Old WWII aircraft will fly in for Pan-O-Prog festival in Lakeville

  • Article by: LIZ ROLFSMEIER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2013 - 4:32 PM

Replica World War II aircraft will be among the planes headed for the Pan-O-Prog fly-in breakfast.

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Jim Lauria of Inver Grove Heights and Randy “Biggs” Bigler of Prior Lake, both volunteers of the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Museum, worked on a Stintson L-5 Sentinel.

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When pilots fly in for the first-annual fly-in breakfast during Lakeville’s Pan-O-Prog celebration, they’ll receive a free breakfast.

Or, well, not exactly.

“It’s $100 worth of fuel to fly 75 miles to get an $8 breakfast for free,” said Gary Stinar, who worked to get the breakfast, a benefit for the Lakeville Lions Club, off the ground this year. It will be held next Sunday, the fourth day of Pan-O-Prog.

“It’s just an excuse to go flying,” said Stiner, who enjoys buzzing around in his own little Cessna and hitting fly-in breakfasts around the state.

He said he’s unsure how many aircraft will fly in to the Airlake airport for the event. “Everything is based on weather,” said Stiner. “If it’s a nice day, you want to go flying.”

One thing is certain: visitors can view some fantastic vintage warbirds. The Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, of which Stiner is a member, will show off “Miss Mitchell,” their B-25 bomber, as well as other aircraft and military vehicles Friday through Sunday.

“Miss Mitchell,” an exact replica of one that flew out of World War II air bases on the island of Corsica, Italy, and was led by crew chief Ray Ostlie of Lakeville, took 12 years to restore. The restorers were incredibly precise, even getting the nose art of a scantily clad “Miss Mitchell” done by Ray Kowalik, the artist who painted the original bomber in Italy.

During the war, “Miss Mitchell” carried 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of bombs and was manned by a crew operating .50 caliber machine gun.

B-25s like these carried out the famous Doolittle Raid. They “were flying into danger all the time,” said Jim Lauria, a volunteer with the Minnesota Wing.

“Your survival chance was about one in three,” said Minnesota Wing volunteer Jim Gilmore.

The all-volunteer organization has restored a series of aircraft that young cadets would master as they went through training. Cadets started off with a primary trainer, like their Ryan PT22, a two-seater with an open cockpit.

Then cadets move up to a basic trainer, like their Vultee BT-13, and then advanced trainers, which had more horsepower and could do acrobatics. After that, they would move on to single-engine fighters and bombers like “Miss Mitchell.”

During the three days of demonstrations at Pan-O-Prog, visitors can view the planes and even actually take a ride ($150 to $450 depending on the plane) or get a tour and sit in the pilot’s seat for a photo op.

Lakeville’s 47th annual Pan-O-Prog celebration runs Thursday to July 14, and according to president Sheri Stolp, brings out about 80,000 visitors. Some other new events for this year’s celebration include a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a blood drive, and — back by popular demand — turtle races.

Stolp said consistently popular Pan-O-Prog events include the cruise night, the grand parade, orchestra in the park and the baby crawl-a-thon.

The fireworks — $20,000 worth — kick off festivities on the 4th at Lakeville North High School. Entertainment by the Castaways starts at 7 p.m., and the National Guard climbing wall will be open. Fireworks start at dusk.

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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