Charly Haley, Forum News Service, Published October 02 2013
Two pilots fly all N.D. airports
Dale Seckerson, 61, and Jay Dugan, 35, recently flew to all 89 airports in North Dakota, completing the top tier of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission’s passport program.
“It was a lot of fun. You get to see a lot,” Seckerson said. “It’s just something we wanted to do.”
The passport program had both pilots flying to airports in their spare time with the goal of filling their “passport” booklets with stamps from each North Dakota airport. Seckerson and Dugan earned their last stamps in early September.
Only about 10 people have visited all 89 airports through the program, which started in 2010, said Melinda Weninger, administrative officer with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.
Seckerson and Dugan flew to about half of the airports together in Dugan’s plane and about half separately, Dugan said.
Seckerson started his passport tour in summer 2012, and Dugan joined in April after moving to Jamestown from Grand Forks. The two had been friends before Dugan moved to Jamestown, they said.
The passport program started out as a friendly competition between the two lifelong aviators.
Although Dugan started the program months after Seckerson, he took advantage of the Fourth of July weekend – when Seckerson had plans – to get ahead in the competition.
“I went, and I called him up and said ‘I got 35!’ and he was at like, 33 at the time,” Dugan recalled.
“So a couple of days later, I took off,” Seckerson said, laughing.
After covering the airports near Jamestown, it became clear that the two friends would benefit from quitting the competition and splitting fuel costs by visiting the further-away airports together.
Both pilots said the program helped them see places they hadn’t been to before and some that they’d like to visit again.
“Williston, I hadn’t been up in that area,” Seckerson said. “You can see all the oil activities going on … I thought, ‘My God, they’ve got vehicles running all over.’”
Dugan said one of his favorite airports was in Arthur, because planes approach the grass runway between two trees.
“It’s really cool. I enjoyed that runway, it was a lot of fun,” he said.
The highest number of airports the pilots hit in one day was 18, during Labor Day weekend, Dugan said.
It wasn’t too difficult for either of them to find time for their flying, they said.
“You get off of work, and you just go,” said Dugan, who works as a truck driver. “We did a lot of weekends.”
“Whenever we wanted to fit it in, the weather was perfect,” added Seckerson, who is a farmer.
Some of the airports were closed or didn’t have good landing conditions, the pilots said, and at some, they couldn’t find the stamp for their passports. They called the Aeronautics Commission later to get credit for those airports.
Seckerson said he enjoyed talking to people at the airports he visited, and some of them were surprised at what he was doing.
“Some knew about it, and some of them said, ‘You’re doing what?’,” he said.
The passport program has three levels, according to the Aeronautics Commission website. Bronze, which is awarded for visiting 30 airports, earns pilots a polo shirt. Silver, for 60 airports, gets them a flight bag.
And gold, which is the level Seckerson and Dugan reached by visiting all 89 airports, earns pilots a leather flight jacket.
Both Seckerson and Dugan have been around aircraft from a young age.
“I was probably flying in the womb,” Dugan said. “It was always there for me.”
Dugan’s dad was a pilot, he said, and Dugan got his own pilot’s license at the University of North Dakota.
Seckerson’s dad was a mechanic in the U.S. Air Force in World War II, and his family flew crop spraying aircraft in the ’50s and ’60s, he said.
“My dad started me (flying) in ’66, ’68,” Seckerson said.