Robert D. “Wip” Wiplinger
Born in Henderson, Nevada, Bob “Wip” Wiplinger attended the University of Minnesota, earning a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1968. Growing up in an aviation family, Bob soloed in a J-3 Cub and flew in the many aircraft owned by his father. As an active pilot Bob enjoys flying his Caravan, Stearman, Beech 18 and various Cubs.
Bob began working at his father’s company, Wipaire, in 1970 and later at his father’s float manufacturing plant on the Mississippi River in Inver Grove Heights, MN. In 1974, Bob operated a Cessna Dealership and began a sales and service business at Fleming Field. He additionally sold and serviced Federal Skis. In 1979, Bob purchased the float business from his father. Continuing Wipaire as a family business.
Bob soon hired several engineers and started creating progressively larger aircraft floats through the years. The smallest, the Model 2100 and the largest Model 13000 to fit a wide range of aircraft from Piper Super Cubs; through the largest seaplanes, including the Cessna 208 series Caravan, Grand Caravan, Kodiak, Beaver, Otter and Twin Otter. The Model 10000 floats created the Fireboss aircraft. Floats are made at the Inver Grove Hts. plant. The River Road Facility has been transformed to composite float development. Wipline floats have been certified in numerous countries around the world. Wipaire recently sold its 100th set of 8750 floats to the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) for use on their Cessna Caravans.
Bob Wiplinger’s success in the industry comes from the fact that he creates options and conversions that appeal to him as a pilot. He created the Boss Beaver in 1996 with the installation of the Pratt & Whitney turbine engine, and later, installed a larger engine and gross weight increase in the Cessna 182, putting it on a par with the Cessna 185 for float operations. Unique amid the creations coming from the South St. Paul company is the Fireboss Air Tractor AT-802. Bob took the idea of adding a 1600 shaft horse power turbine engine and water-scooping floats and came up with a fire-fighting aircraft capable of replacing the aging twin-engine Canadair CL-215. Able to scoop 800 gallons of water in fourteen seconds from a lake or river, the Fireboss can make several trips over a fire in the same amount of time as a single trip with the larger land-based aircraft. Today, Fireboss aircraft are stationed at Department of Natural Resources bases in Bemidji, Brainerd, Ely and Hibbing, MN.
Wipaire also holds over 100 STCs, including those for right-side passenger doors and wingtip modifications for the Cessna 206, Single Point Refueling systems for the Caravan and Kodiak, and, more recently, a Laser Gear Advisory System to warn an amphib pilot as to whether the wheels are in the correct position, based on the terrain below, water or land.
Today, Wipaire, ranks as one of Minnesota’s oldest aviation operations and enjoys being the largest full-service aviation facility in the state. Modifying and rebuilding aircraft, creating new interiors, having paint and avionics shops, a large pilot shop, selling floats and servicing aircraft. Wipaire is a FAA Certified Repair Station, Cessna Parts and maintenance Facility and Viking Twin Otter Service Center. His company employes 185 personnel.
In 2016 Bob and his son created the Ben Wiplinger Memorial Scholarship, to support aviation students wishing to learn float flying. His career has been filled with creating aircraft and features that have added to the comfort, convenience, and safety of aviation not only in Minnesota, but the nation and around the world.