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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”