Hastings man inducted into aviation hall of fameFor just 17 cents an hour, Orville Brede toiled in the fields of western Minnesota, working hard during harvest time for a farmer near Cosmos. Brede needed money, and the work on the farm was the steadiest thing he could find.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
For just 17 cents an hour, Orville Brede toiled in the fields of western Minnesota, working hard during harvest time for a farmer near Cosmos. Brede needed money, and the work on the farm was the steadiest thing he could find.
His modest goal was to save up $5, so that he could pay his own way to hop into an airplane with a barnstormer.
It was the depression-ridded mid-1930s and Brede’s family didn’t have money to go sending one of their seven children up in an airplane, so it was up to him to earn the funds.
“It was a job no one else wanted, but I needed the money real bad,” Brede said.
After a rough week, Brede had the money he needed. Soon after, the barnstormer came through, and Brede got in line. Soon he was flying over the western Minnesota countryside, a ride that changed his life.
“From then on, I was sold,” he said.
Brede eventually enlisted, was injured in combat by a grenade, got educated as a sheet metal worker and later as an airplane mechanic. He became a pilot, opened his own business, trained innumerable pilots, fixed countless planes and later retired. Along the way he got married, had three children and moved out to Denmark Township.
Now at the age of 88, Brede’s love for aviation continues. He still gets behind the stick with friends and gets the chance to fly here and there. Just a few months ago, his impact on the state’s aviation community was recognized when he was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.
“In the aviation community, we revere our long-time flight instructors, mechanics and examiners,” said Noel Allard, the executive director with the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. “The reason is that they are the persons who have made Minnesota respected in the nationwide aviation community. From them, in Brede's case, nearly 50 years of instructing in all types of aircraft, rebuilding dozens of old airplanes to keep them flying, serving as a corporate pilot, and being an examiner of hundreds of new pilots, makes him a solid hero in the field. While you might not find a file of clippings delineating his great adventures, his being honored with the prestigious Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award acknowledges his achievement.
“We inducted Mr. Brede because he was on the front line of keeping old airplanes alive and licensing new pilots.”
Brede’s biggest mark on the state’s aviation history came while he owned Brede Aviation. During the 1950s, they operated it at Southport Airport, located in Apple Valley near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and County Road 42. Later it was moved to the airport in South St. Paul.
They sold the business in 1978 and Brede went to work as a mechanic for Northwest Airlines. He retired 23 years ago, but has certainly stayed busy, tending to his garden, tinkering with mechanical things and, of course, flying.
“All my life I worked hard,” he said. “I just don’t feel comfortable not working.”
Stories and notes
Brede shared a number of stories about his life.
• A health problem meant that he was rejected when he first attempted to enlist. He went back shortly thereafter and was accepted.
“I lied like heck to get in, and they accepted me,” he said.
• While in combat during World War II, Brede and a fellow soldier took all kinds of heat. In a foxhole, a grenade landed near his feet and exploded. The explosion tore the buttons off his trousers. Yet, he said, all he suffered was a leg wound.
A different time, Brede remembers bullets flying around him so closely that he was being hit with dirt as they landed.
As a Christian, he said that the incidents just further strengthened his faith.
“Someone must have been protecting me,” he said.
• Brede served with the 3rd Infantry Division and was awarded the Purple Heart.
• Earning a job as a commercial pilot didn’t appear possible to Brede when he left the service. He said the airlines wanted younger, more educated pilots and he didn’t fit that bill. He talked it over with Elaine, and they decided to sell their house and all their belongings. They bought a two-trailer, packed up their meager belongings and drove to Tulsa, Okla., where he went to mechanic’s training. He’d go to school for eight hours a day and then work for eight hours a day, earning his money as a machinist for Douglas Aircraft. He was working on the B-47 bomber.
• Eventually he and Elaine moved back to Minnesota for a job at the airport in Grand Rapids. They returned to the Twin Cities after a year, where Brede had earned a job as a welder at Champion Aircraft.
• Brede was a corporate pilot for many years, transporting executives from Red Owl Foods, Viking Tool Company and Gresser Construction Co., among others.
• He recently earned the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic award for having 50 years of service to general aviation.
• Brede didn’t necessarily have an airstrip at his house along 90th Street in Denmark Township, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t fly in and out of his property. He did, he said, with a wink and a smile.
• Brede logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time without an accident.
• Over the years, his countless students have paid tribute to their former instructor. One even crafted a beautiful piece of stained glass that features a plane flying over the countryside.
He took extra care with his students, as he remembered how hard it was for him as he was growing up.
“A lot of these people have remembered me,” he said. “Some of them are friends for life. I’m glad I could help them.”
• Elaine Brede became a pilot, too, and eventually mastered the grass runway at Southport in Apple Valley.
“She could make the most beautiful landings,” Brede said. “You couldn’t hardly feel when she touched down.”
Their relationship, Brede said, had very humble beginnings when it came to finances.
“We didn’t have more than a couple dollars apiece, but we had a lot of love,” he said.
Their relationship just got stronger over the years.
“Anything I have been able to attain in aviation, we did together,” he said. “I’m eternally grateful to her.”