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A Long Journey for a Tiny Biplane
By Scott Franks, EAA 302152
August 17, 2016 - On July 2, 2016, I was browsing through an antique store in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, when I spotted a model airplane. It caught my attention for several reasons. First, anything aviation related gets my attention – especially in an antique store (ask my wife). Second, it was obviously a handmade model. Third, it was not a “common” biplane like a Stearman, Pitts, or Christen Eagle, but a side-by-side homebuilt biplane. And lastly, it had an N-number.
I quickly pulled out my iPhone, looked up the N-number on the FAA website, and learned it was an active registration for a Blanton Wichawk and was registered to a Robert D. Blanton in Wichita, Kansas.
I decided then that I would buy it and attempt to contact Robert, as I knew he would want it (as I would if it was my plane!). If he didn’t want it, it would make a nice addition to my office decor.
After getting home, I attempted to find Robert on Facebook, but had no luck. I then found the Facebook page for the Wichita EAA Chapter 88 and found several pictures of a Dave Blanton on the Facebook page. Could this be Robert D.? And the DB of N71DB?
I sent a message to Chapter 88 and a few days later I heard from Robert D. “Bob” Blanton, the current owner of N71DB.
He explained that the original Dave Blanton was his father, who passed away in 1998. Bob’s brother, who is also named Dave, is the one I saw on the Chapter 88 Facebook page. Dave senior designed and built N71DB and flew it in 1971 (hence N71DB). Some 300 sets of plans were sold for the Wichawk, but only 30 or so planes were completed. The FAA database currently shows 18 Wichawks registered.
During our conversation, Bob explained that a family friend made three models of the plane in the 1970s, one each for Dave senior, Bob, and Dave junior.
Dave senior’s office was burglarized around 1990 and his model, along with several other items, was stolen. The family thought they would never see the model again.
How it made its way to Tennessee and into my path is still partly a mystery, but I was able to get some information. I talked with the owner of the antique booth, who said she thought her step dad, who lived in Arkansas, bought the model many years ago at a flea market and had it until he passed away a few years ago.
In our conversation, Bob asked if I was planning to attend Oshkosh this year. I normally attend Oshkosh with a large group of family and friends, but none could go this year so I made a solo trip. I met up with Bob and his family on Wednesday, July 28, and returned the long-lost model. Bob said his grandson soloed N71DB last year so he plans to give the model to him.