Off we go into the wild blue yonder

Flying off a hilltop in Verona WI

To the north, from an elevation of 1,080 feet, you could look down on the sprawling new campus of Epic Systems just west of Verona. (Lake Monona is 845 feet above sea level.)

We were standing on Sugar Ridge Airport, one of some 30 privately owned landing fields in Dane County WI. We were witnessing the most spectacular of sights — a seemingly endless procession of small aircraft of every shape, color, and sound jumping off the 1600-foot grass runway atop a hill into a panorama of southern Wisconsin hills, woodlands, and farm fields to the east.

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The weather this August 19 evening was perfect for flying. Small ultralights with buzzy Rotax engines affixed behind the one-person cabs. Two-person Piper Cubs. Twin-wing biplanes with fore and aft cockpits open to the wind. Some needed ground staff to prime the wooden propellers. To the south, a flock of ultra-lights blew past — not much more than lawn chairs held aloft by a parachute.

A Fitch-Rona ambulance stood by at the ready; fortunately, uneeded.

Invitation to this annual fly-in is by word of mouth but it’s been an annual event since its inception 21 years ago. Guestimate 200 enjoyed the free hog dogs and pulled pork sandwiches while enjoying this year’s air show and, down the hill, classic cars. And the music of a live band. On permanent display are his 1927 fire truck, a flour mill, a 1903 popcorn wagon.

Tim Stanek’s video of 2019 Sugar Ridge fly-in

All thanks to Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame member Tom Kretschman, a former Dane County sheriff’s deputy and National Air Guard pilot, born in 1941. (More here.)

Mr. Kretschman bought this 80-acre farm in 1970 and began developing the airfield. Said to be one of the few small fields with runway lights and a 36-inch diameter rotating beacon he bought from the airport in Dyersburg TN that witnessed Patsy Cline’s last flight in 1963. More here.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: We have disccovered yet another of the great things about Wisconsin in the summer.

What is the great thing YOU have discovered
about Wisconsin this summer?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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3 Responses to Off we go into the wild blue yonder

  1. georgessson says:

    Wow, David, you did a yeoman’s job of researching this unique sod strip and individual. And once again, a brief yet welcome respite from Dane County craziness… Wisconsin IS truly great in the summer, so thanks for the solid reminder. Your well-read blogsite is a learning experience, be it updates to local politics or delightful jaunts into Dane County events. Thanks, Squire !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bill says:

    Thank you David. Reminds me of the times my father used to tell me about flying the old Steerman bi-plane. How he started off his flying career at 16 gassing up planes and getting them ready for flight at the Mt. Kisco Airport in N.Y. in exchange for flying lessons from the F.B.O. that ran that operation.

    Later on, he was told by the Colonel of the C-47 that he was the crew chief on, that since he had a license to fly an airplane the Colonel would teach him how to fly a C-47 so that the Colonel could get drunk and play cards in the back with the general while they were doing base inspections. This happened during the Korean war.

    Later on he became a pilot for Capitol Airlines where he met and married my mom. Later on Capitol Airlines merged with United Airlines and my father ended up his career flying the stretch 8’s between. Chicago and Honolulu.

    I love where my father started his flying career.

    I just wished I could have followed in his footsteps. But alas, I have no more the balls or the brains for flying an airplane.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. georgessson says:

    Bill, Speakin’ of C-47’s in the Korean war, here’s a 2 minute VID wherein Tom K. gave an an old Korean War veteran his last ride, at the sod strip. Ike flew C-47’s, mostly with the grim task of transporting casualties to medical aid.

    Vid Description: “91 year old Ike, flies again, after 26 years. He is a Korean War veteran pilot, as well as Squadron Advisor during the Vietnam War. Ike worked at NASA in the 1960’s, and was a good friend of Astronaut Gordon Cooper.”

    Ike passed not too long after this, but his smiles after landing tell the tale….

    Like

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