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Minnesota veteran honored with Dream Flight

Dr. Robert McKinnell has done much of note in his 96 years, but fly in a classic bi-plane was not one of them... until Sunday.

LAKE ELMO, Minn. — Editor's note: This story was originally published on Aug. 25, 2022. 

Dr. Robert McKinnell has crammed a lot into his life of 96 years. As a long-time U of M cancer researcher he has written books, studied at Oxford and testified before Congress, among many other things. 

But it is his service with the U.S. Navy in two international conflicts that recently earned "Dr. Bob" a tremendous adventure. On Sunday, KARE 11 photojournalist Tommy Platek was there as McKinnell arrived at the Lake Elmo Airport with adventure in his heart, and his eyes on the sky. 

"Look at this... oh boy!" he gushed while staring at the classic Boeing Stearman bi-plane that waited for him to board. "I was just a boy when this was built - look how pretty it is!"

McKinnell was selected after being nominated by a friend to receive a "Dream Flight," a thank you of sorts provided by the national nonprofit that recognizes deserving veterans from across the country. To date Dream Flights has honored nearly 5,500 American servicemen by taking them up in the Stearman, a plane used to train U.S. military pilots for decades. 

"For some reason, I guess they thought they wanted this 96-year-old veteran, so I'm here, and it's going to be an amazing, fantastic, super-colossal trip for me," he gushed. 

Dr. Bob was suited up in flight gear appropriate for the age of the plane he was to take off in, and made his way aboard for a 20-minute open-air adventure. He was just as enthusiastic when the old Stearman touched down on the tarmac, giving McKinnell another chapter in his amazing existence. 

"It will be something I'll remember for the rest of my life, which probably won't be too many years," he laughed. 

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