In July 1944, Gopher Aviation opened as an air ambulance service, flight school and charter airline.

Art Hoffman, a Rochester native who had flown for Northwest Airlines, returned to Rochester in 1947 and took over as Gopher Aviation’s president. Hoffman had a plan to expand the company into a major aircraft repair facility.

Utilizing former military personnel who had worked at the Rochester airport during World War II servicing military aircraft destined for the Eastern Front, Gopher Aviation would become the largest aircraft repair facility between Chicago and California.

Clients could get fuselage damage repaired, instruments rebuilt or replaced along with adding radios or radar equipment. But perhaps most impressive was an engine shop capable of rebuilding anything from 185-horsepower 6-cylinders for light aircraft up to 2800-horsepower 18-cylinder radial engines for commercial airliners.

Small regional airlines from around the country would ship their engines to Rochester for overhaul.

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“Lens on History” is a weekly photo feature by Lee Hilgendorf, a volunteer at the History Center of Olmsted County.