We plan to bring you some short stories of the rewards and challenges of our work. Before we do that however, we need to give you a brief back story of Gerry Beck; the man who started it all. Gerry lost his life in a tragic accident in 2007. Gerry saw a little glimmer of something in all of us he asked to join him. Something maybe, we didn’t know we had. He took each of us under his wing and brought out our best attributes. It is truly amazing how many lives you touch unknowingly. A simple kindness perhaps, or taking the time to answer a question, giving a plane ride, you know, the small things we take for granted. Gerry would say to us sometimes that if he ever didn’t make it back to put him in an old prop box. So, that’s what we did, we modified an old propeller box just for him.
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.”
Next post we’ll be talking about the A6M2 Model21 Zero restoration and some adventures we’ve had with it.