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Bob Lind, Published February 25 2012

Neighbors: Retired Lake Park man flying high at age 78

Being a couch potato would be “pretty boring,” Dorian Olson says.

This certified public accountant who taught accounting at Minnesota State University Moorhead for 30 years, including 10 years as MSUM’s first accounting department chairman, has, at age 78, earned the right to cool it in retirement.

But Dorian kicks back at the thought of just kicking back.

He and Donna, his wife of 52 years, live near Lake Park, Minn., on Big Cormorant Lake. This is where he kite-skis in the winter and does kite-boarding in the summer. It’s where he built a kayak for his daughter.

And it’s where he built his airplane.

Florida and back

In 1995, when he retired, Dorian bought a Seawind 3000 amphibious plane kit and starting putting it together in his shop.

It would become a 16-year project.

He did most of the work himself. “But when large projects came up, teams of friends would assist me in gluing together big parts,” he says.

By 2008, the construction of the fuselage, elevator and ailerons were basically completed. This included the installation of the retractable wheel mechanism, which was highly complex and took the most time.

Everything had to be done right. “I’m pretty fussy,” he says. Friends, in fact, call Dorian a perfectionist.

Maybe that’s why he decided to have the plane finished by a company in Florida. So he and his friend John Ohnstad hauled the plane down on a flatbed trailer.

That outfit, called Planemakers, did such things as attach the wings, put in the engine and finish the exterior. But Dorian had a hand in all this, too; when he’d visit Florida, the company allowed him to dig in and work on the plane.

After three years, Planemakers completed the job. And last October, Dorian, with a test pilot he hired, flew his plane home.

That, he says, “was pretty neat.” They flew between 4,000 feet and 6,000 feet, through a rainstorm, and had no problems. All in all, it was an exciting experience, he says.

Multitalented guy

Dorian was born in Fargo, then moved to Hillsboro, N.D., when he was 5 and grew up there.

He earned a Ph.D. in business education from the University of North Dakota in 1973. But he started out in music.

Dorian plays brass instruments. He’s a former president of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony. He directed the choir of First Lutheran Church, Fargo, in the 1960s.

It was while teaching music in Glendive, Mont., in the late 1950s that he first took flying lessons, and got his pilot’s license.

His brother-in-law, a pilot for United Airlines, got him interested in flying.

From the start, Dorian wanted his own plane, and so, upon retirement, he bought the kit and began assembling the parts.

Did he log the time he put into its construction? “No,” he says, “but I know it was thousands of hours.”

Did he save money through building the plane from a kit rather than buying one outright? “No,” he says. “but I had the satisfaction of building it myself.”

Flying high

After Dorian has completed 40 hours of solo flying under supervision, the Federal Aviation Administration will allow him to fly passengers.

His wife Donna will be probably be the first.

“We have lots of family and friends who live in the lakes country, so we’ll no doubt be flying to visit them,” he says.

He also has a license to fly gliders. But no, he hasn’t built one of those.

Yet.

But he’s a member of the Detroit Lakes, Minn., chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

He plays tennis.

He enjoys his and Donna’s two children and three grandchildren.

He flies his plane.

And Dorian is definitely not a couch potato.


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