NEW ULM - The New Ulm Lions Club 39th Annual Fly-In Breakfast drew the interest of many spectators Sunday at New Ulm Municipal Airport.
Among the veteran aviators at the event was retired Minnesota State Patrolman Don Keepers of Mankato. He served 29 years total including 18 years and 8,000 hours as a State Patrol aviator.
Keepers didn't fly to the event this time, opting to ride his Honda Gold Wing motorcycle with another motorcycle enthusiast and good friend, Larry Gag of Mankato.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
The Travel Air E-4000 open-cockpit biplane drew the interest of many who attended the Lions Club of New Ulm 39th Annual Fly-In Breakfast Sunday at the New Ulm Municipal Airport.
The thrill of night, instrument and winter flying in extreme weather conditions were among the things Keepers remembered about his flying days.
"I remember flying on a cold winter day when the gas line started freezing up. The air temperature was about minus 30 degrees F.," Keepers said. "I emergency-landed the plane on skis on a frozen, plowed field near Hector. I put in some Heet (gas line anti-freeze), let the motor run awhile, and took off. It happened a few times over the years."
Keepers' aviation duties included delivering blood and donated body organs to locations of potential recipients.
Decades ago, he flew State Patrol surveillance for Twin Cities metropolitan area police, looking for vehicle drivers who were speeding and passing illegally.
"I remember flying up to the Twin Cities airport, picking up blood and flying it back to New Ulm to a woman who was bleeding badly," Keepers said. "I got to New Ulm just in time."
He was co-pilot on a number of flights with former Minnesota governors Rudy Perpich and Wendell Anderson.
Keepers said he wouldn't trade the Cessna 182 he flew for the State Patrol for any other airplane.
"The plane was comfortable. If you could get the doors shut, you could fly with big loads," Keepers added. "It may take a while to take off, but it would fly. It's got lots of wing."
These days, Keepers and Gag enjoy riding their motorcycles to the Black Hills, Colorado, Montana and to Arizona during the winter months.
Proceeds from the New Ulm Lions Fly-In Breakfast are used to support the sight, hearing and diabetes impaired.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).