November 25, 2021

August Lehmann left lasting impression on Dawson Creek aviation community

Jon Robinson

Rod Folster, Bonnie Lehmann, and Mark Sutton at the Mile Zero Flying Club’s Hangar 66. (Photo: Tom Summer)

By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

The Mile Zero Flying Club and the community at large are feeling the loss of local aviation fixture in August Lehmann. Teacher, pilot, air maintenance engineer, aircraft builder, and owner of the Flying ‘L’ Ranch airport.

Known to wear many hats and was always happy to share his knowledge with others, his wife Bonnie notes he was always a teacher at heart.

“He was a teacher, bottom line. He loved to teach and that tied in nicely with anyone innocent enough to ask.”

While he taught at the school district for many years, he always came back to the skies.

Lehmann enjoyed a varied aviation career over the years, flying for fire patrol the forestry sector, Search and Rescue, and more.

“He really didn’t wish to travel with commercial airlines, he much preferred to do his own thing. It’s a nice climate, the pilot world.”

Lehmann also flew planes in the Muskwa Kechika range and by Williston Lake. His interest in flying started as a teenager, working for the airport in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. He earned his licence by 18, but took a break for many years due to the prohibitive cost of additional flight lessons.

The pair moved to Dawson Creek in 1976 where Bonnie gained her licence, becoming a pilot alongside her husband, with Lehmann taking a refresher and reviving his interest in aviation.

“This the ideal place to learn. It’s a small airport, not that busy. I took some of my training outside of Calgary, and there would be five in the circuit. You’ve got lots of practice looking out for other planes, whereas here, it’s more quiet.”

Soon the pair were establishing their own private air strip, more famously known as the Flying ‘L’ Ranch.

Mile Zero Flying Club members Mark Sutton and Rod Folster came to know Lehmann as their flight instructor when he taught lessons in the early 1990s. The three became very close, says Bonnie, with Folster and Sutton considered Lehmann’s adopted sons, all sharing a passion for flying.

Folster says Lehmann is greatly missed, with dedicated aviation experts tough to find. Their ranch was purchased by Folster, who says the name will never change.

“We really need another retired school teacher to take on the flight instructing, then they’re willing to stick around and see it through. It can’t really be a business thing.”