‘Saved by Seth’ : Local aircraft mechanic restores Minot AFB man’s Cessna
Seth Boyko, an aircraft mechanic at Minot Aero Center, is an extremely talented workaholic who grew up near Turtle Lake with a North Dakota “If it’s broke…fix it” ethic.
Eighteen-year-old Seth was tasked with restoring my 1959 twin Cessna aircraft.
Consulting with Minot Aero Center’s Director of Maintenance Jay Blessum we decided to fly my sick little bird (1959 twin Cessna aircraft) back to Minot for the possible salvation – restoration to airworthiness condition.
Should we wish to proceed, “It Just So Happens That (I.J.S.H.T.)” Jay would generously give Seth uninterrupted space and time to tackle this massive project.
The issue came about in January 2022, when I dropped off my 1959 twin Cessna aircraft for its first major inspection at TAS Aviation maintenance facility in Defiance, Ohio. Our horrific Midwest winter weather subsided at the same time I had Air Force leave and it was the last week of the last month before my annual inspection expired. In May, I was told what every vintage vehicle owner dreads hearing – corrosion was discovered. Specifically, a four-inch area along the right wing’s spar, which is basically the airplane’s spine. Pictures looked like a Great White shark took a bite out of it.
The shop in Ohio did not have the capacity to take on such a long-term restoration project.
Alex Finneseth, friend and fellow aviator, flew with me to bring my twin Cessna back to North Dakota from Ohio. With the Minot ferry flight completed, now began the search for a suitable wing donor. My friend, Dennis Rehr, unearthed a 1960 Cessna 310, taken apart and stored in Iowa and put me in touch with the D model’s owner. Once we learned that a 1960 model’s wing will fit on my 1959 model, hope and prayer began to take action.
The obvious determinant for most of us in restoring a vintage car, truck boat or aircraft is money. In my case, I went by the standardized aviation insurance industry formula: If the repair estimate exceeds 70ish% of the aircraft value, it is considered a total loss.
The U.S. Air Force stationed me at Minot, North Dakota, these past three years, affording me the chance to hang out with aviation legends and icons like Kent and Warren Pietsch. Before plunging into major restoration surgery on 90B, Warren and I discussed this topic of When-To-Rescue vs When-To-Let-Go. We considered all the factors including money.
Enter Seth the Savior and Minot Aero Center.
Seth had a free weekend, a brother, loads of enthusiasm for our project and a huge pickup truck with flatbed so, one round-trip to Iowa later, and we have us a donor aircraft wing.
So, we got my plane back at Minot a replacement right wing, lots of local airport enthusiasm, an adventurous shop and Seth.
To say this young man possesses skill and initiative is understated. Daily I visited the maintenance hangar during this project and received updates from Seth akin to: “Well, the wiring in this new wing is crap so I replaced it all with new.”
Every visit I liken to witnessing a miracle in progress, and I’m in the business of believing in those, so I shouldn’t have betrayed such shock! (Walker is an Air Force chaplain.)
Main fuel tank removed. Engine hoisted. Wing amputated. Wheels, brakes and lines swapped. Flight control surfaces traded. Ribs and cowling parts exchanged between old wing and new. Anachronistically shiny replacement skin: fabricated in-house.
Blending two airplanes together creates obvious color differences, ranging from beige and maroon to green, gold and white, so when asked about a name, I struck a dramatic pose like Dr. Pretorius from the 1930s horror classic and pronounced her, “The Bride of Frankenstein.”
I cannot stress enough that this entire project was 99% Seth. Wise beyond his age of 18 years, he consulted with local experts and experienced maintenance gurus throughout the process, all under the watchful eye of Jay Blessum.
Meanwhile, a funny thing was happening around the old airfield: a case study in what we mean by, the aviation community. At one point, I saw three mechanics, two flight instructors, one student pilot and an airman from my base… all assisting in saving this old air companion of mine. How do you place a value on that?
The entire wing replacement plus annual inspection was all accomplished in just two months.
On Dec. 1 the day arrived for the test flight. To be expected, Seth was right there in the co-pilot seat and righteously monitoring/manipulating everything that extends, retracts, moves, registers, lights up or ignites: everything we could think of to check after such a massive undertaking was tested to the max. Anything I could write about that moment is best summarized by looking at the two faces ignited by cell phone camera flash (which I forgot to disarm), where you can catch a glimpse of grinning VICTORY.
Seth is an icon of assurance that the USA has a bright future, with folks like him pouring their all to make each day a success story. Taking what he learned from family and farm, Seth climbed into aviation and is a proud owner, aircraft mechanic, commercial single engine land pilot and the most optimistic, proficient troubleshooter you will ever see tackling gremlins in the maintenance hangar.
As of now, 90B and I are back to FMC status. That’s Air Force-ese for Fully Mission Capable. We have resumed our business/pleasure sky time together doing what twin Cessnas do best. If you find yourself at Minot International Airport, swing by AvFlight. We would love to share more of this rescue story with you all. Just look for the beige, maroon, black, white, gold, silver and green 1958/1959/1960 twin Cessna 310 with “Saved by Seth” painted on one wing.