In a long, windowless, fluorescent-bright room at the Fargo Jet Center, surrounded by two long benches filled with equipment and panels for radar tests, transponder tests, nav and com radio tests, Dave Mohn sits on a stool that can roll off by itself where the floor slopes. Baseball cap on his head, gray beard barely hiding the grin on his face, he’s the kind of person you tend to like right away.
Mohn’s history and experience are deep. Most of the test panels he built himself. He’s worked on everything from 1942 Cubs and 1939 Skyrangers to the new King Airs and Challenger 604s. Mohn began his career as an avionics technician in 1979 at Pietsch Flying Service in Minot, ND. He later moved to Waypoint Avionics in Fargo, which was then acquired by the Fargo Jet Center. Mohn is an avionics bench technician. If you bring him an airplane instrument, he is authorized to open and repair it all the way down to the component level — the individual transistors and resistors. This morning he’s already finished complete inspections on five or six radios.
His talent with radios and instruments and electronics is extraordinary. But that’s not why people smile when you say his name. Mohn is one of those people who believe in service, in mentoring kids, who believe in making a real difference. As a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America, he has recently seen his 275th Scout earn the Aviation Merit Badge.
How it began for Mohn
Dave Mohn grew up in Moorhead, MN. His family background is Norwegian, but Mohn was the name given to his family at Ellis Island. “Our Norwegian name wasn’t even close to Mohn,” he says. “That’s just what someone came up with. All the other Mohns we know are German.” Like many school kids, Mohn was asked in his 9th grade social studies class to think about his future vocation. He loved electronics. He also loved airplanes. “I used to watch them go by all the time,” he says. “I still do.” His teacher gave him an FAA pamphlet that described a career in aviation electronics and he was hooked.
“I had my intro flight when I was 16,” he says. “I don’t have a pilot’s license, but I do have about 35 hours as PIC. And because I do all the certification and recertification flights, I sit in the right seat all the time. I have more hours in the right-seat than most pilots have in the left!” When I ask him why he never finished his private pilot’s license, Mohn tells me he has two children, both with Muscular Dystrophy and one with aspergers syndrome. His wife, who also has Muscular Dystrophy, and he have adopted two children with special needs as well. “My time, effort, and energy went to my kids,” he says, proudly.
Scouting as a means of creating aviation interest
Mohn himself was never a Boy Scout. “I wish I would have been one,” he says. One day several years ago, however, a friend of his son’s invited his son to a Boy Scout camp-out. His wife wanted him to go along. “Once I got involved, it was all over. Every time I was around kids it was a lot of fun,” he says. “I was always trying to create a positive atmosphere.”
Mohn remembers the first aviation merit badge he guided. It was in 2005, Troop 244 from North Fargo. He helped the Scouts built a wind tunnel out of Lexan glass for a Scout Show at Moorhead, MN, Center Mall, a gathering of dozens of Boy Scout troops that showcases projects and activities. That air tunnel took Best-in-Show and is still on display at the Fargo Air Museum.
His most recent group was just last week. Fifteen students from Troop 68 in Long Prairie, MN, and Troop 222 in Fargo, ND, appeared at the Fargo Jet Center to work on their Electronics and Aviation badges.
The Aviation merit badge
The Aviation merit badge is one of the original 57 Boy Scout merit badges offered in 1911. To earn the badge, a Scout has to complete 10 activities which range from a preflight inspection to explaining how an airfoil creates lift, from creating a flight plan with destination times to building a gas-powered model airplane, from visiting a tower to visiting the FAA. It’s not an easy merit badge to earn.