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Props & Hops: Honoring the Unsung Heroes of Aviation

November 19, 2021 11:36 | Anonymous

The fifth annual Props & Hops fundraiser event was held at the Mandan Regional Airport - Lawler Field on October 7, 2021. The event took place on a beautifully warm and sunny evening in the Mandan Aero Center hangars and was open to the public. There were about 225 attendees, ranging from airport regulars to event sponsors to the local community, who enjoyed locally brewed beer, delicious home-cooked ribs, and live music from local artists Ben Suchy and Chuck Suchy. There was also an aircraft static display and silent auction. 

This year, all Props & Hops proceeds were dispersed amongst local Aircraft Technicians, actively working in the General Aviation industry and who live within 65 miles of the Bismarck/Mandan area. The selection committee chose to recognize Aircraft Technicians this year to appreciate them for the hard work they put in keeping aviation safe.  Aircraft Technicians being defined as individuals that actively work in positions as A&P Mechanics, Avionics Techs, Repairman, Restoration Specialist or Apprentice Technicians. 20 technicians were honored at the event and received a portable toolbox. The financial gift can be put towards tools or continuing education.

“Aircraft Mechanics go through a rigorous training program and work in the tough North Dakota weather to make sure all airplanes are safe; privately owned and commercial flights alike,” says Props & Hops committee member Dr. Danny Van Buskirk. “Their work often goes unnoticed because we don’t see just how hard they work. We just know that our airplanes make it safely to our destination. As a committee, we really wanted to bring to light how much these individuals contribute. Aircraft Mechanics are the unsung heroes of the aviation industry.” 

Props & Hops is a state and federally registered 501c3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 2017. The organization’s mission is to bring positive attention to the aviation community by showcasing the benefits that the airport brings to local communities and raise funds for aviation related causes that are tied to Bismarck/Mandan and surrounding area. The organization designates a selection committee made up of five local aviators to determine an annual beneficiary within the surrounding aviation community. Props & Hops has been able to donate over $50,000 to selected causes over the years.

Here are a few of the local Aircraft Technicians, titled the unsung heroes of local aviation,  who were honored at the 2021 Props & Hops event:


Kent Picard, Chief of Maintenance, Basin Electric Power Cooperative

Q: Where are you from?

Redding, CA, a city at the North end of the Sacramento Valley, about 120 miles from Oregon.

Q: How long have you been an Aircraft Technician?

Since December of 1999

Q: What made you want to be an Aircraft Technician?

I always enjoyed working on mechanical equipment, aircraft were not on my radar but when the opportunity for school came up I was excited to head that direction and have enjoyed it.

Q: Where did you receive your training?

Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, OK

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an Aircraft Mechanic?

The people: aviation is a fairly small community and the people I have met and work with are very enjoyable.

Q: What is your favorite Aircraft?

Cessna Caravan, it is the ¾ ton truck of the sky.  It is reliable, comfortable, with plenty of room for maintenance. It is a simple aircraft to work on and can carry quite a bit.


Erik Peterson, Lead A&P Technician, Bismarck Aero Center  

Q: Where are you from?

Bismarck, ND

Q: How long have you been an Aircraft Technician?

A little over 15 years

Q: What made you want to be an Aircraft Technician?

I have always liked aviation and I am very mechanically minded, so I combined both and became an aircraft mechanic.

Q: Where did you receive your training?

I got my A&P certification at Westwood College of Aviation Technology in Broomfield, CO and received my B.S. in Aviation Management at UND. 

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an Aircraft Mechanic?

I like solving a problem that is very hard to figure out, usually one that other people have tried to figure out but could not. Also, getting called out to an airline where everyone is waiting to go and taking care of the issue and seeing everyone happy and relieved that they still get to leave on time.

Q: What is your favorite Aircraft?

Probably the Boeing 727. I used to work on them and I have always thought they were cool. Currently, my favorite aircraft to work on has become both the Cirrus SR20 and SR22.


John Martin, Senior Avionics Technician, Bismarck Aero Center

Q: Where are you from?

Bismarck, ND

Q: How long have you been an Aircraft Technician?

40 Years

Q: What made you want to be an Aircraft Technician?

Because I was a pilot, I wanted to own my own aircraft and I could afford it if I was able to do the maintenance myself.

Q: Where did you receive your training?

I got my training by working under an A&P mechanic in an aero club and in the U.S. Air Force.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an Aircraft Mechanic?

The love the challenges and making customers happy for the pride I take in my work.

Q: What is your favorite Aircraft?

My favorite aircraft is a F4U Corsair and the F14 Tom Cat.


Loran Urlacher, Director of Maintenance, Missouri Valley Aviation Management, LLC

Q: Where are you from?

New England, ND

Q: How long have you been an Aircraft Technician?

I started my career in January 1992. I have worked at BF Goodrich Aerospace, Northwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, Bismarck Aero Center, and MVAM.   

Q: What made you want to be an Aircraft Technician?

I grew up on a farm, where working on and fixing equipment was not an option but a requirement. As a senior in high school, I was on a commercial flight and during that flight I was inspired to work on aircraft.

Q: Where did you receive your training?

Dakota Aero Tech in Fargo, ND

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an Aircraft Mechanic?

My favorite part is the feeling you get when you stand outside and watch the aircraft take off. The most rewarding aspect for me is that the ownership group allows and trusts me to maintain their aircraft which family/friends and coworkers fly on.

Q: What is your favorite Aircraft?

My favorite aircraft is one that isn’t broke! I really enjoy working on aircraft that require you to be a computer programmer and a technician. It is a whole different way of maintaining an aircraft, when you need to hook up your laptop to the aircraft and start troubleshooting. 



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North Dakota Aviation Association

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Bismarck, ND 58507

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