BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Margaret Elizabeth Sangster once said, “There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” Home is not necessarily a town or a destination, but a place that is warm with smiles and love from family and friends. Fond memories from the past help shape the places that people call home. For Fred Ogden, Mena is home, it is a place of family, friends, and fun memories.
Fred grew up as the son of an Air Force Pilot, growing up loving and learning about aviation. Growing up on an Air Force base, Fred had the pleasure of always being around airplanes, pilots, and of course, talks with his dad made his love grow all the more. “I grew up playing baseball on the base, while my friends and I played baseball, we watched the planes and jets take off. That was what we talked about at school, dreamed about, it was great.” After moving from Texas, the family relocated in Mena, where Fred’s dad was a flight instructor at the Mena Airport. Mena became home, a place of memories, and specifically, the airport was his life.
Growing up with a dad that was a pilot, Fred grew up with the desire to be a pilot. “I heard my dad talking about it around the table, I saw it and watched it growing up and loved everything about it,” recalls Fred with a smile. Upon graduating, he went off to study in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas. “I wanted to be a pilot, but at the time there weren’t any slots open. I decided that I would go to school and study.” Fred earned his Masters in Business Administration, a degree that would prepare him for years of diligent service in administration. Before he ever stepped into an office, Fred was working hard on the oil rigs so that he could pay for school, a field of work that would prove to be beneficial after college. “I was working on the rigs just like many young guys. I was screwing pipes together and learning the oil world. It would pay off later as I worked in the oil and gas industry,” explains Fred.
After earning his degree, Fred would work on the business side of the oil and gas industry. His main job responsibilities were administrative; focusing on profit and loss, along with ensuring the success and trajectory of the business. In 2015, the opportunity came open for Fred to mix two loves, aviation and administration. Moving back to Mena to be closer to family and aging parents, he received an opportunity to come and work where he used to play. The Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport was in need of a manager and because of past administrative experience and knowledge of the field, Fred was the perfect fit. “It’s such an honor to be a part of the tradition that the airport has. I am extremely fortunate to come full circle,” says Fred proudly. The airport that he previously grew up on, watching planes take off, and running around while his dad worked, he is now managing the day to day operations and business.
Most people don’t understand the significance and positive impact that the airport has on the community. The airport provides jobs for people in the community, in return those people spend their hard earned money in the community, while the consistent growth of the airport provides so many unique opportunities. “There is a commercial pilot that flies in a group of cardiologists from out of town so that they can come spend the day seeing patients. Without the growth of the airport, that isn’t possible for the people of Mena,” says Fred with a smile. “It has been extremely gratifying to be a part of what is happening at the airport and in Mena.” Undoubtedly, Fred’s business skills and leadership has provided support for the businesses at the airport. Much of his job is to ensure that the airport is up to spec and ready to continue to serve pilots in and out of the community. “I am currently overseeing the work of having a runway resurfaced. That has included applying for a grant, lots of paperwork, and working with our engineer.”
In addition to working at the airport and growing up around airplanes, Fred also has his pilots license. Though he loves flying, Fred’s favorite hobby is time with his family. When time allows outside of work, he loves spending time with his dad. “My favorite thing to do is to pick up my dad who is 86, we go driving through the mountains at Shady, or on Rich Mountain. I love spending time with him, we have electric trains we play with together,” says Fred fondly. Along with time with family, Fred enjoys amateur radio.
Fred is thankful to be back in Mena, “It’s really neat to see people that remember you and remember your name after all these years. It is great to be in a place like this.” The airport, and the community for that matter, are thankful and benefactors of Fred’s return and faithful leadership.