An integral contributor to the aviation community in Drumheller was honoured with a plaque reflecting his dedication to the airport and aviation.
Don Ostergard has been a part of the flying community for decades. In fact, he learned to fly in Drumheller in 1976.
Since then, his flying adventures have taken him to all corners of the continent, from Panama all the way up to the Arctic coast. His wife Carol is also a pilot, although she had let her privileges lapse a few years ago.
On Friday, October 6, he was joined by the flying community, his family, the Municipal Airport Commission, Drumheller Mayor Heather Colberg and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Darryl Drohomerski as a plaque was unveiled.
“I find I do not deal well with having a fuss made over me! However, the recognition that has been granted to me is very, very much appreciated. I just am not sure if I deserve all the praise,” Ostergard tells the Mail.
His flying adventures are just a small part of what he has done for the airport. He has been on the Commission for decades, bringing up more than issues, but solutions to make the aerodrome better.
This includes researching and lobbying for navigation equipment and always lending a hand. He is a wealth of knowledge for the community.
“I believe I did a lot of pushing and ‘pot stirring’ while on the Airport Commission, but it was Pat and Catherine Bonneville, who stepped up to the plate, so to speak and implemented so many of the improvements that we have seen lately. And also dealt with so many items that had been allowed to fall into disrepair due to inadequate maintenance or outright neglect. They are the real heroes in this story,” said Ostergard.
With all the work that has been accomplished, he feels the airport is a stronger asset to the community.
“We now have a first-class Instrument Approach and Landing System. This, combined with the recent repaving and new runway lighting system, makes Drumheller a true all-weather airport,” he said. “We are already seeing a significant increase in the usage by fixed-wing air ambulances. All that remains now is to upgrade our weather reporting capabilities at the airport. We are most of the way there already, we just need to make those ‘few last steps.’”
A spinoff is the amount of travel the airport receives from people coming to the valley to visit.
“With all the work that has been done at the airport, we now have a first-class facility, which has resulted in Drumheller being a real destination for air tourism. During the summer months, we find visitors flying in from all over Canada and the USA,” he said. “I have had the fortunate experience of being at the airport during one of our meetings when a planeload of tourists dropped in. Mayor Colberg happened to be out on the ramp at the time, so she strode up to them and said, ‘Welcome to Drumheller. I'm the Mayor. Is there anything you'd like to know about?’ They stayed an extra day.”
It appears his flying days have come to an end.
His familiar 1959 Piper Comanche has been sold, ending an era.
“It hurt a bit to sell the plane and leave aviation, but I wanted the decision to be mine alone. I had lots of time left on my medical, but I no longer felt comfortable flying, so I quit while I was ahead. I have always been pretty good at ‘turning the page’ when leaving a part of my life behind. And the plane went to a very good home in Swalwell, Alberta.”