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Setzer named Airport Person of the Year


Christopher Andersson

Ted Setzer

Ted Setzer, one of the founders of Arlington manufacturer Glasair Aviation, was recognized as the Airport Person of the Year.

The Arlington Municipal Airport gave out their first ever Person of the Year Award at their annual holiday open house on Dec. 9.

Setzer was born in Kansas but came to the University of Washington for college.

After college he spent some time in the fishing industry.

"After I got three years in the Alaskan fishing industry I decided that wasn't very safe, so I decided I wanted to be a bush pilot because I figured that would be safer," he joked.

That goal got him involved in a lifetime career at what would become Glasair Aviation.

He met up with a friend and the two were to demonstrate a homebuilt plane at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the largest Fly-In event in the country.

They showed their homebuilt aircraft with plans to sell a couple models that could be personally built.

"After we introduced the airplane at Oshkosh in 1980 we were inundated. We didn't have a plan. We were just two guys that developed this airplane and flew it to Oshkosh," he said.

"There were so many people writing checks and putting them into our pockets and we were like 'no, we don't have a business yet,'" said Setzer. "We came home and we're like 'wow, we've got to get serious.'"

The company began at the Cedar Grove Airpark south of Seattle.

"It was affectionately known as 'the pig farm,'" said Setzer.

"It was so rugged a film company came down to scout for a World War I movie, although they decided it would be too costly to remove the wires," he said.

Setzer remembers his first flight in the Glasair. At the time he only had around 80 hours of piloting experience.

When coming in for a landing he was fixated on the fence in front of the runway and not the freeway he had to cross.

"I was fixed on that target and I wasn't thinking of the freeway, and all of a sudden there was this huge collision," he said.

He kept on flying even though he wasn't sure what had happened and turned back over the freeway to see a semi-truck pulled over.

"There was some big distinct black marks going at a 45 degree angle along the top," said Setzer.

"I'm up there flying, trying to get his attention, like, 'we're going to have to exchange insurance information,'" he said.

"If I would've been a foot or two lower, I would be a dead guy," he said.

In 1982 the company moved to Arlington and have been here ever since.

In the early years, without GPS, they didn't know how fast their airplanes went, but after an aviation magazine came to do a feature story about the business they realized they would have to find out with a stopwatch.

"It was coming up on the print deadline and he was calling us and kept saying 'you've got to get us this information,'" said Setzer.

Setzer flew between 4th Street in Marysville and Exit 206 for four total runs, but when he came back the landing was "blue lights everywhere."

"And this is how naïve I was back in those days, we come taxiing up and think 'someone's had a heart attack,'" he said.

He talked with a Washington State Patrol Captain for a bit who reportedly ended with, "I've never had the 911 switchboard light up like it has this morning, and I won't ever again, right Mr. Setzer?"

The plane clocked 240 miles per hour on those runs.

Airport Director David Ryan said that a "Person of the Year" program was in place at the last airport he worked at and he wanted to continue that in Arlington.

"It's a really neat way to honor those who have made a significant contribution to aviation and to this airport," he said.

"Ted is a perfect example of that and we look forward to giving out many more awards," he said.

Setzer said he was honored by the award.

"I felt like I've been a regular guy at the Arlington Airport. I've come to work for 34 years here and we've made it our home base. Even though I've retired from Glasair, I'll still be around here," he said.


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