Karl Bergstrom was born in Stockholm, Sweden, where he discovered his passion in the mechanical trades and went to work for the Swedish airline, TransAir. In 1965, Elenor Bergstrom convinced her husband to immigrate to the United States with their young daughter Anna, to pursue the American dream. They settled in Tri-Cities WA. After getting his aircraft maintenance certification and pilot’s license at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Karl Bergstrom went to work as chief mechanic for Tri-City Airways at the Pasco airport in 1968.
In 1971, the husband-and-wife team opened their own aircraft maintenance shop which was incorporated into Bergstrom Aircraft, Inc. in 1975.
Avgas refueling service was added in 1976 with the purchase of their first fuel truck. Jet refueling was added two years later at the request of Western Airlines, the second airline to operate out of the Tri-Cities Airport. In 1981, Bergstrom became a Beech Aero Center. Flight instruction, aircraft rental, and aircraft sales were added. The next step was charter flight service in 1983 with the addition of a twin-engine Beech Duchess, N6635B. Beech Aircraft Company presented Bergstrom Aircraft with an award in 1984 for being the fastest growing Aero Center in the world! In 2003, Bergstrom was also given the “Washington State FBO of the Year” award.
In 2010, Karl Bergstrom received the Charles Taylor “Master Mechanic” Award for 50 years of dedicated service in aviation safety. This award recognizes his contribution to building and maintaining the safest aviation system in the world, through practicing and promoting safe aircraft maintenance over 50 consecutive years. Karl’s name is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Karl Bergstrom retired in 2011, but remained a presence at the airport visiting with employees and greeting customers. With Karl passing in 2016, his legacy of hard work, leadership, and love of aviation lives on through the company, which is still owned and operated by his wife and children.
“He got all his enjoyment out of helping other people and kind of saving the day sometimes when an airplane was delayed or had a maintenance problem, he would even step in to help Delta, United and Horizon at the Tri-Cities airline terminal by fixing their airplanes so they could get back on schedule safely” Malin Bergstrom said.
“Our Dad was a private and humble person, who didn’t look for awards, recognition or money. We had to remind him many times after he worked on an airplane, that you have to send a bill. He didn’t like to be bothered with that kind of stuff,” she said. “He just liked to fix stuff and make people happy.”
The company continues to prosper as it has for more than 45 years under Karl and Elenor’s guidance. In addition to his wife of 58 years and their three children, Karl is survived by six grandchildren, a brother and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins in Sweden
Bergstrom Aircraft has established a scholarship — the Karl A. Bergstrom Memorial Aircraft Maintenance
Technician Scholarship — in his memory. This scholarship will be awarded annually to a recipient seeking to further their
education in the trade of aviation maintenance.