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Lofty flight plan

St. Cloud doctor aiming to land in every airport in Minnesota

Dr. Mitch Gossman lets his imagination take flight when he is not treating patients at Eye Surgeons and Physicians in St. Cloud.

The native Minnesotan has a personal goal to land at all of the 136 airports in the state after reading a magazine article about what one could do with a private pilot’s license.

“The gist of the article was things to do with your private pilot’s license besides flying a hundred miles away for a hamburger,” Gossman said.

The physician said he does not fly to the publicly-owned airports just to check them off a list, but he does keep a record of the ones he has landed at whenever he flies.

“Flying is a science, a challenge, a physical activity, and freedom — the ability to go anywhere when you want, where you want, anytime — and I first was exposed to it in a very real way with a helicopter flight when I was about 13,” he said.

And he became aware of the Fly Minnesota Airports! program sponsoredby the Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics and the Minnesota Council of Airports.

“It challenges you to land at every airport in the state, and there are three different tiers of accomplishment … and when you reach a certain point, they give you a prize of some sort,” said Gossman, who has a wife, three sons and a daughter.

For example, for landing at 130 out of the 136 publicly-owned airports possible, a pilot would receive a leather flight jacket; Gossman has landed at about a hundred so far.

“About a year ago, I started doing this in earnest … and I do it whenever I look outside and see a blue sky and don’t have something else to do,” said Gossman, who also enjoys working with computers, woodworking, photography and astronomy.

The program promotes safety and education and “encourages pilots to practice approaches and landings in many different environments” while supporting general aviation airports, businesses and tourism. The Mooney Aviation Company Inc., in Kerrville, Texas, is the manufacturer of the single-engine general aviation aircraft that Gossman pilots.

“At first it is very challenging, and it’s a minimum of 40 hours of training to get a third-class pilot’s license, but then after about six, eight, 10 hours, you’re usually ready to do your first solo flight,” he said.

He keeps his airplane in a hanger at St. Cloud Regional Airport, and sometimes before a flight he is not sure where he will land but enjoys the freedom that comes with it.

“What people who aren’t general aviation should understand is that flying general aviation is totally different from the airlines,” he said as he stood next to the Mooney.

“With an airline, you look up the schedule and see what the flight is and you show up on time, and people are preparing the airplane, and when you and I get on it, we have to go wherever it is they’re taking you. You don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter.”

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