2005 Hall of Fame Inductee-
This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Vintage Airplane magazine
Like a lot of young people, Richard “Doc” Knutson was fascinated with aviation and started building model airplanes at a young age. He was born in Cuba City, Wisconsin, in 1924, and, as a child, jumped at any opportunity to get to an airport to see the real thing. After World War II came the schooling needed to make a living as a chiropractor, but as soon as his professional and family life with his wife, Grace, allowed, he learned to fly. The city of Lodi, where he lived, had no airport, so he took flying lessons in Baraboo, Wisconsin, starting in June 1953. Lloyd Bell instructed Doc in a Cessna 140.
With his private pilot certificate in hand, he bought his first airplane, an Aeronca 11AC Scout. Next came a Stinson 108-2, a straight tail Cessna 172, and on up through the popular airplanes of the 1950s and ’60s. A couple of sons came along as well, Dan and Paul.
Years of building model airplanes had created an interest in restoring the real thing. The first project was a J-3 Cub he located at the now closed Rainbow Airport in Franklin, Wisconsin. It was 1967, and although the fabric was weak, the Cub was ferriable. The purchase price was $500.
Doc had a two-story garage behind his office in Lodi where he worked on the J-3, and he was able to sneak out between patients and get things done during office hours. Since it was his first project, Doc’s enthusiasm was high. He had the aircraft flying again in only five months, although there were times he would have to peel fabric cement off his hands before taking care of the next patient! Satisfied with his results, he started restoring an Aeronca 7 AC Champ next, and he never stopped after that. Over the years, Doc and his son Dan have restored 22 airplanes.
Even at age 81 he remains active and can be found in the hangar, turning wrenches, mixing butyrate dope, or doing whatever else needs to be done. In addition to nearly two-dozen aircraft restorations, Doc has restored about a dozen antique automobiles and built countless model airplanes.