Published Tuesday, April 28, 1998,
in the Pioneer Press.
This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission of the
originating newspaper or wire service.
is a service of the Pioneer Press.
Michael Langer, who founded museum of aviation, dies at 59
TOM MAJESKI STAFF WRITER
When Michael Langer of Roseville first fell in love with airplanes, he was a young boy
living in St. Paul's Como Park neighborhood.
Driven by his passion for wings and propellers, Langer would frequently hop on his bike
and pedal the 15 miles to the Anoka County Airport in Blaine. Once there, he would wash
and fuel aircraft and perform other chores in exchange for free flying lessons. He never
told his parents about his love affair until he was ready to get his license.
He was only 14 and, for a time, the youngest pilot in the United States, said his
eldest son, Gregory Langer of Roseville.
Langer, who eventually founded the American Wings Aviation Museum at the same airport
where he learned to fly 45 years earlier, died Sunday of cancer. He was 59.
Langer graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota and became
vice president and general manager of Dynetics Systems, an electronics company based in
Elk River, but he was ``devoted, consumed, fanatical'' when it came to aviation, Gregory
``It was his hobby, but it could have been a second occupation,'' his son said. ``In
his adult years, he was a flight instructor and helped many, many people get their private
and commercial licenses. Anyone interested in aviation would find a true brother in my
Besides the museum, Langer also helped organize the airport's ``Discover Aviation
Days,'' an event that draws tens of thousands of visitors annually. He also co-founded the
popular OV-1 Mohawk Association, a group of aviation enthusiasts that quickly grew from a
dozen members in the early 1990s to more than 600 today.
During the early 1960s, Langer was a member of the U.S. Army Aviation Test Board. Part
of his job involved periodic trips to Vietnam to test the armament on the OV-1 Mohawk, a
twin turboprop surveillance airplane that also was used in the Persian Gulf War, said Len
Burgers, a longtime colleague from Mounds View.
More than 20 years later, Langer bid on and eventually purchased the same aircraft at
an Army surplus sale. The restored Mohawk now serves as the centerpiece of the American
Wings museum Langer founded in 1985. A building to house the museum, which is funded and
staffed entirely by volunteers, was dedicated last November.
``We used to say that the museum was Mike, and Mike was the museum, but he always told
us it wasn't for him, but it was a museum for aviation,'' Burgers said. ``What he has left
behind, what he has created, will be there for a long while.''
Langer was a devoted husband and father who frequently took his wife, Carol, and their
three sons on vacations. He always rented an airplane and they flew together, Gregory
Langer said. ``There was no need to wait in line at the airport,'' he said. ``In fact, I
had never flown commercially until I was 26 years old.'' When his three sons were between
5 and 15 years of age, their father would take them to the airport every weekend, Gregory
Langer said. ``He got free labor for 10 years, and we inherited his love for the museum
and the airport.''
Langer is also survived by twin sons, Jeffrey of St. Paul and Steven of Apple Valley.
Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. today at Holcomb-Henry-Boom North Chapel in Shoreview.
Services will be at noon Wednesday in St. Rose of Lima Church in Roseville. Burial will be
in Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville.