I say a field of dreams and it might make you think of a movie about a baseball diamond out in the corn fields of Iowa where ghosts from the past come to life to play a game they loved.
Well, in a way it is a bit like that, it is an airfield nestled between the rows of corn in Iowa where some time ago Bob Taylor must have heard a voice say "If you build it, they will come."
Antique Airfield, home of the Antique Airplane Association where every year on the week leading up to Labor Day people from all over the world will gather with their old flying machines of yesteryear. Labor Day seems appropriate because often keeping the old birds in the sky can be a labor of love. All planes are welcome but you better know how to land on grass. If you bring a new one you won't be in the front row, something has to be parked in the back. Some will tell of the years in the past when they came to the field, while others, it's there first time.
Photo by Gilles Auliard
They are from every walk of life, millionaires with planes worth more than some like myself will make in forty years. Back home they may run a billion dollar company but here on the field they are just another pilot. They don't look down their nose at us who can't rub two nickels together. We are all the same. They still enjoy the planes we pieced together with parts that former care takers left behind. We won't forget to thank them for saving the rare ones that take great cash flow to keep in the air.
Photo by Gilles Auliard
Photo by Dave Miller
Many will tell of there first ride, it may not have been that long ago and others like myself tell of being too young to remember the ride in a plane that mom saved pennies to help dad buy.
It does not matter if your plane is an open cockpit or has doors, they can be left open wide so that others can get a good look inside. You can walk away with no fear, everything will be the same as you left it when you get back to your pride and joy. We sit in the shade of wings chatting of a golden age, even though our lifestyle may not be the same, a hippie, a preacher or a transgender, there will be no judgment instead, a camaraderie of brothers and sisters that are aviators deep down inside.
Photo by Ted Goble
At night you can walk down the rows of planes with moonlight casting out the shadow of their image in the dark, it's as if you can see the ghost of the people that flew them years ago sitting in the seats. The night is not always quiet, up by the Pilots Pub between hangers one and two, a crowd will gather for laughter and song while guitars are strummed.
Photo by Brent Taylor
Camping in a tent by the plane there will be no sleeping in, at first light you will awaken to those gas powered alarm clocks. Big radial engines cracking off at dawn with their spit and sputter that make a Harley sound like a puttering moped. Some of them can make the ground shake as they go full throttle to get off the ground. In the morning when the air is cool and crisp for old wings, some will give rides, while others sip coffee, and watch them fly. Your conversation has short pauses as you are interrupted by them roaring by.
Photo by Jon Cook
We talk fondly of them as if they are mistresses with a name. But the smell of gas and oil in the air reminds us they are a machine with a spirit that is hard to explain. FAA rules say we must display papers showing who they belong to, but we understand too well that they are not ours, we are nothing more than caretakers for a just while.
On Sunday, there will be a time of silence and remembering of pilots that have "Gone West". Their planes tail sitting on the ground and nose pointed to the sky, with wings spread wide like angels ready to take them for their last ride.
In years to come when the next generation has taken over their care, maybe in the moonlight walking the flight line they might see our ghosts sitting in the seat and understand why some of us call this the Field of Dreams of flying machines.
Photo by Rob Bach
Gary P Redden