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Missoula Fly-In: A tale of two eventsMissoula Fly-In: A tale of two events

First AOPA fly-in of 2018 opened under ideal conditions before weather moved inFirst AOPA fly-in of 2018 opened under ideal conditions before weather moved in

Sunshine, mild temperatures, and a neon orange sunset capped off an extraordinary first day during the AOPA Fly-In at Montana’s Missoula International Airport, June 15 and 16. Pilots flew about 300 airplanes to our first fly-in of the year, located among the northern Rockies in western Montana.

  • Aircraft wrangler Jimmie Gist orchestrates a short takeoff and landing demonstration with an Aviat Husky during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 15, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • Redbird Flight Simulations's Greg Roark conducts a science, technology, engineering and math lab during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana. Redbird offered the 45-minute STEM sessions to children in grades 6 through 12 throughout the fly-in. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • The exhibit hall draws a crowd during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 15 and 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • An Aviat Husky turns crosswind after making a short takeoff from Missoula International Airport during a STOL demonstration Friday evening. The distant clouds portend Saturday's weather. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Fly-in attendees listen to the band during the Barnstormers Party Friday evening. In the background is Dick Komberec's 1929 Travel Air 6000, an original smokejumper aircraft now displayed at Missoula's Museum of Mountain Flying. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Campers prepare their tents during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • A crowd gathers for a short takeoff and landing demonstration during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • A BAe 146 performs a low fly-by and water drop during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • Gordon Rody, Scot Oliver, Mark Hartley, and Dean Fitzgerald enjoy a game of cards at the pancake breakfast during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana, June 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • Fly-in attendees view some of the aircraft on display during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • Andrew Gaumer and his dog Raiser attend the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • AOPA President Mark Baker and EAA President Jack Pelton participate in a Pilot Town Hall during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • A Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President Mark Baker and senior leadership draws a crowd during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • An ice cream social followed a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President Mark Baker during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fizer.

About 4,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts attended educational seminars and short takeoff and landing (STOL) and water-bombing demonstrations under ideal conditions as the fly-in opened Friday.

“Montana is a bucket-list destination for a lot of people, and they got to experience the best of it on Friday,” said AOPA President Mark Baker, who spoke with association members who had come from as far away as Maine, Florida, Arizona, and California.

A low-pressure system spinning in from the Pacific brought a steady, cold rain to the second day of the fly-in, and attendance dropped to about 2,500 people with visitors filling indoor exhibits and educational forums to learn about topics ranging from aircraft maintenance to backcountry flying.

A family walks through the static display area during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.

About 1,500 people at the Saturday pancake breakfast saw Idaho aviation legend Bob Hoff receive the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of safe flying during a surprise presentation that his family of four pilot generations helped orchestrate.

“Bob gives so much to aviation and shares so much that it’s fun to see him get the well-deserved recognition,” Baker said. “He’s a special guy from a special family.”

The Sweepstakes Super Cub draws attention during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.

The AOPA Sweepstakes Super Cub drew even more attention than usual from a crowd of aviators who are especially well-versed in mountain flying. The Sweepstakes Super Cub was restored in Baker, Montana, by Roger and Darin Meggers, and visitors took notice of the father/son team’s exceptional craftsmanship.

“They notice every detail,” said Alyssa J. Cobb, AOPA director of eMedia and the sweepstakes project manager. She flew the airplane on the 20.5-hour trip from our Maryland headquarters to Montana. “There’s a lot of nostalgia for Super Cubs here, and in this part of the world, pilots know that if they win it, they could fly it off wheels, floats, or skis.”

The Sweepstakes Super Cub will be given away in 2019, and all AOPA members are eligible to win.

A setting sun illuminates aircraft campers during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport, in Missoula, Montana, June 15, 2018. Photo by Carol Dodds.

From Missoula, Cobb planned to fly the Sweepstakes Super Cub to McCall, Idaho, for a mountain flying course offered by expert instructor Lori MacNichol of Mountain Canyon Flying. The well-traveled airplane will be at the AOPA booth at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 23 to 29.

About 150 people made airplane camping reservations at Missoula, but the forecast for soaking rain dissuaded all but about 60 dedicated campers from pitching their tents.

Michael and Beverly Anderson of McCall, Idaho, stayed in a tent next to their Cessna 206 Stationair Friday night. They planned to join other pilots on a Saturday fly-out to Seeley Lake for a Recreational Aviation Foundation potato bake before camping again in the evening.

“We knew there was a chance of rain when we came, but we really didn’t expect this much of it,” Beverly Anderson said. “We’re prepared to deal with it, though. We’re all in this together.”

The Northern Rockies provide a dramatic backdrop from  an Aviat Husky piloted by regional sales director Scott Musser during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana. Photo by Mike Fizer.
Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
Topics: Fly in

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