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N.D. pilots successful beyond borders

Many pilots who lived in North Dakota established reputations that transcended far beyond our state borders. Following is a list of 10 of these people: - James Buchli, a future astronaut, was born June 20, 1945, in New Rockford. After graduating ...

Many pilots who lived in North Dakota established reputations that transcended far beyond our state borders.

Following is a list of 10 of these people:

- James Buchli, a future astronaut, was born June 20, 1945, in New Rockford. After graduating from Fargo Central High, he received a degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1967. Buchli served in Vietnam as an officer in the Marine Corps and later was assigned to Marine Fighter/Attack Squadrons. After logging more than 4,000 hours in jet aircrafts, he became a NASA astronaut in August 1979. He made four space flights between 1985 and 1991.

- Carl Ben Eielson, the first person to fly nonstop over the North Pole, was born and raised in Hatton. He attended the University of North Dakota and enlisted in the Army Air Service. After law school, he began flying passengers, supplies and airmail throughout the Alaska territory. On April 15, 1928, he made the first nonstop flight over the North Pole, discovering six new islands on the flight. He was killed in 1929 while attempting to rescue passengers from an icebound ship in the Bering Strait.

- Kelly Flinn, the first female B-52 pilot, was born Dec. 23, 1970, in St. Louis. She became one of the top cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1995, Flinn was trained in the B-52 and, in October, was assigned to Minot (N.D.) Air Force Base. Her career was derailed on May 20, 1997, when she was charged with committing adultery with a married man in Minot. She contended he did not tell her he was married. Rather than face a court-martial, Flinn resigned. She has written a book about her experiences titled "Proud to Be."


- Dick Grace was one of the first famous Hollywood stunt pilots. He was born on Jan. 10, 1898, in Minnesota, but grew up in Jamestown, N.D. In the late 1920s, Grace began doing stunt work in the movies, specializing in crashes. He continued his career into the 1960s. Grace broke more than 80 bones throughout his career. He died June 25, 1965, of emphysema.

- Richard Lee Johnson was a famous test pilot who became the second person to break the sound barrier. He was born Sept. 21, 1917, on a farm near Cooperstown, N.D. A noted baseball pitcher, he signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox. When World War II intervened, Johnson won many awards and medals for his skill and courage. He stayed in the Air Force after the war and tested new planes. In 1948, Johnson piloted the F-86 Sabrejet to a world speed record of 680 mph, shattering the previous supersonic record set by Chuck Yeager. He retired from the military in 1953 and worked for General Dynamics as a design specialist and test pilot. He died on Jan. 7, 2003.

- David C. Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was born in Aberdeen, S.D., in 1921. He was raised in Minot and later attended Minot State and UND. Jones served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, flying many missions over enemy lines. On July 1, 1974, he was appointed chief of the U.S. Air Force and, on June 21, 1978, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired from the military on July 1, 1982.

- Florence Klingensmith, who twice established the loops record for a female pilot, was born Florence Gunderson on Sep. 3, 1904, on a farm north of Moorhead. After marrying Charles Klingensmith, Florence became the first licensed female pilot in North Dakota in 1928. On April 19, 1930, she made 143 loops in one hour and 13 minutes, more than tripling the world's record held by a female pilot. When her record was broken a few months later, she did 1,078 loops before a crowd of 25,000 in Minneapolis on June 21, 1931. On Sept. 4, 1933, one day after her 29th birthday, she crashed and died while competing in a race against men in Chicago.

- Duane Larson, the father of the Happy Hooligans, was born in Regent, N.D., in 1916. He joined the U.S. Army and entered its cadet program in 1941. Larson flew 68 missions over Europe during the war. After the war, he owned and operated the Mott Airport and then joined the N.D. Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Squadron in Fargo. While serving as commander of this unit, it was nicknamed the "Happy Hooligans." He died Sept. 20.

- John Odegard, founder of the aerospace program in Grand Forks, was born in Minot on Sept. 12, 1941. He sprayed crops during the summers while attending UND. In 1966, he proposed merging a business degree with a new aviation program, which was later reorganized to become the Center for Aerospace Science. Under his leadership, it became one of the most respected aerospace programs in the world. He died on Sept. 27, 1998.

- Terry Schroeder Scherling, deputy director for antiterrorism and homeland defense, was born in Davenport, N.D. She was the daughter of Darrol Schroeder, a major general in the U.S. Air Force. After graduating from UND, she joined the National Guard where she rose to the rank of brigadier general. After 9/11, she was named assistant for Homeland Security and, on July 11, 2003, given the title of deputy director.

"Did You Know That" is a Sunday column that focuses on interesting people, places and events that had an impact on North Dakota, or even the country. It is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at: cjeriksmoen@cableone.net .

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