Earlier this year, Key Peninsula’s Dennis Erickson watched with pride while a crane lifted a F-16A fighter jet onto a custom-designed cement display pedestal he crafted and constructed at McCord Air Force Base, using 151,000 pounds of cement and 10,000 pounds of one-inch steel re-bar.
The aircraft was one of three F-16A fighter jets that scrambled from their alert detachment located at Langley Air Force Base on Sep. 11, 2001. Lt. Col. Brad Derrig, a commander with the 119thOperations Group, North Dakota Air National Guard, flew the jet over Washington, D.C. that day to defend the nation’s capital against further terrorist attacks. It was Derrig who flew the fighter one last time to its final resting place at the McCord Air Museum to take its place in defense history and await permanent display outdoors. The museum will honor the contributions of those who defended the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The F-16 aircraft that was flown by Maj. Dean Eckmann on that day will be on static display at the Heritage Park located at the North Dakota Air National Guard Base (Hector IAP); the third F-16 fighter aircraft is being used by another Air National Guard unit for training.
Erickson has worked in the construction and concrete industry since the mid-1980’s and started his Key Peninsula business, Viking Construction Co., in 1998. Originally from Minnesota, Erickson likes to travel to Nome, Alaska, as much as possible to a remote cabin located on an old gold mine claim that has been in the family for almost 100 years. He also lived in Renton for a spell and in California before moving back home to Minnesota. He met his wife, Duchess, in Minneapolis.
In 1990, the couple decided to make Lakebay their home, partly because Duchess had grown up in California and missed the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. The couple loves the laid-back lifestyle on the Key Peninsula and the beauty of Washington state. They have four children, Jesse (16), Caleb (14), Zarissa (25) and Katrina (18). Duchess is employed on the KP at artbeads.com; in their spare time the family likes to go on long road trips and they also like to go camping
Erickson said, “I learned about the F-16 jet project from a client while dong a job in Longbranch. He had contacts at McCord and knew that the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) was looking for a contractor with a background in custom cement design. I told him I was interested and he recommended me.”
An official at WADS then contacted him and Erickson made an appointment to look at preliminary design plans for the base and static pedestal at McCord. “I started working on the project during the middle of December 2007 and finished it on Feb. 6,” he said. Channel 13 was on hand Feb. 11 to cover the mounting of the historic aircraft onto its handsome concrete base and pedestal.
Erickson explained, “Ness Cranes picked up the F-16 and placed it on top of the pedestal and then the steel plates were fitted together. The plates were attached to both the jet and the pedestal and Fraser Mechanical based out of Shelton furnished them. I used BoMac Concrete (of Key Pen) to mix my cement on site; otherwise, I did all of the cement work on the base and pedestal for the F-16 myself, as the sole craftsman and contractor for the project.”
A ceremony followed, hosted by WADS on May 21 at McCord. Erikson received an invitation from U.S. Air Force Col. Paul D. Gruver, the commander of the Western Air Defense Sector, to attend the F-16A dedication and civil leader reception. Gruver gave Erickson an honorary medal; Erickson also met Lt. Col. Brad Derrig, the pilot of the historic F-16A jet. Erickson said, “I felt pretty good about being included in the dedication and attending the event was important to me.”
Erickson, who is no stranger to 8-foot-tall cement foundations, said he considers his participation in the $150,000 project “the pinnacle and highlight” of his construction career. He received a letter of appreciation from Col. Gruver that day, which stated, in part, “I would like to express my appreciation for Viking Construction’s outstanding work on the historic F-16A construction project… In particular, I want to recognize the superb craftsmanship and work of Dennis Erickson.”
This spring, Erickson has been busy “curbing the KP.” He recently finished the new cement curbs at the Home Country Store and The Beach Hut in Home. He also did the curb work on Anker Lane in Key Center between El Sombrero and the liquor store. In addition, Erickson builds cement waterfalls and does cement work for the construction of swimming pools and decks, along with custom cement work like decorative and colorful sidewalks and patios.