Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

Meet Me in Moose Lake

Raising Grandpa Young


C.M Swanson

Wendy and Steve Young at the Moose Lake Airport on a warm autumn afternoon.

Thanks to Minnesota Flyer reader, Steve Young of Wadena who wrote to us about several treasured experiences in aviation. He and Wendy, his wife also flew to Moose Lake for an interview in our Meet Me in Moose Lake series. We are pleased to share the following excerpts from his stories.

Sparking an interest in aviation

One winter day when I was about 10 years old, I was riding the bus home from school when I saw a "little yellow airplane" sitting in the snow covered field adjacent to our farm.

After being dropped off at home, I walked through the snow drifts to see the airplane. It was equipped with skis.

Judging from the tracks in the snow it had landed in the field but the left ski struck a frozen gopher mound causing the axle to break.

That airplane, a Piper J3 Cub, sat in the field for several days. Each day after school I walked out there to admire it and to wonder about flight. I was very disappointed the day I discovered that the plane was gone.

Adding fuel to the flame

When I was about 14, I went for my first airplane ride. My uncle owned a Cessna 195. He and my aunt flew from their Nevada home to our Minnesota farm and landed that beautiful airplane in my dad's hay field.

Uncle Bud gave all of us kids a ride. That ride served to further fuel my aviation interest. But I had another more powerful interest...I wanted to be a cop.

Doing whatever it takes

In those days I didn't have much financial wherewithal but I did own a 1976 Chevrolet pickup, a vehicle Frank (Pothen, local flight instructor) envied.

I told him one day that I would trade my pickup to him in exchange for flying lessons sufficient for me to get my private pilot's license. Frank agreed to do it.

My first training flight was on April 21, 1989 in a Piper Colt. I soloed in that same aircraft on May 2, 1989.

I did my check ride at Maple Lake, Minnesota on August 16, 1989. That day, FAA Flight Examiner Bill Mavencamp Sr. signed me off as a private pilot.

A career in law enforcement

Editor's Note: Young spent 33 years in law enforcement, six years as a city police officer, two years as a deputy sheriff, 25 years as Chief Deputy for the Wadena County Sheriff's Office. He retired in 2006.

Bringing aviation into a career

I bought my first plane (the Colt I learned to fly in and in which I had taken my check ride), in 1989.

In August, 1990, I sold the Colt and bought a Cherokee 140. I flew that until August, 1992 when I traded it for my first Bellanca, a 1968 Viking.

By the summer of 1994, I had accumulated about 1,050 hours of flight time. Much of that time was built transporting prisoners on longer cross country flights.

I thought then that an IFR rating would be useful. I started that training but did not complete it.

Making hard decisions

The 1968 Bellanca Viking I owned was coming up on TBO. Overhauling the engine was going to cost about $18,000.00. My older daughter was only a few years from starting college, and to be honest, I was getting tired of flying.

In view of the looming financial considerations, I decided to sell the Bellanca and lay off flying for a while. My last flight in 1994 was from Wadena to Arlington, TX to deliver my plane to the buyer.

Even though I had not lost my interest in aviation, I would not be back in a small plane for nearly 20 years.

A child's love of flying

My first grandchild was a boy born to my younger daughter and her husband on Mother's Day, May 9, 2010. He and his parents live near our home. Grandma and Poppa (he called me that and it has stuck), fell in love with that little guy. We enjoyed caring for him whenever his parents were willing to give him up. As a result, we have become very close. His name is Phoenix.

By the time Phoenix was approaching his fourth birthday, I had noticed his apparent interest in flight. He would point out birds and ask me how they could fly. We live in the flight path of the air ambulances that fly from Brainerd to the Wadena hospital. Any time we heard the chopper coming, Phoenix would beat it outside just to watch it go overhead. His enthusiasm renewed my own.

Love and aviation are infectious

I made a plan. I got my medical up to date, flew with an instructor, and then spent some time getting myself current. Wanting it to be a birthday surprise, I had not told Phoenix what I was up to.

On his fourth birthday, I took Phoenix to the Wadena airport where I had rented a Cessna 172. Together we pulled the 172 from the hangar and then looked her over. Phoenix thought it was pretty cool to be up close to an aircraft and to sit at the controls, albeit still on the ground.

I finally told him then that I was a pilot and that I could fly this airplane. I hoped I was not setting myself up for a huge disappointment.

When I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride, I was excited when he didn't hesitate to answer, "Yes."

Seeds planted, pilots growing

Phoenix is seven now. He loves to fly. And I love that he loves to fly. He has probably logged 50 hours in the airplane with me in the last three years. Because I have allowed him to "take the controls" in flight, he considers himself to be a real pilot.

Shortly after taking Phoenix for that first ride, I purchased N39863, a 1973 Bellanca Super Viking which I currently fly. My wife and I enjoy using it for pleasure flights.

The Super Viking was built at the Bellanca factory located in Alexandria, MN. The factory is still in business but no longer produces aircraft. They manufacture aircraft parts and refurbish airplanes, primarily Bellancas.

The Super Viking is a relatively fast four place aircraft equipped with retractable landing gear. Mine is powered by a 300 HP Continental IO 520K normally aspirated engine which drives the constant speed three blade prop. The advertised cruise speed at 75 percent power is 174 knots burning 15.9 gallons per hour. I choose to fly mine more conservatively. I flight plan my speed at 135 kts. at 15 gallons of fuel per hour. The reality is that I average 13.8 gallons per hour.

Full of fuel (75 gallons), the aircraft can haul a payload of 690 pounds and still maintain a respectable climb rate of 700 to 800 feet per minute. The aircraft's range is far more then my bladder can withstand.

The aircraft's wing is constructed of wood covered in fabric. It has a wooden spar. Some would question the strength of such a wing but maintained properly, it is said to be stronger than one built of metal.

Consider the story of a Viking going through an FAA wing failure certification test. Their jig bent the wing four feet before the wing tip touched the floor and still had not failed. One inspector suggested resetting the jig to force a failure. The other inspector replied simply, "Why?"

Flying is its own reward

Nowadays, I fly strictly for pleasure. The closest I get to flying for business is making the occasional flight to an airport with a courtesy car in a city that has a Menard's or Fleet Farm.

Photo courtesy of Steve Young

Grandpa Steve Young and Phoenix, his grandson, work together to prepare for another flying adventure.

Now and then I re-consider updating my ticket to an IFR rating. The advantage of flying strictly for pleasure is that I am never in the position of having to brave poor weather conditions to get someplace. Although I enjoy flying under the hood, it seems to me that staying current and maintaining IFR proficiency would take away from simply flying for the fun of it. Therefore, for now at least, I have decided to forgo formal IFR training.

My wife and I enjoy attending area fly-ins where we visit with old friends and make new ones. We enjoy climbing into the smooth evening skies to go sightseeing and staying airborne long enough to watch the sunset. One of my greater pleasures is found in giving someone their first airplane ride and imagining that I may play a role in sparking their life-long interest in aviation.

Although my aviation interest was sparked by a tail dragger and my first ride was in a tail dragger, I have never piloted one. Changing that is on my bucket list.

I don't like to think about what it costs to own and fly an aircraft but I can tell you this. It's worth every penny.


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