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West Fargo flight instructor Skramstad granted Master Emeritus status

Flight instructor Allan J. Skramstad, West Fargo, recently earned the title of Master Instructor Emeritus by the international accrediting authority of Master Instructors LLC.

In and of itself, the award is a feat: less than 700 of the approximately 93,000 certified flight instructors in the U.S. have achieved Master status, and Skramstad is just one of seven in North Dakota. In fact, he is a seven-time Master CFI, and is only one of nine worldwide to be granted Emeritus status.

"It's an honor to be considered worthy of the designation," said Skramstad, who has been a flight instructor since 1985.

So earning the distinction of Master Instructor Emeritus isn't a walk in the park, but for Skramstad, it was downright epic.

Take, for example, his daily commute. Like many of us, Skramstad had to drive to and from his job. But it is doubtful that anyone beyond semi-truck drivers logged as many miles. Every weekday, Skramstad, 63, drove from his Fargo-area home to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks - a round trip of approximately 150 miles.

According to numbers generated by peers during his retirement party in May 2008, during Skramstad's 17-year career with UND, he clocked roughly 637,000 miles on the road and guzzled 31,857 gallons of fuel.

In the process, he went through four cars, the hardiest of which was a 1983 Oldsmobile with 283,000 miles.

"People always asked me, 'Why did I always drive, why didn't I fly?'" Skramstad said. "It just wasn't practical."

Skramstad has lived with his wife, Kay, in the Fargo-area since 1969 and moved to West Fargo in '96 after their children - daughters Tracy and Lisa and son Scott - were grown. The thought of relocating closer to Grand Forks had crossed his and his wife's minds, he said, but it never worked out.

"My wife had a job (in Fargo), and so we thought about something halfway in between," he said. "When we looked, there was only one house for sale in Hillsboro. Surprisingly the value was overestimated, so then we thought, well, we'll look at Grand Forks and my wife getting a job up there.

"We just never found anything we liked, so we decided to stay here."

No rest for the weary

Though retired, Skramstad still teaches a flight refresher course on the side.

"My wife would like to see me out of the home more," Skramstad said, jokingly, "but I do have my fingers in a few different things. I'm keeping busy."

Skramstad said he travels to different cities for his refresher course, which allows flight instructors to renew their certification. His next endeavor is to start a refresher course in the Fargo area to help regional instructors.

"I'm trying to develop an online course for this, also," he said. It would be a lot more convenient because students could "just take their laptop computer and access the course."

And Skramstad knows what it will take to get his program off the ground in the area. Before working at UND, Skramstad was a flight instructor at the West Fargo airport. He still remembers what it was like before leaving in 1991.

"It only had one hangar with six planes," he said. "Now, there's something like 15, 16 hangars and a number of airplanes."

Skramstad still has work to do to get his course off the ground, such as getting approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. Until then, he is proud of his Emeritus bestowment, and knows the distinction didn't come lightly.

"You never know you are going to get it because it is peer reviewed," he said. "You're always at the mercy of your peers."

According to a press release by Master Instructors LLC, "Emeritus status is an honorary title that may be conferred upon an individual Master in recognition of her/his years of dedication and commitment to excellence, professional growth, and service to the aviation community."

Skramstad sees the honor as keeping up with the aviation field, even in retirement.

"It's a way to keep my fingers in the pot, and a way of being involved," he said.