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Published September 10 2012

Forum editorial: A great aviator passes on

Family, friends and colleagues of Kindred, N.D.-based aviator Bob Odegaard will say a formal goodbye to him this week. The famed pilot and restorer of rare and vintage airplanes died Friday evening while practicing for an air show at Valley City. N.D.

Odegaard was more than a skilled pilot. His passion for restoring rare, older airplanes was legendary, not only in North Dakota, but internationally. He and his late restoration partner, Gerald Beck combined skills that earned them reputations as among the best in the business. Their restored airplanes were not merely static displays hanging in a museum. Most of them were lovingly rejuvenated so they could take to the skies again.

It was so much more than a business for Odegaard. Aviation in all its forms was his life. In addition to his prowess as a pilot, he was a quiet but effective promoter of aviation. He was among a cadre of aviators and aviation advocates who started the Fargo AirSho several years ago – a biennial spectacle that has become one of the best air shows in the nation.

Finally, by all accounts, Odegaard was a good man. One of his close friends said he “was an all-American nice person, just a kind and gentle man, very cooperative, very supportive.” Odegaard’s lifetime of work with airplanes and aviation supports that description of the man.

It might never be known what caused Friday’s accident. Odegaard was flying one of his restored rare single-seat Super Corsairs, one of two operating models Odegaard rebuilt. Only 20 of the World War II-vintage planes were built to counter kamikaze attacks.

But this much is certain: He was doing what he loved when something went awry.

Odegaard’s legacy as a brilliant airplane restorer, a highly skilled pilot and an unwavering promoter of airplanes and flying is secure. We join his family, friends and aviation colleagues everywhere in celebrating his full and extraordinary life.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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