By Jen Bakken
Delano, MN As parents watch over their children, they have high hopes and dreams for the success and happiness their children will find as adults.
Don and Margaret Hurst didn’t just hope or dream their middle son Ken would achieve great things they knew he would soar to high heights, literally.
When he was a young boy, Don and Margaret sat back and marveled at his amazing coordination and great imagination. He was walking at seven months, and at two-and-a-half years old, Ken took off on his bicycle before they could put training wheels on.
Ken enjoyed the arts and drama while in school, and as soon as Halloween was over, he’d already be planning next year’s costume. He loved to build things, and he always liked to go fast.
“Oh, he liked speed, he loved to go fast,” said Margaret Hurst. “The faster the better. Even as a baby in his walker, he wanted to go fast.”
At 16 years old, Ken had his first experience flying an airplane. For his birthday, his parents gave him a half-hour beginners flight instruction at the Buffalo airport.
This is when he knew exactly what he wanted to do after high school fly.
“Right then,” admitted Ken Hurst, “I was hooked.”
Like his grandfather, Edson Boyd, who was a pilot and the first to solo at Brandon Airport in Canada, and his great uncle, Doug Hurst, who flew Spitfires in WWII, Ken was going to become a pilot.
In 1992, when Don and Margaret moved their family to Rockford, they were excited to have some land enabling their family to enjoy horses and sled dogs.
They were also eager to open enroll their three children, Colin, Ken, and Carolyn in the Delano School District.
While Don worked as a CPA in the Twin Cities, Margaret was busy working as a volunteer coordinator for Delano Schools. In fact she started the volunteer program, (which is still thriving today), along side Debbie Gethmann.
“The kids were all involved with Odyssey of the Mind too, which is now called Destination Imagination,” said Margaret Hurst. “I was a team leader for many years, and Colin and Ken’s team from Delano was the first to go to world competition.”
When Ken graduated from Delano High School in 1999, he went on to the aviation program at the University of North Dakota to make his dream of flying a reality.
“Then 9/11 happened, and the jobs for pilots and flight instructors kind of dried up,” Ken said. “Things changed in the industry, and I just kind of took any job, and did what I could.”
While he taught flying lessons part-time at Litchfield Municipal Airport, he decided to go into law enforcement.
After graduating, he took a position as a Wright County Sheriff’s Office deputy.
“I did it for about eight months and realized it wasn’t the career for me,” he said. “And, I just didn’t like writing tickets.”
After his stint in law enforcement Ken continued being a flight instructor at Litchfield Municipal Airport and Buffalo Municipal Airport. A fellow instructor told him Mesaba Airlines was hiring pilots.
After he completed the required amount of multi-engine flying time, he was hired and, almost a year later, he is still loving his job.
He flies a 50-passenger CRJ-200 regional jet, and still does some flight instructing as well.
Though he’s never really had any bad experiences while in the air, he remembers one aircraft well.
“It was a home-built airplane, with a bubble top,” he said. “I was giving the guy flight instructions and the top flew off. Even though we landed and everything ended up OK, I decided no more home-built aircraft.”
Ken is the last of his family remaining in the Delano area. His brother, Colin, a 1997 Delano High School graduate is a mechanical engineer living in Michigan.
His sister, Carolyn, a 2003 Delano High School graduate, is also living in Michigan, where she is in college for forensic anthropology.
His parents, originally from Canada, retired to 105 acres in Vancouver, British Columbia, and are proud of not only Ken, but all three of their successful children.
“It’s pretty exciting to see your children do well,” said Margaret. “We attribute a lot of it to the school district. We were blessed they had an excellent education in Delano, where they had a lot of opportunities, and it was cool to be smart.”