to fit it into his schedule.

“I got over to the airstrip as often as I could,” Leon said. “Some days Louie was too busy working on the farm to take me up, other days we only had enough time to fly for a few minutes. And then there were days where we were able to complete a full hour in the air.”

In exchange for the lessons, Leon helped with work around Louie’s farm, which included haying, maintaining the airstrip and washing and polishing Louie’s 1946 Aeronca Champ.

The instruction continued into Leon’s senior year of high school. When Leon became competent enough for solo flight, Louie and Leon flew to the Sparta Regional Airport in Illinois, located just across the Mississippi River. Louie spoke to a flight examiner, and told him he had been working with Leon. He assured the examiner that Leon’s skill level met the standards required to receive a solo endorsement. Based on Louie’s guarantee, the examiner gave Leon a pre-solo and flight examination to demonstrate his abilities and knowledge, which he passed.

All because of Louie’s generosity and friendship, Leon was able to receive his certification at such a young age. “Louie was very courteous and giving with his time. He never asked for anything in return, he was just happy to pass along his knowledge and love for flight with someone who shared the same passion,” Leon said.

After high school Leon enlisted in the Air Force. He remained in touch with Louie and learned years later that he sold the plane Leon first learned to fly in. It was the early 1970s, a time where Leon was just beginning his career as a pilot.

More than three decades later, Leon began to wonder about the current state of the plane, and whether it was still operational. In the early 2000s, Leon was transitioning to a move to Bismarck, North Dakota, and decided to find out who owned the plane, more than thirty years after last flying it.

“I always wondered where the plane was,” Leon said. “I wanted to find out who had it. So I was able to track down the tail number through the FAA Registry, and learned it was sold to a pilot who lived in Farmington, Missouri, about 20 miles west of Ste. Genevieve.”

The owner of the plane was Mick Coleman. Leon phoned him and learned Mick had restored it in the late 1970s. Leon asked if he was willing to sell the plane, but Mick resisted, telling Leon the plane wasn’t one he was willing to part with it.

The calls continued off and on for several years. One call got Leon in touch with Mick’s brother, and during the conversation Leon brought up the possibility of selling the plane. Mick’s brother said Mick probably wouldn’t sell, but he took Leon’s information and told Leon he would pass it along to his brother.

Not long after that call, Leon received a call from Mick, asking if he was still interested in buying the aircraft. Before agreeing, Leon wanted to see what condition the plane was in. So he arranged for a friend who lived in Missouri to travel to Farmington in order to see it firsthand.

Leon learned from his friend that while the plane had been restored, one critical element had been neglected – the plane was no longer in one piece. He decided to take a chance and see it for himself. With a borrowed trailer from Kent Pietsch, Leon traveled from North Dakota to Missouri, all the while unsettled about the overall condition of the aircraft that had been stored away and virtually left alone for more than three decades.

But when he showed up and laid his eyes on the plane for the first time in more than three decades, he was surprised by what he saw. “I couldn’t believe how good its overall condition was after sitting over that period of time. Other than a little dust, it was reasonably well represented for the amount of time it sat,” Leon said.

Leon purchased the plane and brought it to its new home in North Dakota. For the next year he worked to reassemble the plane with the professional assistance of Gary Johnson and the crew of Pietsch Aircraft and Restoration in Minot.

And now, the plane that Leon learned to fly in nearly fifty years earlier is back in his hands. These days, every time Leon steps into his plane, it recalls those early days of life in Missouri, chasing planes on his bike and eventually following his dream of becoming a pilot.

“Each flight brings back the memories of learning to fly as a young kid and the lifelong relationship with the person that made it happen, Louie Sexauer,” Leon said.

(Story by Brian L. Gray)

2015 AAA/APM Fly-in Announcement

Posted in News | September 08, 2014

Well the 2014 AAA/APM Fly-in will certainly go down as one of our most memorable events, though more likely in an infamous sort of way than due to record attendance.

We had a very challenging week with weather both here and across the country that cut our attendance figures by 30-35% over our 2013 record attendance. Still, even with all the challenges we faced, (be it via mother nature or human nature) we had a safe event. Perhaps the highlight of the event was the mass exodus on Sunday afternoon when we were at last able to open up 700 ft of the runway for departures. Our parking and flightline crew did a masterful job of safely launching 83 aircraft in an hour (50+ in the first half hour) following a formula of light aircraft first, then working up to the heavier aircraft. Everything from Cubs to the Howards & C-195s made it out safely using that method.

While it can (and will) be said that the 2014 AAA/APM Fly-in may not have been one of our best, we’ve already received a great amount of positive feedback and even a very well done report on AOPA Live.

So with the challenges of the past week behind us, it’s time to look ahead. The Board of Directors of both the Antique Airplane Association (AAA) & Air Power Museum (APM) would like to announce the dates for the 2015 AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in, September 2nd – 7th, 2015.

Start making plans!

Roll Call Video of the 2014 Blakesburg Fly-In

Posted in Members | September 08, 2014

Jim Savage has once again created a Roll Call Video from Friday morning at the 2014 Fly-In.

Steve Wittman Cub To Fly Again

Posted in Members | September 08, 2014

Nathan Rounds writes: The Steve Wittman Cub should fly again this week wx permitting. This is the second total rebuild in 5 years for this airplane by Nostalgic Aircraft Restorations. It was destroyed two years ago in a dust devil at our place. It had 55 hours on it since the previous restoration.

Work Weekend and Mowing Party Report

Posted in News | August 26, 2014

Though Antique Airfield and surrounding areas were under a flash flood warning due the reported 3+ inches of rain received since around 4:30 Saturday morning, the annual mowing party went on (though delayed a few hours).

Along with that, a major step forward was taken in work on the APM Restoration Center, the new ceiling was installed. Then early Sunday our new wind tee arrived and was installed. Built by well known Ercoupe builder/pilots Jack Arthur & Mark Kokstis, it will actually be marked as a memorial to our favorite Ercoupe pilot Mike "Cowboy" Abrahams (Jack's brother-in-law).

"THANKS" to a loyal group of volunteers, much of the necessary work to get Antique Airfield ready for the AAA/APM Invitational Fly-in was accomplished. And while there’s still more to do, things are looking good and on schedule for the start of the event this coming Wednesday.

The first piece of steel goes up on the ceiling of the APM Restoration Center Friday evening about 6pm

By dark, almost half the ceiling steel had been installed (from the left, APM Director Steve Adkisson, Larry Phelps, Brian West, Ben Taylor, Steve Hendryx & Scott Christiansen)

Time for a break at the end of a long day.

Saturday morning work resumed on the APM Restoration Center ceiling and by noon that project was completed (from the L, APM Director Steve Adkisson, Scott Christiansen, Larry Phelps, Steve Hendryx & Ken Marth

Even though there was water standing in lots of places on the airport the mowers were fired up and began the business of getting IA27 mowed. Ben Taylor gets John Lossner checked out on the Bad Boy.

Lunch time

APM director Aaron Klugherz and APM President Mike Gretz

Tim Verhoeven knocks down the big stuff with the Dexta and brush cutter.

No matter if behind an old fashioned push mower or a weed eater, Brian West was seen all over the airport.

While Holly Vanorny and Jessica Fuller finish the repainting of the Pilot’s Pub sign, APM Directors Luke Pieper, Mark Lancaster along with Ryan Fritz string new lights on the Pilot's Pub "Angel"

APM Director Mike Lossner flying low on the Bad Boy

Was it wet you say? Ryan & Eric Fritz rescuing a stuck mower.

APM Directors Luke Pieper and Steve Black power washing the floor in the APM Restoration Center in preparations for making it the "Runway Cinema" during the fly-in.

Mark Kokstis & Jack Arthur, the builders of our new wind tee.

Toby Hanson, Steve Adkisson, Tim Verhoeven, Ben Taylor, Mark Kokstis & Jack Arthur, the crew that unloaded and mounted the new wind tee.

The new wind tee will be marked as a memorial to our favorite Ercoupe pilot, Mike "Cowboy" Abrahams.

Once again this year, AAA Lifetime member Ryan Lihs (via his company Red Line Aviation), stepped forward to have Antique Airfield sprayed for bugs, making our fly-in attendees stay more enjoyable. AAA lifetime member Dallas Grimm flew the Air Tractor down from Pender, NE and did the application.

Dallas & the Air Tractor get air born and ....

Go to work!

Member Spot Trackers on the Way to Blakesburg

Posted in Members | August 25, 2014

Here are a couple of Spot tracker links that members have shared. Follow along on the trip to Blakesburg over the next few days.

Kevin Brown and Jerry Impellezzeri

Russell Williams - Ryan SC-W

2014 Fly-In Pre-Registration Now Closed

Posted in News | August 25, 2014

Pre-registration for the 2014 Fly-In is now closed. If you didn't pre-register, don't worry, you can still attend the fly-in, you'll just have to register on-site when you arrive.

Here's the latest pre-registrations. We look forward to seeing everybody at Antique Airfield in just a few days!

1947 Stinson 108-3 NC638C
Jody Jones
Stilwell, OK
(G.R. Dennis Price photo)
1991 Cygnet SF-2A N4215G
Mike Hargrave
Marshalltown, IA
(Brent Taylor photo)
1941 Stearman A75N1 N44JP
Charles Parrish
Tullahoma, TN
1944 Stinson AT-19 N60058
Tom Bullion
Memphis, TN
(Jim Koepnick photo)
1947 Cessna 120 N3114N
Shane Vande Voort
Pella, IA
(Megan Vande Voort photo)

Fly-In Pre-Registration Ends on Sunday

Posted in News | August 21, 2014

Online fly-in pre-registration ends on Sunday 2014 Fly-In. If you're planning to attend and haven't yet pre-registered, you can save yourself time at the airfield upon arrival by pre-registering online.

1937 Waco YKS-7 N17457
John Cournoyer
Elsinore, MO
Flown by Scott Johansson
1947 Luscombe 8E N2587K
Michael May
Axtell, NE
1934 Waco YKC NS14137
Dave & Jeanne Allen
Elbert, CO
(Gilles Auliard photo)
1929 Alexander Eaglerock A-2 NC1121P
Glen Cruz/Carl Williams
San Diego, CA
(G.R. Dennis Price photo)
1946 Beech D18S N127ML
Justin Niemyjski
Racine, WI
(Brent Taylor photo)
1935 Monocoupe 90A NC11767
Trevor Niemyjski
Racine, WI
(Nigel Hitchman photo)

Volunteer Work Weekend #3 at Antique Airfield

Posted in News | August 19, 2014

Even with the weather being less than ideal (low ceilings, fog, mist & rain), there was a lot happening at Antique Airfield over the weekend and a lot of items got checked off of Fly-in Chairman Brent Taylor's "to do" list.

Saturday's crew (Dave Coop, Dan Quinn, Luke Pieper, Jeff Claypool, Jessica Fuller, Holly Vanorny, Sydney Lundberg, Mark & Gloria Robotti, Mark & Teri Lancaster, Ben, Marcy & Brent Taylor) got the S Showerhouse activated, the Pilot's Pub cleaned and setup along with giving the Pub sign a facelift, the Hy-Vee Mess Hall cleaned and floor painted, the fuel truck serviced and running, new locks on many of the buildings and much more!

Sunday saw Ben & Brent Taylor helping Rick Gritters and Dan Quinn with projects in the Hy-Vee Mess Hall, the Pilot’s Pub, the APM Restoration Center and on the APM's Great Lakes.

But there's still much to do! Hope to see many of our loyal volunteers this coming weekend for the Annual Mowing Party and the final push to have Antique Airfield ready for the start of the fly-in on Wednesday August 27th!

Dan & Luke work on getting the south showerhouse up and running.

Sydney & Holly put their artistic talents to work on re-painting Pilot’s Pub sign.

Lunch time!

Not certain what Mark and Dave are doing but it looks akin to seeing how many people you can stuff in VW...

...Or it could have something to do with getting the booths setup in the Pilot's Pub.

Jesse said something about, "Same old thing every day....clean up the bird cage"?

Jeff works his magic on the fuel truck, to bring it out of hibernation.

Babysitting the GeeBee QED

Posted in Members | August 19, 2014

Addison Pemberton had an unusual guest at his hangar at Felts Field, Spokane, WA. Addison says:

We have had a pleasure of baby sitting the QED in our storage hanger for the last 2 weeks in prep for the AOPA event at Felts Field this past week end. The airplane is magnificent and always a shocker when we walk into the hanger. Here Jay and I show the size of the monster.