‘It’s been kind of a given forever’

2010 NBAHS grad has career in aviation

Joe Klun in his pilot uniform; he’s worked for multiple airlines and is now a first officer at Sun Country Airlines. Klun, third from left, poses with his 4x400 North Branch Area High School 4x400 relay team at the state meet in 2010. Photos supplied
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Klun, third from left, poses with his 4x400 North Branch Area High School 4x400 relay team at the state meet in 2010. Photos supplied

Sometimes Joe Klun takes cellphone photos of sunrises from the cockpits of airplanes to show to his wife of about 1 year, Katie, but he almost always deletes them.

“It never translates the same on a phone photo,” Klun said, noting it’s difficult to describe the difference between being at the helm of a plane and being a passenger.

Klun is a 2010 North Branch Area High School graduate, a Stacy native, and the son of Mike and Vicki Klun. His younger brothers, Brett and Jack, also graduated from North Branch. After high school, Klun attended South Dakota State University to pursue an education in aviation. He admitted that once he got into college he tried to stray away from a career that called him to the skies, but he just felt himself drawn to being a pilot.

“It’s been kind of a given forever,” he said, noting that his interest in flying started when he was young and his uncle, Bart Ott, would tell him stories about his own experience as a pilot.

“He was a big, big influence on that,” Klun said. “He didn’t really push me to do it, but talking to him about everything and always asking questions. … Just his answers made me want to do it more. He was an influence, whether he meant to be or not, just by his knowledge and his profession.”

Running memories
Klun went to North Branch Area Public Schools from kindergarten until he graduated. Some of his fondest memories of that time revolve around sports. He participated in baseball, basketball, football, track and cross-country. By the time he was a senior, his focus was solely on track and cross-country.
He remembered going to state his senior year in track for the triple jump and as part of the 4×400 relay team.

“That was kind of a big year for North Branch boys track,” he said. “It was coach Hasleiet’s last year there, so it was pretty cool to actually do halfway decent for him.”

Coming back home
Klun’s career started out small scale and has steadily progressed. He did his initial training in small single-engine and small-twin engine airplanes. From there, he worked for a company that did aerial surveys.

“It’s cameras in the back of an airplane, basically,” he said. “You just fly these tracks back and forth, and the cameras take photos.”

Next, Klun worked for a charter company out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, flying multi-engine turboprop airplanes.

Then it was onto SkyWest Airlines, where Klun piloted smaller jets for the company, which is a regional carrier for Delta and United. SkyWest’s headquarters is out of Utah.
Just recently, Klun started a job as a first officer at Sun Country Airlines, based out of Minneapolis. He said he enjoys the tighter-knit feel of the airline.

“SkyWest was pretty big,” he said. “Typically, I’d fly with someone new every week. I only flew with the same people two or three times. Sun Country is a lot smaller. You fly with the same people here a lot. It’s kind of cool to get to know the guy you’re flying with.”

Klun said his profession takes him away from home often, but it’s nice that Sun Country is based out of Minneapolis, so when he’s done working for the week he can come home to his wife in Stacy. He noted sometimes his job affords him the opportunity to experience some of the most well-known cities in the country.

“After you get somewhere, sometimes you’ll have some long overnights at some decent places,” he said. “I’ve spent time in San Francisco and Atlanta. Gosh, it seems like I live in Atlanta. I’ve been to New York a little bit and Texas a lot. I’ve also been to Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver. Sometimes you can go out and see some sights or go out with the crew and get something to eat. It’s up to you if you want to go out and do something.”

So far, some of Klun’s favorite memories from flying are from the times he’s brought military members from the East Coast back home to Minnesota.

“When you see their families standing there waiting for them with signs, that’s pretty cool,” he said. “(The military members) are doing something that matters more than my job. Just being able to be a part of bringing them back home was great.”

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