Robert D. Hodge

Year Inducted: 2023

Year Of Birth: 1921

Year Of Death: 2018

Robert Hodge was born in Chisholm, Minnesota. He had his first airplane ride in 1937 while attending a Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington D.C. He was able to take several flights while there. On his third flight, the pilot let him take the controls. This is when his passion for aviation started. 

He began flying in the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) at Hibbing airport while attending Hibbing Junior College. While at college, Hodge helped form the first flying club in Northern Minnesota. He took the Primary CPTP course of 35 hours in a Piper Cub, through which he earned his Private License, then 45 hours in secondary course in Waco UPF-7s. He then went to Galesburg, Il to take Cross Country courses in Stinsons, Wacos, and Beech Staggerwings. He went on to earn his Commercial and Instructor licenses. Hodge was hired as a Glider Instructor. He instructed in powered aircraft such as Piper Cubs and T-Craft, having his students dead-stick the aircraft onto practice fields. 

Following his initial instructor experience, Hodge, as a civilian, went to Northbrook, IL to instruct student Marine Corps Aviators in primary flight. He then moved to Lockport, IL to instruct student Naval Aviators. Following that he joined the Army Air Corps.  He requested to be assigned to the Air Transport Command, to the 3rd Ferrying Group. There he ferried various types of aircraft to modification centers and staging bases all over the United States. 

Hodge’s next assignment was to fly C-47s in the Pacific, transporting people and materiel from island to island around the Philippines. After transitioning out of the military in 1946, Hodge and two other former military pilots formed Northeast Airways in Virginia, MN. The group acquired franchises to sell Luscombes and Stinson aircraft. The business also had 19 training aircraft and gave lessons under the GI Bill. When business was slow, they began to ferry fishermen to northern lakes using SeaBee aircraft. Hodge became interested in flying for the Minnesota Conservation Dept. (later the DNR). 

Hodge passed his civil service exam and became one of the first three Game Warden Pilot in Minnesota. He was assigned to Ely, MN and moved there, resigning from Northeast Airways. He became adept at spotting beaver trapping, ricing, and fishing violations, as well as search and rescue of stranded fishermen. He was also involved with biological research projects such as the DNR’s wolf tracking and banding. Through the DNR’s wolf program, the habits and territories of Minnesota wolves were patterned and recorded for the first time. Hodge was appointed the DNR’s Chief Pilot, then Deputy Director of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. He was written about in National Geographic, The Voyager magazine, Look Magazine, and various newspaper articles. He was also made into a character in a Dell comic as Pilot Hodge. After his retirement, he returned to Ely to live until his death in 2018.

His love of flying, fishing, hunting, and nature made being a Game Warden pilot the perfect profession for him. Hodge said of his career: “Well, all in all, Warden work and flying, especially, is a clean life. Especially if you like the woods and the outdoors and especially, airplanes. And I like both!”.

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