Long-time Air Spray owner dead at 87

A 68-year aviation career came to an end on Tuesday. Don Hamilton, the long-time owner of Air Spray Aviation Services, died after suffering a heart attack on Monday. He was 87.

Don Hamilton

Don Hamilton

A 68-year aviation career came to an end on Tuesday.

Don Hamilton, the long-time owner of Air Spray Aviation Services, died after suffering a heart attack on Monday. He was 87.

Although he lived in Edmonton, Hamilton regularly travelled to Air Spray’s operating facilities at the Red Deer Regional Airport — piloting his own plane there and back.

“It’s a lot safer to fly to Red Deer than it is to drive on Hwy 2,” he said during an interview with the Advocate in January.

Hamilton joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and later earned his commercial pilot’s licence. He performed a variety of jobs: crop-dusting, cloud-seeding, search-and-rescue, and hauling people and cargo.

After moving to Edmonton in the late 1950s, Hamilton ran several aviation-related businesses before buying into Air Spray in 1970. Another pilot had started the aerial fire-fighting company a few years earlier, but by 1971 Hamilton was the sole owner.

He moved the business to the Red Deer airport in 1975. After a devastating fire in 2000, he resolved to rebuild Air Spray — despite being 76 at the time.

Hamilton was also a member of the Edmonton Investors Group that saved the Edmonton Oilers hockey team in 1998. He’d agreed to fly a group of Edmonton businessmen to New York to meet with the National Hockey League’s board of governors, but was persuaded to join them in their quest to buy the financially struggling team.

In May, Hamilton was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. He downplayed the significance of the achievement.

“I don’t think I’ve done very much, particularly; the only outstanding factor is I’ve been flying for 68 years now,” he told the Advocate.

But he also said he was “honoured and humbled” by the recognition.

Hamilton was still serving as chairman of Air Spray at the time of his death. His daughter Lynn Hamilton is president and CEO.

A celebration of Hamilton’s life will take place next Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at the Alberta Aviation Museum at the Edmonton City Centre Airport.