Wilber C. Larrabee

Year Inducted: 1993

Year Of Birth: 1896

Year Of Death: 1963

Wilber and his brother, Weldon Larrabee were pioneer aviation businessmen in Minnesota. Wilber Larrabee was the pilot of the brothers. Lt. Larrabee served in WWI as a pursuit pilot. After the war, he briefly instructed at Mather Field in California, before returning to the Twin Cities. There, in 1920, the two brothers started an aviation business (we would call an FBO) on the site of the abandoned Minneapolis Speedway racetrack near Fort Snelling. The Security Aircraft Company built a hangar using the concrete of the racetrack as its floor. The company catered to visiting airmen with aircraft sales, maintenance, shelter and sight-seeing. The track had gone defunct in 1916 after only a single season of auto racing in 1915.

The brothers organized a thrill show, which was alternately sponsored by the St. Paul Dispatch newspaper or the Minneapolis Daily News. The thrill show performed on weekends to draw visitors to the business. Many local aviation personalities flew stunts, wing-walking, and parachute jumping. Wilber, using his military skills, thrilled crowds, billed as the “Flying Squirrel.” He set a record in 1919, flying from Minneapolis to Duluth in 90 minutes in a rebuilt biplane in the midst of winter, taking off from frozen Lake Calhoun and landing in the bay at Duluth. At another time, he flew under the Duluth aerial bridge and circled the town to the delight of large crowds. He also flew the distance of Minneapolis to New York in 16 hours and 22 minutes! At Minneapolis, the airshow became well-known and was booked for many county fairs and outdoor gatherings. Following the sale of the Security Aircraft Company in 1923, Wilber moved to California where he was active in civic organizations.