PETER G. TANIS
1936 – 2000
Tanis was born in Kalamazoo, MI. He learned to fly when he was 16 years old and soon earned his mechanics license, graduating from high school in Iowa in 1954. He attended the Moody Bible Institute in 1959 to join the Missionary Aviation Program. Tanis taught aviation maintenance at the Watertown Vocational Technical College in Iowa from 1968 to 1971 and began testing his ideas for an engine heater. He invented the electric pre-heater and discovered the benefits of ceramic elements, patenting his idea before selling his first pre-heating system. Using specialized heating elements to heat the entire airplane engine, from cylinder heads to the case and the oil, Tanis’ heaters became an industry standard. Outgrowing his basement in Iowa, Tanis moved to Glenwood, Minnesota in 1977 where business flourished.
During this time, Tanis also operated a maintenance shop, an avionics shop, and gave flight instruction at the Glenwood Airport. He published many technical papers and became the guru of aircraft pre-heating and cold weather flying.
COL. LEO K. THORSNESS
Leo Thorsness was born in Walnut Grove, MN. He attended school there and became an Eagle Scout. Thorsness enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, earning his wings in 1954. He flew the F-84, F-100 and the F-105. He completed Wild Weasel training and was sent to Vietnam, joining the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand and was tasked with locating and destroying North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites.
On April 19, 1967, Thorsness flew a SAM suppression mission for a raid on a North Vietnamese army training compound. After destroying several SAM sites, one of his flight was shot down. Thorsness stayed overhead to deter enemy MIGs from attacking the downed plane’s crew. In the process he shot one of them down. When his fuel ran out, he refueled from a tanker and returned to provide cover for rescue aircraft. Out of ammunition, he continued to fly harassing passes at other enemy aircraft. Just eleven days later, on his 93rd mission, his aircraft was hit by an air-to-air missile from a MiG-21 and he and his backseater ejected over the enemy. They were captured and the pair spent the next six years in captivity. Thorsness earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his gallantry under fire and as a POW. He is the only Minnesota USAF Medal of Honor winner and one of five Air Force medal winners still living.
Otto W. Timm
1893 - 1978
Born in Lakefield, MN, Timm raced automobiles as a teen. He soon moved to Chicago where he began designing and building airplanes. He associated with the great early flyers such as Lincoln Beachey, Max Lillie and Katherine Stinson, and flew his own airplanes in exhibitions.
He returned to MN as a barnstormer prior to WWI. During the war, he worked as a military flight instructor and after the war, remained in CA creating aircraft of his own design. In 1928 he incorporated the O.W. Timm Aircraft Company at Glendale. He survived the depression building aircraft for the Navy and one of his designs, made entirely of molded plywood, was used as a military training plane. During WWII his company built gliders under contract for the Army.
During his career Timm designed and flew 13 of his own designs, patented the first tricycle landing gear for transport aircraft, and devised the static testing of aircraft components that is in use today. He was the inspiration for engine designer Bertram Kinner's introduction to aviation and was the pilot who gave Charles Lindbergh his first airplane ride in 1922.
Arthur C. Tomes
Tomes was born in Virginia, MN. where he graduated from Virginia Junior College. He joined the US Army Air Corps in 1941 and become a flight instructor. In 1944, he volunteered for combat duty and served as a pilot in the B-29 campaign against the Japanese home islands, flying from the island of Tinian. He completed 35 bombing missions and on one in April of 1945, his aircraft lost an engine when hit by a bomb dropped from a higher squadron. Tomes managed to return safely to base after fending off Japanese fighters and crossing 1500 miles of open ocean. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters. After the war, Tomes and partners opened Northeast Airways at Virginia, MN, giving flight instruction and flying charter and air ambulance flights. Tomes also served as a corporate pilot until 1977 when he retired to pursue a real estate career. In 2006, Tomes was elected Cook County Aviator of the Year.
Eugene A. Trowbridge
Montana native Eugene Trowbridge attended Cretin High School in St. Paul, obtained a music degree from the Minneapolis College of Music and played in several bands before entering the military. He became a marine pilot in 1942 flying an F-4F Wildcat fighter for the VMF-223.
The day after he arrived at Guadalcanal on March 20, 1942, Trowbridge shot down two Japanese aircraft. He shot down another the next day and two more the next day, becoming an ace in three days. He later survived a mid-air collision over his own airstrip. After he recovered from his injuries, he taught fighter tactics. In 1945 he went to China as a squadron commander.
After the war Trowbridge taught music at Cretin, Robbinsdale and Edina High Schools. He retired in 1979.