Glenn Kinneberg of Spring Grove is shown with his bright yellow Piper Cub, which he has flown since 1947.  CRAIG MOORHEAD/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Glenn Kinneberg of Spring Grove is shown with his bright yellow Piper Cub, which he has flown since 1947. CRAIG MOORHEAD/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
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Glenn Kinneberg and his Piper Cub have been through a lot together. The first time he laid eyes on her, the month was July, and the shiny-new 1947 model PA 11 had just arrived in La Crosse, Wis., from Piper's factory in Lock Haven, Penn.
Kinneberg was a still-training pilot and charter member of Spring Grove's “Royal Flying Club,” which would become the owner of the airplane. He and his brother, Donald, had joined up with “a couple of other guys” to begin the organization.
Throughout its lifetime, the Cub has remained in the Spring Grove and Caledonia area and is currently berthed at the Houston County Airport.
“We had her re-licensed last week,” Kinneberg said with a grin. “The log book says there's right around 3,000 hours on the airframe and about 1,800 on the engine. It's been re-covered twice (with fabric) and we replaced the original 65-horsepower engine with an 85-horsepower model.”
Kinneberg said he and his brother started taking flying lessons on the same date, March 9, 1947, in Decorah. He was 20 years old that year.
“This was his plane,” Kinneberg said about his brother. “He liked to fly this one.”
Donald died on Jan. 3, 2011, at the age of 85.
Kinneberg flew a couple of larger, more powerful airplanes over the years, but ended up coming back to the original. It just has too much personal history to ignore, he said.
“I got my private ticket (license) in this,” he said. “I took most of my instruction in this plane.”
The tiny pilot's cabin fits like a hand in a glove. Climbing deftly aboard, Kinneberg looks more like a man half his age. He's completely at home behind the controls, which is good, since all he has to do is raise his elbows to touch both sides of the fuselage.
“This is a trainer and a puddle-jumper,” Kinneberg said. Looking at the bright yellow Cub, sitting just as pretty as the day it was built, he added, “I'll keep this one now.”
The Cub will do 85 to 90 miles per hour on a calm day. In 2012, Kinneberg flew it to Oshkosh, Wis., for the huge experimental aircraft show. The Vintage Aircraft Association was also holding a fly-in that year in conjunction with the “big show,” celebrating 75 years of Cubs, he said.
“We flew over to Hartford, stayed overnight and took off for Oshkosh the next morning,” Kinneberg recalled. “There was just a steady stream of Cubs arriving. They totaled 184, I believe. I got the oldest pilot award and the award for having the plane for the longest time.”
He flew in the Air Force from 1951 to 1953. “I got out early because I was 'surplus' after the Korean War was over,” he chuckled.
Then it was time to head off to college in Minneapolis. That's where Kinneberg met Sally, his wife-to-be. The pair loved to fly, and joined the group now known as the International Flying Farmers (IFF). Sally even served as the organization's queen in 1974.
“We traveled a lot that year,” Kinneberg said. “We made a lot of friends.”
He pulled out a black and white photo of Sally, himself and their son, Russell, then 9 years old. They're standing with some buddies at the IFF convention where Sally turned over the crown to a successor. Russell's a pilot now, too. He enjoys stopping in at small airfields all over Minnesota.
In 2004, Kinneberg published “Flaps Up, 56 Years of Flying: A Flying Farmer’s Memoirs.” The book recalls the early days of aviation in the Spring Grove area.
Several years ago, he was presented with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award by the Federal Aviation Administration. That accolade goes out to “pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 or more years.”
Kinneberg now serves as director for Region Five of the IFF, representing Minnesota, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
He also enjoys serving as a Semcac volunteer driver, using his own vehicle while helping out those in need of a ride.
Kinneberg recently took a ride in a P51 fighter plane that stopped off in La Crosse to show off some of the aircraft that helped to win the second world war.
It was a thrill, Kinneberg noted. “We were in the air for about an hour,” he said, with the pilot demonstrating rolls, loops and more.
“I never had any other hobby than flying. You meet other people. I've got friends all over the U.S. and Canada because of the Flying Farmers,” Kinneberg concluded. “It's been a wonderful 67 years of flying. I've really enjoyed it.”