With 65 years of flying, teaching and mentoring under his belt, Harvey, North Dakota native Allan Sauter, better known as Al, now has a terminal named in his honor.
“Congratulations Al, well-deserved honor, John,” said Senator John Hoeven, (R) N.D.
So what exactly does it take to be inducted into the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, and later get an airport terminal named in your honor?
“To make a living and survive in aviation, you have to do everything,” Al said.
And that is exactly what Al Sauter did, resulting in hundreds of trained pilots, and the newly named Allen Sauter Terminal at the Harvey Municipal Airport.
Al’s passion for flying was sparked at the tender age of three, in Harvey, North Dakota.
His mother was making him pick potato beetles, and he wasn’t happy about it.
“I was rebelling,” Al recalled. “Laying in the dirt looking up and an airplane flew over, and my mother told me all about it and there was a man in it. I asked her ‘What’s that?’ and she said, ‘That’s an airplane, and there’s a man in it.’ I knew then and it was non-stop.”
Fast forward to age nine, and Al was working as a flagger for a local aerial applicator who owned some airplanes, and his passion grew.
Then one summer, Al struck a deal with a farmer and it was a deal he couldn’t turn down.
“He said, ‘If you come to work for me I’ll buy you that airplane. How much is it?’ I said, ‘I think he wants $800.’ He bought it for me,” Al exclaimed.
So by the time he was 16, Al owned his own plane.
At 17-years-old, he joined the US Army for a year-and-a-half, and went on to earn his commercial pilot and flight instructor certificate, and that is when life really got busy, and for good reason.
“You ever hear the term, ‘You were hungry or you missed a meal once in your life?’ And you just made up your mind you’re never going to miss another one. I missed a meal,” Al said.
From then on, Al went non-stop.
He owned and operated his own crop spraying business, hauled mail and cargo across the Midwest and provided instruction.
And all of this, he did for his children.
“I lived for my two children,” Al shared, “that they wouldn’t have to live like I did.”
While Al retired years ago, he never stopped flying, even building himself an airplane hangar and creating his own landing strip in his back yard.
He continued to work after he retired as well.
“I used to fly doctors to satellite clinics all over North Dakota for 16 years,” Al said.
And the Gold Seal Instructor also continued providing instruction to pilots over the years, 633 to be exact. And a very special student pilot, hi son Ross who flew all the way from Oklahoma to Harvey to see his father to be honored at the dedication ceremony.
“If it wasn’t for my father I wouldn’t be in aviation,” shared Ross Sauter, son and pilot. “Currently I’m an airline pilot and retired air force pilot. And he inspired me to fulfill my dreams as a professional pilot. And if it wasn’t for my father I know a lot of people in the state of North Dakota wouldn’t be in aviation.”
And Al’s daughter Renee has a home right next to his, allowing him to spend time with her and the grandkids.
So just how did, and does he continue to manage it all?
“At times I wonder,” Al reflected. “I look back and I wonder how I did all this. I built this, worked full time, flight instructed. I’m not sure how to answer that Renae. I’m driven, she knows it, she’s driven.”
Al Sauter, one-of-a-kind, is Someone You Should Know.