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Pilots, community transform two Oregon airports

Two general aviation airports located two miles apart in a remote section of northeast Oregon are coming alive, thanks to pilots and area residents who have taken on a variety of projects to enhance the airports’ value to their Wallowa County communities.

The two facilities, Enterprise Municipal Airport and Joseph State Airport, serve namesake communities Enterprise, population approximately 1,940, and Joseph, population approximately 1,000. Joseph State Airport, field elevation 4,121 feet, is the larger of the two airports, with a 5,200-foot runway; Enterprise Airport has a 2,850-foot-long runway that sits at an elevation of 3,957 feet, just a short walk from town.

In an area dependent on tourism and timber, the aviation community has come together to see what could be done to "spruce up" the two facilities.

Things got started with a May symposium called jointly by the airports’ advocates to share ideas and make plans.

"They are both important to our community," said Brian Adelhardt, a private pilot who has been AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer at Joseph since 2013. He now works closely with Tim Locke, who became the Airport Support Network volunteer for Enterprise in March 2014.

The General Aviation Symposium, held at Joseph, was attended by local pilots and aircraft owners, members of the Wallowa County Pilots Association—whose president, Bill Ables is another strong local aviation advocate—and aviation business operators, local elected officials, and the public.

David Ulane, AOPA’s Northwest Mountain regional manager, represented AOPA at the meeting and gave a presentation on general aviation’s importance to airport host communities. He also briefed those in attendance on AOPA’s initiatives to strengthen and grow GA.

Attendees came away "energized," said Adelhardt, a retired farmer from Maryland who moved to the area five years ago and earned his private pilot certificate in 2012 with veteran local flight instructor Joe Spence, of Enterprise’s Spence Air Services.

Projects have now been launched to renovate facilities, including replacing an aging structure at Enterprise Airport with a new building. A local flying club, the Chief Joseph Flyers, held a summer fundraiser, selling cinnamon buns to raise money to make Wi-Fi available at Joseph Airport. That gave pilots greatly improved access to weather information, Adelhardt said.

The local pilot community has now hosted its first private pilot ground school, which helped four new pilots solo and brought two new private pilots into the local ranks.

Inspired by the symposium, the group took on a project to rehabilitate restroom facilities at the Enterprise airport. The group worked through the summer to raise funds to purchase a Redbird flight simulator. Delivery is expected in late November.

On Aug. 9, pilots served more than 300 breakfasts to the public at the second annual Joseph State Airport Open House, which featured a drop-in call from a historic DC-3. And on Nov. 16, a Pinch Hitters/Flying Companion session was well attended.

"Local pilots, elected officials, and the community have come together to accomplish some fantastic things," said Ulane. "These activities are a great example of what can be done when AOPA members, aircraft owners, and pilots work together to help their community understand the value of airports, and general aviation."

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Airport Advocacy, Advocacy, Airport

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