As a business owner, Bob Redner may be mostly retired, but his passion as a pilot lives on. Redner was introduced to the art of flying when he was a young child. “My dad was a pilot. As a baby, I would go for rides with him. He had a Republic Seabee that could land on land and water.”
That sparked his interest early on in life. “I got my license in my teens,” said Redner, who lives in the Bloomfield area and divides the time he spends on his aircraft, a Grumman Goose seaplane built in 1944 that can land on land or water. “I split it 50/50. With half, I fly all around the midwest and the country. The other part is maintenance and restoration,” he explained. “I like older airplanes.”
He just finished a seven-year restoration on his plane, doing most of the work himself at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford. “I learned most of that from my dad,” he said. “He was super hands-on.”
Redner is married with two grown children, a son and a daughter. Neither are pilots, but they are both skilled at repairing and building things, like their father.
This year, Redner received one of the highest honors in the recreational aviation community when his aircraft was awarded a prestigious Lindy award at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
These awards for high achievements in aircraft construction and/or restoration are considered the highest award available in the world in these areas. Recognition is given for Grand Champion (Gold), Reserve Grand Champion (Silver) and Champion (Bronze) aircraft in 11 separate categories, ranging from homebuilt aircraft and vintage airplanes to warbirds and ultralights. Redner received a Gold Lindy in the Seaplane category for his McKinnon G21G Goose.
He had won Bronze before, but this was his first Gold. “It was a bit of a surprise and quite an honor to get that award,” he said.
The history behind the McKinnon Turbine Goose is that back in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, McKinnon Enterprises modified about 12 of the 345 Grumman Goose G-21A planes that were built in the 1940s. Originally, they were said to be built for wealthy hunters and fisherman who wanted their own planes to go fishing and hunting.
During WWII, some were put into military service. Later, many went to Alaska and other areas without airports to transport people and goods until they started to fade away around 1970. Out of the 12 McKinnon Turbine Goose planes that were modified, four remain, and Redner has one of the four. All four owners got together for the first time in August, when they flew their planes to Montana.
Redner’s plane originally came with nine seats. “It’s on the bigger side,” he said. It currently has six – and all were filled with people who brought just as many bikes for a recent trip to Mackinac Island.
His unique hobby has also taken him to places like Texas and Florida. His plane can go from Michigan to Florida on one tank of fuel because it has a long-range fuel tank. “I like to share this cool airplane with other people who would not normally see it,” he said. “I take it to different flying events and sometimes take people for a ride.”
In season, Redner flies at least once a week. From December to March, he performs annual maintenance. His recognition for its restoration meant a great deal to his family.
“My wife helped me a lot, and the kids, too,” he said. “They enjoy the mechanical side of things and my wife is game to go wherever we want to go. It’s a great time of year in Michigan to be flying around when the colors are starting to pop.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Laurie Tennent