OWATONNA (AP) -- R.W. "Buzz" Kaplan saw his dreams while lying in the mud in Germany during World War II.
While watching Allied planes flying overhead, Kaplan, then in his 20s, vowed to someday learn to fly.
Decades and thousands of miles flown later, Kaplan, a Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame inductee, took his final flight. The 78-year-old Owatonna native died Wednesday morning when the replica of a World War I-vintage plane he was riding in crashed near the Owatonna Airport.
Airport manager Dave Beaver said Kaplan and Brent Allen Langer were taking the plane for a test flight when it crashed nose-first into a ditch and power pole adjacent to Runway Road, two miles west of the airport, about 8:40 a.m.
Langer, 27, also of Owatonna, was in critical but stable condition at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester on Thursday.
Friends like former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant say it would be too cliched to say Kaplan died doing what he loved.
"But if you had said to him yesterday, 'OK, Buzz, you're going to die tomorrow and you have a choice, what would it be? A traffic accident?' He'd say, 'An airplane, definitely an airplane,"' Grant said.
Kaplan earned his pilot's license in 1946 and tried just about everything -- helicopters, balloons, jets and antique aircraft -- he flew across Europe in a restored 1930 floatplane.
In 1990, he made a trip to Greenland to aid recovery teams hoping to salvage the "Lost Squadron" of U.S. warplanes, which made emergency landings on a Greenland icecap in World War II.
In 1999, Kaplan and his wife, Betty, and another couple completed a 20,000-mile, seven-week journey by floatplane to Antarctica and back.
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