I remember taking the 90-minute ride from New Brighton to Albert Lea every Mother's Day as a kid. I remember my dad piloting our family minivan with my mom filled with blooming flower baskets and three kids. I knew we were close to my grandparents when I'd see the jets out the passenger window. I'd always ask my parents why there were three jets on the side of the road. They never knew why. I know now the answer to that, and if you don't know, you can know the answer too. 

"In 1996, the City of Owatonna acquired one of these jet planes, a T-38 Talon “Thunderbird” Jet, from the U.S. Air Force to be used as a monument at the airport. The cost of the project exceeded the City’s budget at that time, and the plane was put in storage. In 1997, R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan proposed that the plane become part of a signature display outside Heritage Halls Museum, which was ¼ mile north of the airport. Buzz thought the display should consist of three planes flying formation. The City proceeded to acquire two more jets from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona."

The jets, after being stripped down to reduce their overall weight, and repainted to make them resemble 'Thunderbirds' were then waiting on the engineers to figure out the best way to mount and showcase them. The engineers spent several months creating a design for the display that would not only be unique, but also practical as it would have to withstand the high winds that sometimes sweep through Owatonna and Southern Minnesota. Waymarking states that the current design "withstood 113 miles-per-hour winds when tested in a wind tunnel."

The formation the jets are in is called the 'bomb-burst formation' and is a truly unique display that hopefully gives others the same thought as R.W. "Buzz" Kaplan had according to HMdb.org to "create a breathtaking realistic display of aerobatic flight and to honor our United States fighter pilots who help protect our great country."

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A fun fact you might not know about the three jets is that the pilots of tail-number 1 and 2 are Owatonna residents. Tail 1's pilots are "R.W. "Buzz" Kaplan and Betty "Bunns" Kaplan. Pilots of the #2 plane are MaryAlice "Bunky" Hanson and Capt. Jim "Cool Hand" Hanson.

And now you know...the rest of the story...


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