Clear skies and airplanes of bright yellows, reds and blues landing on the runway of the Detroit Lakes Airport.
As rain ricocheted off the metal roof of Ted Kiebke's hangar Tuesday, that wasn't quite the sight to see there. But, when the annual Fly-In and Pancake Breakfast happens on Saturday, July 13, the sky will be littered with airplanes.
"I always say we kick off the Water Carnival because we're the first event that takes place," said Kiebke, long-time member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1498 of Detroit Lakes. He serves as their Flight/Technical Advisor.
The Fly-In and Pancake Breakfast has been the kick off to the Water Carnival for about 20 years, Kiebke thought. Pilots and aircrafts from all around the area come to the event and join in on the festivities.
"It's really, really a lot of fun," Kiebke said. "All the people from the community come out. They're a bunch of wanna-be pilots, their kids especially."
Kiebke shared that a lot of those kids will walk around and look at the airplanes, making comments about how they want to sit in one. He helps them get in and out of his plane, letting their parents take pictures. The hope is that the kids will decide that they want to try flying. Kiebke is on his chapter's Young Eagle's Committee, which is a group that helps send kids interested in flying to different programs where they can learn more about it.
"Sometimes it's the spark that starts the pilots," Kiebke said. "It's kind of a springboard for them to really pursue."
Then, when the kids get older, Kiebke and the rest of his chapter can help them further with experience and education-largely through the money raised at this Fly-In and Pancake Feed.
"The reason why we do it is to accumulate money so that we can help people achieve their goal as pilots. We also give scholarships to high school kids from the money we earn from the pancakes," Kiebke said.
The family that flies together
Kiebke's family, and he himself, have benefited from what the pilots do at the airport. He had his grandchildren in planes when they were kids, and now two of them are pilots: one granddaughter flies for Delta, one grandson flies for the Navy.
This grandson is followed directly in Kiebke's footsteps, as he served as both a private pilot and a flight engineer in the Navy for 30 years. His service started at 18 years old, when he got a draft letter from the army. When he got that letter, Kiebke promptly contacted a Navy recruiter, telling him that he actually wanted to be in the Navy. Kiebke said that the recruiter swore him in that day, and that was the professional start of his flying career.
"My time in the Navy with airplanes was really good. I really enjoyed," Kiebke said. "The military is so good to their people that when I retired, I had all of the licenses I needed to do what I'm doing now."
Not only did Kiebke have the licenses to do what he does now, but he also had a lot more knowledge on how to do what he does. Currently, he uses Mercury engines in his planes-engines that are usually found in boats. It's a considerably cheaper route than buying the normal airplane engines, and he said that it challenges him, which he loves. Kiebke even shares his creations with other people and helps them figure out a cheaper route for their engines. He can do this in the airport, or he'll offer up his personal shop for them to use, free of charge.
Part of the reason he helps other pilots so much is because he is certified, so he can make sure everything is done safely and correctly, and the other part is because that's just how he and the other pilots are.
"This tight-knit group of people out here is so much fun to be around. We try and help each other out with our projects, and even if you drive a Wichita Spam-Can (a nickname for a generic little plane) we'll even help you with that too," Kiebke said, laughing.
No matter what kind of plane you have, pilot you are, or degree of interest you have in planes, everyone is welcome to the Fly-In and Pancake Feed. You'll find Kiebke there in his bright yellow and orange plane, and maybe you'll see Dave Lund, the "Michelangelo when it comes to (plane) detail," and his plane.
If you go
All pilots in command will receive a free breakfast, but any non-pilot age 11 and up will have to pay $7. Those 10 and under have a $3 fee. The pancakes will start their flipping at 8 a.m. and last until noon at the Detroit Lakes Airport.