Last week, I received a text on Wednesday asking if I was free that evening. After reading why the person was asking if I was free, my answer was an immediate “YES” with about five exclamation marks.
The message was from Kreg Anderson, manager of the Alexandria Municipal Airport, and he was wondering if I wanted to go flying.
I follow Kreg on Instagram as I love to see where his flying adventures are taking him, what kind of airplane he’s flying in or any other airplane/airport related items he may post about.
Although I am not a fan of flying commercially, I love small, little puddle jumpers and will go in one any chance I get. Weird, I know.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about Kreg when he was appointed the manager of the Alex airport at the ripe age of 23 and was super impressed by his knowledge of airplanes and related subject matter. Kreg is also the chief flight instructor and the flight school manager, along with being a charter pilot. So yep, the “kid” knows his stuff.
Last month, Kreg posted an awesome picture of this really interesting and neat looking plane with an open cockpit. It kind of reminded me of the plane that Snoopy, the cartoon dog flew, but Kreg’s is yellow and isn’t a biplane, but it still reminded me of Snoopy’s because of the open cockpit. In the post, he asked if anyone was up for a ride or something to that effect. I messaged him, half-jokingly, telling him he could pick me. I also mentioned that we had a new reporter, Jasmine Johnson, who had recently started and that it would be really cool to give her a tour of the area from up above.
His response? “We can do that!”
And do that he did.
Both Jasmine and I took to the skies that Wednesday on one of the most beautiful summer evenings in the lakes area with one of the most incredible sunsets thanks to Kreg and one of his flying buddies, Justin Phipps.
There were three planes in all that went up – Kreg and I in his plane, Jasmine and Justin in his plane, which is a Challenger II made by Quad City Aircraft Company, and Kyle Johnson and his wife, Heather, in a Kitfox II airplane, which is made by Kitfox Aircraft.
OH. MY. GOODNESS! It was absolutely incredible and one of the most enjoyable rides I have ever had – yes, despite having to wear a helmet and the wind whipping at what felt like a thousand miles an hour. OK, that was a little exaggeration, but it was windy. I have never gripped my camera or my cell phone as tightly as I did while riding in that plane trying to capture the beauty before me.
Kreg truly is an excellent pilot and everything about the ride – even the take off and landing, which are the worst parts about flying for me – were wonderful. There was never a point I didn’t feel safe. To be up in a plane like, taking in the sights, was not only exhilarating, it was just so magical and left me feeling free and happy and at peace. I am beyond grateful.
I truly can’t thank Kreg enough for making it happen. Seriously, I would do it every day if I could. And no, I have no intentions of ever becoming a pilot. I like to ride in an airplane, not drive (fly).
After we got done, I talked with Kreg a bit and asked him to tell me more about his plane as I learned that not only his plane, but the other two planes from that night are considered “experimental.” This means that they were all built by an individual or group rather than an aircraft manufacturer. And although they are experimental by nature, they still must receive an Airworthiness Certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration prior to their first flight.
The builder, said Kreg in an email he sent me when I asked more questions, has to demonstrate to the FAA that it conforms to their regulations and is safe for flight. He said many experimentals nowadays are “kitplanes,” where the person literally orders a kit and builds the airplane per the instructions.
Kreg said his plane, however, is a true “homebuilt.” This means the builder designed and built it himself. The person who built the yellow beauty I got to ride in decided that if he was going to build a plane, it was going to be his own design, although Kreg said the airplane is loosely based on a few popular kits, including the Baby Ace and the Pietenpol.
The delightful yellow flying machine was built by Richard Christianson of Plymouth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said Kreg. It was built over the course of several years and was kept at the Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie. Its first flight was on Nov. 27, 1982. After that, Kreg said Richard flew it only a few years, accumulating only 65 hours in it before, developing health conditions that prohibited him from flying.
The airplane was then disassembled and put into storage. Many years later, Richard’s son listed the plane and a good friend of Kreg’s, Mark Borgerson, purchased it. Here’s a fun little fact: After putting the plane back together and going through all the systems and engine, it turned out Mark was too tall to fit in the cockpit, said Kreg. Apparently Richard was a smaller man and designed the seats in his plane to fit his stature, which basically eliminated anyone over 6-feet to be able to get in or out of the plane.
While visiting with Mark, who is the airport manager in Montevideo, Kreg learned the plane’s story and that Mark needed to sell it. After mulling it over for a few months and after doing a couple of maintenance checks on it, Kreg ended up buying the plane. This was in November 2018. Because of the open cockpit, Kreg took his time with the inspections and maintenance in March of 2019, he finally did the first flight – which was on the first 40-degree day that year.
Since last fall, when he put in a working radio, he’s been flying – and enjoying – the plane much more frequently.
Before leaving that Wednesday night, I made sure to tell Kreg – and the other two pilots – that I could be available anytime they ever have room for a passenger!