Minneapolis, MN — An Airbus A320 jet flown by a Northwest Airlines pilot and co-pilot have won the 23rd Annual Eau Claire—St. Cloud Corn Maze Run. The oldest airplane corn maze in the western world announced NWA Flight 188 were the winners by almost 28 minutes over the second place winner, 3-time Maze Grand Prize winner, Todd Palin from Alaska. Mr Palin used a dog team and sled in each of the 4 years he has entered the race.
Also entering the Corn Maze were 2 4-man bowling teams from St. Cloud, Minnesota, the terminus of the Maze; an Eau Claire, Wisconsin farmer with a self-propelled corn combine; and 5 guys on a hospital bed from Dubuque, Iowa.
The Pilot, Captain Bjorn Bjorseth, who grew up in St. Cloud said “I began my competitions in the Corn Maze about 10 years ago with a Cessna 2-seater. It was always my dream to win this thing before I had to retire and now I’ve gone and done it.”
S. Burns Shalloway, a spokesman for the Corn Maze, said in a telephone interview that he planned to interview the entire group of competitors next week.
“We will continue to look at all things that affect the outcome of the running of the Maze,” Mr. Shalloway said. “We look at fatigue, chances of pilot error, in this year’s winners. We like to find out if there were any aspects of the Maze that were considered to be distracting.” There will also be some people selected from the plane’s 144 passengers who will be asked their opinions about the race as viewed from their vantage point.
Mr. Palin, who was asked about his inability to win 4 in a row, said “I think this year there just wasn’t enough snow for my dogs. They are used to having lots of snow on the ground. For some reason, this year there wasn’t any.”
The plane, which was based in San Diego, landed safely in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, and all the passengers were smiling as they deplaned, waving to family and friends as they rejoiced over their new celebrity.
Many were talking on their cell phones to friends about the sheer ecstasy of cruising at 37,000 feet running through the Corn Maze, making the sharp turns, keeping ahead of the competition, exiting at St. Cloud and still landing in Minneapolis about an hour and five minutes before its scheduled arrival of 8:01 p.m.
“When they opened the doors, that’s when we knew we had won the big one,” said one passenger into his cell phone. “Judges wearing official Corn Maze badges met us and brought us off the plane. We never heard our pilot again, after Denver until shortly before landing here. He was just awesome in his flying the Maze. Then all he said was, ‘This is the captain, we’re starting our descent and we should have the wheels on the ground in 20 minutes,’ he said it so calmly, just like he did this all the time.”
The company’s chief executive, John Newsom, said “the plane could easily have done the Maze while maintaining its altitude and speed. The instructions are pre-programmed into the auto pilot, and Capt. Bjorseth simply sat back and let the plane negotiate the Maze ‘without active human involvement.’ When he reached St. Cloud, he just took the wheel and coasted into Minneapolis.”