AOPA President Returns To Home Field, Now New & Improved!

Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2017 issue

FOREST LAKE, MINN. – Forest Lake, Minnesota held an open house and fly-in August 20, 2017, at its new and improved Daniel A. DePonti Municipal Airport (25D). Among the pilots and special guests was AOPA President Mark Baker, who flew to the event, all the way from Anoka County-Blaine Airport in Blaine, Minn., 11 nm away, in his 1953 Piper PA-18 Super Cub on amphibious floats.

The Forest Lake airport was established in 1941 and was grass until 2016, when it was paved. The runway is now 2,700 feet long, and there is a taxiway.

As he climbed out of his airplane, Baker said, “It’s like coming home.” That’s because Baker, a native of White Bear Lake, Minn., has a 40-year history of flying into the airport and a unique story of how he bought his Super Cub in Forest Lake.

In an article posted online at the AOPA website, Baker recalled what was a life-changing experience for him when he flew N1352C for the first time, shortly after the ice melted from Forest Lake:

“I first met Five-Two-Charlie in the early 1990s. A friend of my dad’s had been taking care of a lake house with a hangar and an old plane. Neither my dad nor his pal knew what type of airplane it was, but they wondered if I’d like to take a look. And when we opened the hangar door, I wasn’t sure either. The airplane was covered in plastic and parts of it were painted blaze orange. Then I saw the logbooks, neatly set out on the workbench. It was a 1953 Super Cub with 309 hours total time. Last flown in the 1970s, the airplane was a time capsule just waiting to be cracked open. It was sitting on straight floats, but there were skis and wheels in the hangar as well. The fabric had been replaced in the 1960s. There was no radio and no transponder, but the original Lycoming O-290-D2 engine had been carefully pickled. And I knew I had to have it!”

The owner bought the plane new in 1953 for $6,600, including the floats and skis. He was a tough negotiator then and a tough negotiator now, said Baker, but the two aviators worked out a fair deal to both.

The following spring, Baker hired two mechanics to get the airplane in flying condition. Trees had grown in front of the hangar, adding to the challenge, and they had to wait for the ice to melt on the lake. Not only wasn’t the plane ready, but neither was Baker, who needed to get his seaplane rating.

Not to worry! Baker met Bruce Hanson of Surfside Seaplane Base in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, who hooked him up with Brian Schanche of Adventure Seaplanes – a training and seaplane rental operation with locations in Minnesota and Florida. When Baker met Schanche, he asked him how long he had been a flight instructor, and when Schanche said, “about two days and you’re my first student,” that was good enough for Baker and he signed up. Since then, Adventure Seaplanes has become one of the largest and most respected seaplane flight schools in the country, and Baker has gone on to own and fly a number of seaplanes, including a Beech 18.

“Our first flight in Five-Two-Charlie was a flight that changed my life,” said Baker. “I had loved the airplane at first sight, but once we lifted off, I knew this was flying as it was meant to be.”

After accumulating hundreds of hours in the airplane, Baker replaced the original 135 hp engine with a 160 hp engine, and bought new Wipline 2100 amphibious floats. Baker has flown the plane to Baja, Hudson Bay, New York, Key West, and the Idaho backcountry.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to Barb Pribyl of The Daniel A. DePonti Municipal Airport in Forest Lake, Minn., Mark Baker, and the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association for providing the information for this article.

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