- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Gary I. Johnson has repaired numerous aircraft over the years and restored many of them.

Fifty years ago on Feb. 20, 1964, Johnson joined the Pietsch family business in Minot. Now Johnson is observing his 50th anniversary as a mechanic at Pietsch Aircraft Restoration & Repair in Minot.

“I’m not retired,” he told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/MNsCtq). His work is “a hobby, a job hobby, and it’s made my livelihood over the years,” he said.

Johnson worked in construction at Minot Air Force Base before going to the Army.

“I worked on the runways for Peter Kiewit & Sons Construction. They were the prime contractor out there. I was a heavy equipment operator,” he said.

When he got out of the Army in February 1964, after serving for two years, he went to work for Minot pilot Alfred Pietsch at Pietsch Flying as a mechanic. He also started flying planes.

Johnson worked on many older fabric-covered aircraft. Pietsch’s spraying business was located there so he also worked on the spraying aircraft, he said.

“Then the charter business started, and I did that,” he said.

“We’ve done the contract maintenance for the airlines and we still do today,” he continued. “I’ve worked on North Central’s and Frontier’s to Republic and Northwest and many other aircraft.”

Johnson said there’s more turboprop jet-type corporate aircraft than smaller jets now. Even before the oil boom, he said, they were seeing more of these planes.

He said the privatization of the fueling for airlines and general aviation was another change for the airport.

“The service to general aviation aircraft is tremendous right now. I’ve got to brag about Warren (Pietsch), my boss, because he’s the one that did it,” Johnson said.

He said the nearby Minot Aero Center’s huge hangar for transit aircraft also has been a major change for the airport.

He said many military people and others also come to Pietsch Aviation to learn to fly.

Johnson, a pilot, retains his commercial license in multi-engine and instrument rating. Nowadays, he’s mostly doing what he likes best - the restoration of old aircraft.

Currently, he’s working on a 1936 Luscombe Phantom that Warren Pietsch and Duane Haugstad own.

“It’s a very rare plane,” he said, with only one other such plane flying.

Johnson also is involved in the Dakota Territory Air Museum and has been a board member since its early years.

“What’s happened there has been a lot of changes,” he said, referring to the museum on the north side of the airport and its various developments, including the annual exhibit of World War II planes from the Texas Flying Legends Museum.

“If you don’t take change, you wouldn’t be going anywhere and you wouldn’t be progressing,” he said.


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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