Outrageous outdoors

Gateway to the backcountry

August 6, 2014

Spokane is named for its Native American tribe who made their home along the Spokane River.

Aviation in the West started at places such as Spokane’s Felts Field (SFF). The historic airfield was once known as Parkwater because it is situated along the south bank of the Spokane River. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh visited the field and inspired the organization of the National Air Races, which were held in Spokane that summer. Jimmy Doolittle started the event with an aerobatic display.

The Northwest’s largest theme park is located just 47 miles from Spokane. Silverwood Theme Park is on the site of the former Henley Aerodrome. Spokane businessman Gary Norton bought the airstrip in 1981 and kept his antique and vintage aircraft collection there. When he opened a theme park in 1988, he hosted daily airshows. One of the performers was aerobatic pilot Bob Heale, who was a flight instructor based at Felts Field. He was killed when his CAP-10B crashed at an airshow at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base. His aircraft is part of a memorial to him near the Felts Field terminal building. Silverwood stopped its airshows soon after. The park has 70 rides, slides, and attractions, including four roller coasters.

If you’re visiting here for the fourth AOPA Fly-In of the year, you’ll delight in the beauty of the area.Crystal-clear rivers and rugged landscape define the great Northwest. Spokane is just 25 miles from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. The Spokane River is a 111-mile tributary of the Columbia River, which originates from 25-mile-long Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Coeur d’Alene Airport (COE) is also known as Pappy Boyington Field, named for World War II ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, who was born in Coeur d’Alene.

The Spokane River, which runs behind Felts Field, is overlooked by the Minnehaha Rocks and nearby Centennial Trail. Mount Spokane—at 5,883 feet—also overlooks the field. Spokane is named for the Native Americans here, known as Children of the Sun. They fished and lived along the Spokane River and caught salmon in the Spokane River Falls; in Riverfront Park, the falls are spectacular.

Julie Summers Walker

Julie Summers Walker | AOPA Director of Publications, Managing Editor for 'AOPA Pilot' and 'Flight Training'

AOPA Director of Publications and Managing Editor for AOPA Pilot and Flight Training, Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.