Gerald “Gerry” Beck discovered a love for aviation after becoming involved in skydiving during his college years at the University of North Dakota. He graduated from UND with an Industrial Arts Degree, and while teaching high school in Grand Forks, North Dakota, he continued his path in aviation by obtaining a private pilots license and rebuilding his first airplane. In 1974, he founded Tri-State Aviation, Inc. (TSA), an aerial spraying and aircraft maintenance firm located in Wahpeton North Dakota. During his agricultural aviation career, Beck developed, or contributed to the development of, numerous items that enhanced pilot and aircraft safety and efficiency within the agricultural aviation industry.
Following the purchase of a F4U-4 Corsair project in 1982, Beck became involved in the warbird industry. Expanding the capabilities at TSA, he and a talented staff began restoring TBM bomb bay doors, followed by P-51D doghouses. The ability to fabricate parts coupled with Beck’s leadership and vision transformed TSA into a facility that specialized in the restoration of P-51D Mustang components and eventually complete airplanes. Although focused primarily on the “D”, TSA also completed the restorations of other warbirds including the Hawker Sea Fury, Corsair, P-51C, and Mitsubishi Zero.
Challenge oriented, Beck embarked on a quest to build the ultimate homebuilt: a P-51A Mustang. With perseverance, planning, and the assistance and support of other enthusiasts, Beck completed and flew the “A” in 2006. Beck and the “A”, dressed in movie paint, made a number of airshow appearances including Oshkosh.
Beck openly shared his knowledge and his passion for aviation. He encouraged and assisted others, willingly spent time with people of all ages who exhibited an interest in his endeavors, participated in airshows and aviation events, and was instrumental in the formation of the Fargo Air Museum.
Beyond aviation, his philanthropy was evident in every aspect of his life as he gave tirelessly of his time, talents and dreams. He was a visionary — a thinker with an undaunted, steadfast, positive outlook. Beck’s legacy will be the indelible mark he left on the many lives he touched worldwide.
“How do you summarize Beck’s life? We want to measure life in years, but really what matters is the extent of experience and accomplishment. While all of us assembled here today believe his life was cut short, in the too short of time he was with us, Beck lived an enormous life.”
“Beck made the unimaginable possible, and the simple special.”
Gerry S. Beck was a founding member of the Fargo Air Museum and instrumental in the development of many aspects of the museum. Gerry’s vision was to build a second wing to house restoration projects complete with rivet stations, audio WWII vignettes, welding and aviation basics.
Bob Odegaard once told his family that if he ever died in a plane crash, we shouldn’t say it was fitting that he died doing something he loved. According to Bob, “Sure, I love flying, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have loved crashing.”
The aviation industry lost one of its finest when Robert Odegaard of Kindred, ND died while practicing for an air show in Valley City, ND on September 7, 2012. Robert James Odegaard was born on August 12, 1946, in Fargo, ND to Melford and Annette (Erickson) Odegaard. He attended country school near Hickson, ND and went to high school at the University of Minnesota Boarding School in Crookston, MN. In 1964-65, he attended Northrop Technical Institute in Los Angeles, CA receiving an A&P certificate there. He served in the Army Reserve, attending Brook General Medical School and graduating as an x-ray technician. He attended North Dakota State University from 1966-71, studying economics, and joining TKE and serving as their president. He has been continuing his education with many noted scholars at the Kindred “College of Knowledge.”
From an early age, Robert was fascinated by airplanes as he watched crop sprayers working around the family farm. He later founded Odegaard Aviation, an aerial spray firm, which he operated for 31 years without an accident. He served as the Kindred airport manager during this time and played a pivotal role in the development of the Kindred Davenport Regional Airport at Hamry Field.
Robert was a brilliant airplane mechanic, a successful entrepreneur, an excellent flight instructor and mentor to young pilots, a storyteller, a musician, and an inventor. He invented the airfoil spray boom, later called the Superboom, which continues to be marketed internationally. Bob also built the first taxi-thru indoor aerial spraying loading facility in North Dakota. He was very involved in the wind industry, inventing and testing his own windmill designs.
Bob was one of the producers and also one of the pilots in the full-length feature film, “Thunder over Reno,” which featured the Reno Air Races, where he, himself, raced in 2006-8. He participated in three episodes of the network TV show “Junkyard Wars” with ND ex-governor Ed Schaefer & friend Rolf Sletten. One of his favorite “acting” jobs was flying a Lear jet and being a target for military pilots in U.S. Air Force training programs.
In 1989, Bob started rebuilding his first P-51 Mustang. That was the beginning of the Mustang wing business and also the start of his quest to keep WWII history alive around the world. Bob is the rebuilder and former owner of the Super Corsair, Race 57, a historic aircraft that brought worldwide attention to North Dakota because of its uniqueness and rarity. He passed down his restoration knowledge to his three children and helped them start their own restoration business.
Robert was a certified flight instructor, holding single-engine, multi-engine, helicopter, glider, and floatplane licenses with type ratings in over 10 aircraft including LearJet, Citation, and DC-3. He also held a rare “All Makes and Models” authorization for flying surplus military aircraft. Many young pilots consider him a mentor. He has soloed numerous students, including his two sons. Perhaps his dedication to the future of aviation is best illustrated by Duggy, a DC-3 painted bright yellow with a smiling face. Duggy excites young people at air shows around the country.
Robert was active in the formation of the Fargo Air Museum and served as a board member. He volunteered his time and his aircraft to the development, financing, maintenance and success of the museum. He was also a member of the Board of Directors for the North Dakota Aviation Association. As a member of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), he performed in their annual airshow, EAA Airventure Oshkosh, numerous times with several different airplanes. He has been active with the Arizona Wing of the CAF of Mesa, AZ, where he volunteered during the winters.
As a member of the Kindred community, he helped raise funds to build St. Maurice’s Catholic Church and served on the church council. He has supported Kindred High School athletics as a Booster Club member. He was a Kindred volunteer fireman at one time and a member of the local American Legion. He was also a member of St. George Catholic Church of Apache Junction, AZ, and St. Mary of the Lakes Catholic Church of rural Detroit Lakes, where he sang with the church choirs.
Bob has received numerous awards, including the Henderson Air Racing History Award, which is given to recognize “those who perpetuate air racing history through preservation, replication or historical research.” Other awards include the Aviation Mechanic Safety Award; the 1999 Aviation Heritage Trophy, and the 1999 People’s Choice National Aviation Heritage Invitation. In 2011, he was inducted into the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.
Robert has been featured in many aviation magazines and books. He has participated in numerous air shows, performing aerobatics and displaying aircraft. He has coordinated and participated in multiple fly-overs for various activities and celebrations. Just a few weeks ago, he performed with the Texas Flying Legends in a private air show that was given as a birthday present to former president George H.W. Bush.
His main hobby away from aviation, but included within, was his love for playing his 1965 Fender Mustang guitar with his many musical friends. Along with his portable amplifier, he even strummed along while flying with those friends in the CJ and the DC-3. Bob shared his wisdom, sense of humor, bright outlook on life and his passion for everything related to air and aircraft with people all over the world. He lived a life of adventure, daring, friendship and love of his family. He will be truly missed.
And when the goals are reached at last, when all the flying’s done,
I’ll answer Him with no regret- Indeed, I had some fun.
So when these things are asked of me. And I can reach no higher,
My prayer this day – His hand extends
To welcome home a Flyer.
Patrick J. Phillips
Many antique aircraft perform at today’s airshows and races worldwide. How did those aircraft get there? How did they survive all these years? The Restorers is an hour-long documentary film about warbird and vintage aircraft restorers and the planes they resurrect from the graves of history…In the snows of North Dakota we find two of the best warbird builders in the world in Gerry Beck and Bob Odegaard, builders of Mustangs and a rare Super Corsair respectively.