North Dakota man donates 1969 jet to museum

July 9, 2018

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Don Bessette of Minot, owner of a 1969 Learjet, is donating the unique plane to the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot.

“We’re retiring the plane,” Bessette told the Minot Daily News .

The pilots have also retired from flying. Meric Murphy was the plane’s chief pilot and Jerald Burtman was the co-pilot.

“It’s a huge donation and we’re happy to get it,” said Don Larson, president of the air museum’s board of directors. “It fits into our development of aviation displays.”

Larson said the Minot plane represents the early years of jet age corporate travel.

Murphy called the Minot Learjet “the sports car version of Learjets.” He said it could make a trip from Minot to Las Vegas in two and a half hours.

“It was a very challenging airplane to fly because it’s so fast,” he said.

He recalled the first flight after he was checked out in the Learjet that he and Bessette did. They flew to Providence, Rhode Island.

Murphy, who now teaches aviation technology at Minot High School-Magic City Campus, said he tells his students that working as a corporate jet pilot has qualified him as a high school teacher. He said he can talk with them on anything from flying crop dusters to Learjets and help prepare them for a career that way.

Burtman said it is significant for the air museum to receive the Learjet from Bessette.

“It’s a unique plane and represents the pinnacle of corporate aviation,” he said.

William P. Lear initiated the development of the Learjet. The first flight of a Learjet was made in 1963 and after that, the plane began shaping the Learjet business and personal jet industry, according to Learjet history.

Burtman said the Minot Learjet is the 193rd Learjet ever built. He said the notoriety of Model 24B, the Minot Learjet model, includes Elvis and Priscilla Presley who took a plane like it on their honeymoon. That plane belonged to Frank Sinatra.

Larson said the Learjet will not be on display in the air museum until later this season.


Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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