Randall “Randy” Lee Sohn
Born in Lake Park, IA, Sohn grew up in Minnesota. In January of 1953 he took his first airplane ride. In less than two months he soloed in an Aeronca Champ, on skis. Later that year he earned his Private Pilot’s license. He enlisted in the Air Force as a radar operator in August 1953. Later he was accepted as an Aviation Cadet and trained at Reese Air Force Base (AFB) near Lubbock, TX. He earned the Distinguished Graduate award for the Aviation Cadet Class of 1955. His follow-on orders took him to Offutt AFB, Omaha to serve as a flight instructor. While stationed at Reese, he helped organize a flying club and used a B-25 for qualifying Air Force pilots in it. He logged over 2600 hours and 6000 landings in the B-25.
After transitioning out of the military and earning multiple licenses, Sohn went on to work for North Central Airlines in 1960 and then Republic Airlines, eventually Northwest Airlines, flying all their contemporary aircraft. He was flying DC-10s and 747s internationally when he retired from the airline industry in 1994. While flying for Republic Airlines, he joined the Minnesota Air National Guard and piloted the 109th Airlift Command C-97 aircraft. He eventually retired with the rank of Major.
Sohn became a member of the Confederate Air Force (CAF), now the Commemorative Air Force, and qualified in their fleet of warbirds. While performing his regular airline duties, he was often requested to ferry damaged airline and CAF aircraft from remote locations to repair facilities at Minneapolis and various locations throughout the country. Additionally, with his extensive knowledge of piston engines, he authored numerous “Warbird Notes” on the care and operation of large piston engines.
When the CAF obtained a surplus B-29 Superfortress, Sohn flew the aircraft from China Lake, CA to Texas for restoration. Following the B-29’s full restoration, he and a crew flew FiFi to airshows around the country. During his time flying FiFi, he had the historic opportunity to requalify Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, helping to end the war with Japan.
During his free time, Sohn flew warbirds for Bob Pond’s Planes of Fame East Museum at Eden Prairie’s Flying Cloud Field. He served on the prestigious National Designated Pilot Examiners Registry that examined and licensed warbird pilots and crews. This was vital to the warbird community and their continued operations. Because of Sohn’s involvement with the warbird community, he was inducted into the National Warbird Hall of Fame in 1998.
Sohn owned numerous civil and warbird aircraft throughout his lifetime, including a P-51, Stearman and Staggerwing. He was also an avid vintage Cadillac and antique tractor collector.
Sohn was qualified in so many civil, airline and warbird aircraft that the FAA recognized this fact by issuing his Pilot’s license with the statement: “Licensed for all makes and models of single and multi-engine piston-powered authorized aircraft”. The list of aircraft he flew is extensive.
In addition to his well-earned reputation as a “pilot’s pilot,” Sohn was also an outgoing and generous person when it came to advising fellow pilots on flight operations and inspiring a younger generation about aviation.