James L Oberstar
1934 – 2014
Born in Chisholm, MN, Oberstar grew up working in the mines on the Iron Range. He graduated from St. Thomas College, a student of Political Science. In 1963, he began working for US Congressman John Blatnik, and in 1974, when Blatnik retired, Oberstar won the first of eighteen terms as US Congressman representing the 8th District of Minnesota. He became known as the leading expert on transportation issues, chairing the Subcommittee on Aviation, where he helped pass legislation that led to better maintenance and safer aircraft. He worked to take the Highway Trust Fund out of the US budget, making sure the money was used for roads and bridges. He became chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, focusing on railroads, pipelines and water resources. He co-authored legislation after 911 that kept the airlines flying; chaired the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, and pushed to enact aviation funding bills including many in Minnesota.
EARL O. OLSON
1899 - 1972
A Duluth, MN native, Olson attended schools in Duluth. He served in the Merchant Marine during WWI. He then became a barnstormer, earning an itinerant’s living through Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota. He worked for Northern Air Service, an FBO at a local Duluth airfield. The airport land was purchased by the city of Duluth and the municipal airport was founded. Olson the worked there for the city of Duluth, first as a maintenance man and, beginning in 1939, as Airport Manager. He shepherded relationships and improvements to the airport in that capacity until his retirement in 1965. He also served a term as Executive Director of the American Association of Airport Executives.
Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie
1902 - 1975
Fairgrave graduated from St. Paul Mechanic Arts High School in 1920. She went to Curtiss-Northwest Airport and tried to find someone to take her up for a parachute jump. Ray Miller, one of the pilots there at the time, would not take her, but insisted she go home and strengthen her muscles. She took his advice, but returned, making her first jump from a plane flown by Vern Omlie, who would become her future husband. She made many jumps and performed wing-walking with Omlie on a barnstorming tour of the South. They married and Phoebe learned to fly. She was quite skillful and entered women's air races and cross-country tours, winning the Women's Air Derby from Santa Monica to Cleveland, and the Dixie Derby from Washington, D. C. to Chicago in 1930. From 1932 to 1936, she campaigned for President Roosevelt by flying around the country advertising and speaking on his behalf. He appointed her Special Advisor for Air Intelligence to the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics. She opened a flying school in Memphis and later joined the CAA, from which she retired in 1952.
RITA ANN BONDY ORR
1921 – 2009
Rita Orr grew up in Detroit, MI. She began flying in 1943 and was accepted into the WASP program, but, unfortunately as it was being abandoned. She moved to Minnesota in 1948 and joined the 99s, a women’s pilot organization, helping to establish the Minnesota Chapter. A sixty-year member, she helped organize the Penny-a-Pound air rides of the 1950s and, in 1967 became President of the Faribault Area Pilot’s Assn. Intensely active in all aviation activities, she worked to improve the Faribault Airport, served as Albert Quie’s campaign pilot in his run for Governor in 1978, and flew over 200 lifesaving blood runs during her last two decades of flying. Orr’s involvement in aviation earned her the Wright Bros. Master Pilot Award and many other honors.
Arthur R. Otis and Eleanor H. Otis
1894 -1979 | 1902 - 1987
As a young man, St. Paul native Arthur Otis helped his family build Otis Lodge on Sugar Lake near Grand Rapids. In 1925, inspired by aircraft flying over the lodge, he created a landing strip amidst a golf course on the property. He and his wife, Eleanor, who hails from Hibbing, began inviting pilots from around the state to stop there for chicken dinners, overnight lodging and fishing. He established the state's first fly-in fishing resort and continued to develop the land through World War II, lengthening the runway and adding a night beacon and a seaplane base. Otis Lodge became a mecca for fly-in diners and fishers.
In 1946, Otis received his private license. With Eleanor as navigator, he flew a Piper Cub round-trip to Florida, and at the age of 72, he flew the two of them to Alaska in a Bonanza.