Stavya Arora, Morgan Cook, and Harini Senthilkumar wrote this article for Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) as part of an internship provided by Vijay Dixit Chairman of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation
The Air Expo at the Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie during the weekend of July 24th-25th was rich with vintage stories – and planes – on display, taking off, and in flight.
The stories of the planes in action were told by veterans from the U.S. Air Force and Navy and brought Air Expo 2021 to life.
Major Katherine Conrad described her A-10 Warthog airplane and memorable experiences she had while flying it. Conrad relayed flying the airplane in northern Syria in 2016, when ISIS ambushed the Kurdish coalition forces. Conrad’s three-hour mission successfully drove back Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) forces. Conrad noted it was “…a very fulfilling moment to be able to utilize this airplane in defense of good people.”
Retired B-29 Pilot Richard Donaldson who was in the U.S. Air Force during World War II described the differences between WWII and modern planes “(It’s) mainly how you find yourself if the weather is bad. We had a very intricate, exhausting method, like trying to locate yourself and come into an airport for landing if you could not see it.”
Nowadays, said Donaldson “in your car you have a map you can follow, and it will tell you what turns to make, just amazing.”
Also, visitors to the Air Expo bring their connections to the planes and the people who fly and service them, adding to the experience.
A visitor to the Air Expo, Lori Mitchell, was enthusiastically shared her passion for the event: “(My dad) was a mechanic in the Navy. He joined August 17, in 1980. He loved planes, loved boats. […] My husband and I have come here before, and this year we came both days to come out and see the planes.”
Mitchell described that she enjoys “seeing the planes and then watching them take off, especially when (she’s) right near them.” The Air Expo enables visitors to have access to all of the planes, according to Mitchell.
An avid junior aviator and Air Expo visitor, Collin Pluemer came with a plan, and was not disappointed Collin was accompanied by his mother for their first time visit to the Air Expo. “We came out here today to see the A-10s, “ said Collin. “They were much bigger than I expected.”
Collin said he learned more about A-10 planes. “The Air Force guests let us know that the gatling gun on the A-10 was so long because the bullets it shoots are the size of Coke bottles.”
While the Expo was populated by many younger visitors like Collin, people from across all generations came to experience this momentous event.
“We’re both retired Navy pilots,” said Leonard Jankowski, referring to himself and his colleague, David Lundin.
Jankowski and Lundin described working in Anti-Submarine Warfare, flying 747s to locate Russian submarines. “When we knew approximately where the Russian submarine was located, they launched us to go locate it, so, in case of war, we would try to sink it,” explained Jankowski.
Jankowski said locating submarines involved dropping special buoys from the plane. “We dropped sonobuoys to try and locate submarines. When they hit the water, a 60-foot cable sinks down, attached to the end is a microphone.”
Finally, Alison Skon from the US Navy described the Air Expo as “…definitely something that everyone should try and come out to watch, just a great place to come to.”
Having attended many air shows in the past, she explained the most special part being at the Expo are the WW11 veterans that show up, as “all the veterans here love talking and sharing their story and it means a lot for them to have people that listen.”
The captivating planes, passionate pilots, and enthusiastic visitors all create a unique spirit at the Air Expo.