The Montana backcountry calls to pilots who will attend the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport in the Northern Rockies, and participate in associated activities between June 14 and June 17.
Fly-outs from Missoula to spectacular natural areas will bring high-country flying excitement and camaraderie to your weekend adventure, including a trip to Seeley Lake with AOPA President Mark Baker and the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s signature Potato Bake; an excursion to a private resort’s airstrip to visit an air museum that’s home to two dozen vintage aircraft; and a visit to the site of a beloved aviation movie in Libby and the place where a built-for-the-backcountry aircraft is produced.
Fly-out fun begins at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, June 15. That’s when pilots will attend a briefing before an 8:15 a.m. departure with pilots from the Montana Pilots Association over the backcountry, with a landing at Kalispell City Airport. Refuel there if necessary, followed by a short flight to the strip at the Crystal Lakes Resort for your tour of the Stonehenge Air Museum, home of the world’s only airworthy Supermarine Mk 47 Seafire. Experience the beauty of the Montana backcountry as you overfly the Chinese Wall—a limestone spine averaging 1,000 feet high, stretching unbroken for miles. The massive curtain of rock face marks the Continental Divide.
Your route will take you over the 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, the third largest such swath in the lower 48 states, and will offer a view of Schafer Meadows airstrip, the last airstrip within wilderness boundaries in Montana.
Admission is $5 cash for the museum visit, which is scheduled to end around 12:30 p.m. No meals will be provided, so please bring along the food and beverages you will want to enjoy. The registration deadline is June 11.
Two events in one await participants who join pilots from the Recreational Aviation Foundation for the journey to Seeley Lake on Saturday, June 16.
There are two ways to get there, so take your pick, but if flying, be sure to land on the turf runway before 9 p.m., when the unlighted airport closes. If driving from Missoula, take I-90E toward MT-200E. Take MT-200E and MT-83N to Locust Lane in Seeley Lake. Locust Lane will take you the 1.8 miles to the airport. Park at the end of the road.
A social hour at 5 p.m. will be followed at 7 p.m. by the RAF Potato Bake. This is a traditional potato bake with all the fixings and a Lindey’s Steakhouse steak sandwich, with a bottle of water included. The cost per person is $20.
Join AOPA Air Safety Institute Director, Super Cub pilot, and former Thunderbird Lead Richard McSpadden for a fireside chat. On Sunday morning, flip pancakes with AOPA President Mark Baker. Breakfast (pancakes, sausage, eggs, and bottled water provided for $10) begins at 8 a.m., and continues until 11 a.m. You may depart Seeley Lake at any time.
There are four campsites on the field, but free camping is permitted anywhere on the airstrip (except the runway, of course). Outhouse and portable toilets will be set up with a hand-washing station. Tables and chairs will be available for meal times, but you may want to bring your own, just in case.
Please note that your point of contact for all information regarding the RAF Seeley Lake Fly-Out is Scott Newpower. Send him an email or call 406-670-3169.
On Sunday, June 17, fly to Libby, Montana, and visit the iconic set of Steven Spielberg’s movie Always, a love story about an aerial firefighter mentored by the spirit of a firefighting pilot killed in a daring maneuver to save a fellow pilot. Briefing begins at 7:30 a.m. for an 8:15 a.m. departure on the 100-nautical-mile flight with a suggested altitude of 8,500 feet msl.
After touring the movie set, head out on a 30-minute flight to Sandpoint Airport (47 nm, 8,500 feet msl suggested altitude) in Idaho to inspect the place where Quest Aircraft manufactures the Quest Kodiak, a sport utility vehicle with wings that brings services and heavy supplies to the world’s most remote regions, taking advantage of its short-takeoff-and-landing capabilities.
Relax at Sandpoint and eat lunch, or head for your next destination refreshed from your exploration of some of the Northwest’s most spectacular backcountry.