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Sat, Apr 19, 2003

Flabob Airport: A Living Legacy For Sport Aviation

Following a major rejuvenation, Flabob Airport (RIR) in Riverside, California, has become a rewarding destination for those pilots seeking "hundred-dollar hamburgers" with classic aeronautical ambience.

Locals report that traffic has increased significantly in the past year. One of the most prolific centers of aircraft design, construction and restoration, Flabob Airport has become a legend in the past half-century. Ray Stits designed and test flew 16 amateur-built designs at the facility, including the world famous Sky Baby, a biplane with an eight-foot wingspan.

The Stephens Akro, built and made famous by Clayton Stephens, inspired Leo Loudenslager¹s Laser which in turn showed up in the lines of the Extra. Ed Marquart used the facilities to give life to his Maverick, Lancer, and eventually, the popular Charger. Lou Stolp refined his Stolp Starduster line at Flabob and developed a couple of new models there. As of April, 2003, Stolp Starduster Corporation has announced its intention to move back to Flabob from its current location.

Frank Tallman had hangars at Flabob which he used for restoring military aircraft. He later paired up with Paul Mantz, forming Tallmantz Aviation in the mid-1950s, and the dynamic duo provided Hollywood with a steady supply of aircraft and pilots. Jim Appleby also set up shop at Flabob, producing a wide range of flying replicas of World War I aircraft, many of which were used in feature films. He also supplied a lot of non-flying replicas to the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant chain. A considerable number of successful and long-forgotten movies, as well as numerous TV commercial companies, have used Flabob as a location or backdrop for their scripts.

Bill Turner built a number of replicas of great racers, including the Miles & Atwood racer, the DeHavilland Comet, Gee Bee Z, and Roscoe Turner's Meteor. He also worked with EAA Chapter One to restore Benny Howard's "Pete". Several of Turner's replicas are currently active in the airshow circuit.

Since EAA Chapter One launched EAA's worldwide chapter network fifty years ago, Flabob has seen a steady stream of amateur-built aircraft, modeled after a wide range of scratchbuilt and complete kitbuilt designs. Ray Stits, who founded EAA's historic first chapter at Flabob, went on to develop his now-famous "Stits covering", known currently as Polyfiber and still located at Flabob. It remains the first choice of pilots building or restoring fabric-covered aircraft.

Three years ago, the Wathen Foundation, created by Tom Wathen (right), bought the airport, which was in serious need of repair. The Foundation has restored existing structures, upgraded the runway and taxiways and returned the Airport Café to its original splendor as a legendary site for General Aviation pilots. Many new aircraft designs and projects have been conceived in that café. The Wathen Foundation is dedicated to preserving the history of Flabob and encouraging new involvement in aviation, especially among the young, through a new aviation academy, which is pursuing a wide and active variety of educational programs.


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