The Wings of the North (WOTN) AirExpo, a longtime summer fixture at Flying Cloud Airport, is entering a holding pattern for 2024.
In a media release last week, the nonprofit educational organization’s board announced plans to pause the show next year, attributing it to escalating operational costs and a notable reduction in available show space. The board hopes the decision will enable WOTN to focus on making the necessary adjustments to ensure that the 2025 show is a “successful and well-received event.”
Last July marked the 25th anniversary of the AirShow, highlighting aviation history, especially from the World War II era. The event features WWII aircraft and involves veterans, intending to offer educational content in a family-friendly setting.
Bob Jasperson, president of the WOTN board of directors and a longtime group volunteer, detailed the reasons behind this decision.
“The biggest factor is simply a lack of space on Flying Cloud Airport,” said Jasperson, explaining that the construction of new hangars has been reducing parking space for the AirExpo over the years, affecting the show’s logistics. “We’ve run out of parking spaces at the last two shows, and we need to find another way to do the show on Flying Cloud,” he added.
The hiatus will be used to evaluate and explore new options for the AirExpo’s format and location.
“We plan to return for AirExpo 2025,” he said. “But I’m guessing it will be a more compact show, with limited parking. We looked at parking off the airport and bussing people in, but the cost nowadays is prohibitive for our small group. So we will re-examine our options for a year and then go from there.”
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) is updating the Flying Cloud Airport’s Long-Term Plan through 2040.
According to MAC’s website, the plan serves as a strategic roadmap guiding development and capital improvements at the airport for the next five to 10 years. It aims to update aviation activity forecasts, assess facility needs, and identify solutions. The plan will also determine the timing for potential improvements, focusing on safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. However, it will not authorize actual construction or facility upgrades, serving instead as a planning tool for future needs.
“We’re waiting to see what they come up with,” Jasperson said. “They’re not extending any runways, they’re not building any new runways, but the safety concerns at the ends of the runways have to be addressed. I started flying in that airport in 1963, so it’s changed considerably.”
He said the WOTN Air Museum reopened in September following a two-year hiatus. While currently situated in a temporary facility at 14857 Pioneer Trail, just inside Gate H on the northwest corner of Flying Cloud, WOTN is raising funds for a permanent location there.
“It’s in a much smaller facility than we used to have,” Jasperson said. “We had lost our lease on a larger hangar when the owner wanted it back for his own business use, so we’ve been in storage for a couple of years. We want to build a larger museum. But that depends on the long-term plan the airport commission is working through.”
The museum, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, boasts a significant collection of wartime art, uniforms, and aircraft highlighting Minnesota aviation history. It is home to a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, featured in the 1957 James Stewart-starring film of the same name. This non-flying stage prop, built by Warner Brothers, was displayed for years at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
“We’ve done several private tours during the week,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of classes from Eden Prairie High School, which has an aviation curriculum now. We do some senior citizen tours and other things during the week. We are also available for private parties. Unfortunately, (those parties are) limited to about 50 people or less due to the size (of the museum). But we are booking some holiday parties already, too.”
Jasperson said WOTN will focus on its airplane sweepstakes as a significant fundraiser for the organization in 2024.
Sean Swensson, a pilot from Alpine, California, won the grand prize at WOTN’s fourth annual sweepstakes in September. Opting for the 1948 Beechcraft Bonanza 35, known as “BB8,” over $35,000, Swensson flew the plane back to California in October. Wings of the North is already searching for another plane for next year’s sweepstakes.
“The AirExpo was our major fundraiser,” he said. “Our secondary fundraiser is the airplane sweepstakes, so we’ll be relying on that this coming year to keep funding our museum and the educational programs that we do there. So, if people want to help us that way, we will sell the sweepstakes tickets for that fundraiser in the spring. We’re still alive and kicking, and we’ll be out there keeping our museum going.”
Jasperson added that WOTN is always looking for more sponsors and volunteers to help. “That’s what keeps a nonprofit group going,” he said.
We offer several ways for our readers to provide feedback. Your comments are welcome on our social media posts (Facebook, X, Instagram, Threads, and LinkedIn). We also encourage Letters to the Editor; submission guidelines can be found on our Contact Us page. If you believe this story has an error or you would like to get in touch with the author, please connect with us.