Gary Larson Column – Once again, Milaca Fly-In was a great attraction

This sports column will drift a bit upwards as it focuses on three pilots who brought airplanes to the 45th annual Milaca Fly-In Sunday morning.

Once again, as it always does, the fly-in attracted a wide range of aircraft and provided those stopping by with much to see.

Gary Engler of St. Cloud flew in with a somewhat odd looking experimental aircraft while Matt Marohn of Maple Lake touched down in a two-seat red bi-plane and Wally Fisk of White Bear Lake cruised in with the fly-in’s largest show piece, a bright blue and white 10-passenger sea plane fitted with a pair of  huge floats.

Let’s start with Engler, a retired contractor whose interest in airplanes took off in the late 1960s when he was president of the Flying Club at St. Cloud State University.

Engler and his friend Ken Raiver purchased the experimental aircraft Engler flew to the fly-in in 2010. Actually, they bought a lot of pieces that they were eventually able to put back together.

“We saw the pieces of the aircraft listed for sale in a trade magazine and that peaked our interest,” said Engler. “We went down to Layfayette, La., and took a look – it was a basket case!

“From what we could tell it looked like it had been flipped over. We later found mud in places where mud shouldn’t be and we suspect that it may have been damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

The pair got the aircraft, named Challenger II, back in the air last year. Its propeller is in the rear and, for the most part, the cockpit is open.

Engler takes the aircraft up a couple times a week during the summer.  It has a heater in the rear of the small cockpit and Engler says that, and a fleece jacket, keeps him warm in the winter.

The aircraft has an air speed of about 52 mph and, like all pilots, Engler keeps an eye on the weather.

“Flying it is very relaxing,” he said. “I enjoy taking in all the beautiful scenery. I have fun.”

Marohn’s 1938 A75 has 450 horsepower and can cruise at about 110 mph. He has only had the two-seater about five months and is studying up on the bi-plane’s history.

“I believe the model was used as a pre-World War II military training plane and saw use as a crop-duster,” said Marohn, who occupies the front seat as the pilot.

“I like the way it handles – it’s an impressive plane.”

Marohn has owned and flown two-seat bi-planes before.

His occupation as a pilot for United Airlines requires him to fly a much larger plane – a Boeing 737 170-passenger jet.

Incidentally, Webster defines a bi-plane as an aircraft with single or paired wings fixed at two different levels, one above and one below the fuselage. The Milaca Fly-In has had many bi-planes visit over the years.

Fisk has had his 1990 Cessna 208 Caravan sea plane for a year and had just returned from a fishing trip to Alaska. The large plane holds about 320 gallons of fuel and is powered by a 675 turbo pro HB.

The airplane can carry 10 passengers but Fisk usually doesn’t take that many people up.

“I try to limit it to six passengers, or so,” he said.

Mounting the two pontoons so the plane can land and take off on water is quite a task.

“It takes two men a full day to accomplish that,” said Fisk. “And, you need a large crane.

“It’s a large, powerful airplane and I enjoy flying it.”

Lots of wonderful airplanes and great stories. That sums up the Milaca Fly-In pretty well. Milaca Airport Commissioner Ken Muller and his helpers, including the Milaca Boy Scouts, can take another well-deserved bow.

Quick looks

•The annual Milaca Wolves Football Extravaganza is Thursday, Aug. 22, at Claffy Field. It begins with players from the Milaca Youth Football Association taking the field at 5:10 p.m. and ends with Milaca varsity players in a scrimmage at 7:30. In between, players in seventh, eighth and ninth grade will scrimmage, along with the junior varsity.

•On July 18 the Times featured a story on Milaca grad Brenda (Jacobsen) Holmgren. The article, written by Rachel Finkbeiner, looked back at Holmgren’s coaching and officiating career and the prestigious awards she received in March.

Here’s something you might not know about Brenda – she was one of the first females to work on the sports staff of a daily newspaper in Minnesota. She worked for me in the mid-1970s when I was sports editor at the St. Cloud Daily Times and she was a student at St. Cloud State University.

Brenda worked the phones at night, jotting down high school results, then putting scores and highlights together in wrap-up stories. Not surprisingly, she did a good job and I’ve called her a friend ever since. I also enjoyed many chats with her late husband, Roger Holmgren.

•The Mora Blue Devils amateur baseball team suffered a pair of losses in the Region 1C Tournament over the weekend which ended the team’s quest of reaching the state tournament. Sartell topped Mora 9-2 Saturday night at Hinckley and Clear Lake eliminated the Blue Devils 4-3 in 10 innings Sunday afternoon. Mora, with Milaca grad Ryan VanSomeren as one of its pitching aces, finished with a fine 25-6 record.

•Milaca track and field standout Kaija Crowe recently placed eighth and earned All-American honors in the high jump at the Junior Olympic National Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Crowe went 5-feet, 5-inches, which was also the winning height. The 2013 Milaca graduate will soon be heading to Minnesota State University-Mankato where she will be competing for the Mavericks.