GALESBURG, Ill. (WMBD) — Once a year, the owners and pilots of a certain antique airplane gather in Central Illinois.

It is called “The Stearman Fly-In,” and it is held at the Galesburg Municipal Airport. The unique event has been going on for half a century, and it is about to get bigger.

Before and during World War II, 1943 Stearman biplanes were used to train American pilots. It’s a two-wing Time Machine for pilot and owner Ric Waldo.

“And when this came out, there were only 30 years after the Wright Brothers first flew. So to be able to go out and experience it is just the greatest thing on the planet,” Ric said.

Of the more than 10,000 Stearman biplane trainers produced for the military, an estimated 1,000 are still flying 80 years later.

For 50 years, the center of the Stearman world has been the Galesburg Airport. For one week in a year, the Stearman Fly-In brings in pilots from around the country and the world.

“I mean, it’s from every walk of life, from airline pilots to mechanics to engineers, businessmen, and we just have the common bond of this type of aviation,” said Ric.

Now there is an effort to create a Stearman airplane center for all-year-round use at the Galesburg Airport. Not surprisingly, it could be a very big deal.

“We’re hoping to house a bunch of historical artifacts in this area for possibly even a couple Stearmans in that hangar. We’re really hoping it’s opened in September for the Fly-In coming up Sept. 5th through the 10th of 2022,” said Stearman Fly-In Director Lisa Woldow.

2022 will be the 51st Stearman Fly-In. By 2023, they hope to have added a library, a classroom display area for historic records, photos, and artifacts of the greatest generation.