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AOPA Fly-In: A special section for the AOPA Fly-in at Missoula, MontanaAOPA Fly-In: A special section for the AOPA Fly-in at Missoula, Montana

Make it Missoula

Whether this is your first time or tenth time, make the first 2018 AOPA Fly-In in Missoula, Montana, your destination this June. An AOPA Fly-In is an exciting event with amazing aircraft, stimulating seminars, and interesting speakers—and with an incredible setting like the rugged outdoors of Montana, this fly-in is worth the trip. Join us June 15 and 16 in a setting like no other for a fly-in sure to excite all your senses—and challenge you to expand your aviation horizons.
AOPA Fly-in Missoula

Flying over the Chinese Wall near the Bob Marshall Wilderness area in western Montana, which will be part of a weekend fly-out.

Photography by George Kounis

Welcome to MSO

And a river runs through it

Mountains majesty

There’s a reason Montana is called Big Sky Country. Everything really is big and wide and open. Rimmed by the northern Rockies and surrounded by seven wilderness areas, Missoula is a microcosm of the rest of the state. It sits at the confluence of three rivers, made famous in the book and movie A River Runs Through It, about the award-winning trout fishing here. The rivers are so much a part of the town there’s a pedestrian walkway along the river with wonderful monuments to the area’s history. There’s even a spot where Missoulians “surf” the river in any weather in kayaks, tubes, and actual surfboards. Wetsuits are a must. This is, after all, mountain country.

Even in summer, there will be snow caps and a refreshing nip in the air. There’s a clear sense of individualism here with residents carving out their place in the world by hiking, fishing, skiing, brewing beer, and producing fantastic food no matter the weather; what would stop Easterners in their tracks just encourages Montana residents to push farther.

AOPA Fly-in Missoula

Missoula International Airport (MSO) is located just five miles outside of the city center. It is a gateway for flying over some of North America’s most stunning terrain. The terminal isn’t grand, but it captures the spirit of Montana with a 10-foot-tall Kodiak bear to greet you and a wall of famous mountain pilots prominently displayed. While major carriers do fly into MSO, one of the host FBOs of the AOPA Fly-In, NorthStar Jet, is a small aircraft lover’s dream. Its massive hangars will be the site of much of the fly-in excitement, and NorthStar is known for its scenic flights over the spectacular sights of Western Montana.

NorthStar is also home to Neptune Aviation Services, which is the nation’s premier aerial firefighting company. It has been the primary provider of large airtanker services in the United States for the past 25 years and holds contracts with the U.S. Forest Service.

On site at the airport is the only museum dedicated to honoring smokejumpers. It is located at the area where working smokejumpers are based during the fire season. In addition to artifacts and history, you can see the actual working headquarters of the active smokejumpers. Also in the museum is a tribute to the author of A River Runs Through It, Missoulian Norman Maclean, whose collection of semi-autobiographical short stories was published in 1976 and made into a movie by Robert Redford in 1992. Maclean’s cot from his cabin along the Blackfoot River is displayed in the museum.

The AOPA Fly-In will take place at the south end of the airport near NorthStar Jet. Check the website for details.

Museum of Mountain Flying

A little museum with a big heart—and impressive displays

AOPA Fly-in MissoulaStan Cohen is justifiably proud of the museum he and a couple of friends started in 1993. It’s an homage to the Johnson Flying Service, the legendary backcountry firefighting service established in Montana in 1928 that flew U.S. Forest Service contracts until the late 1960s. Using Ford Trimotors and Travel Airs, Johnson Flying Service hauled smokejumpers and freight into remote regions, eventually using P2V Neptunes. Its boneyard was located on three acres east of Missoula Airport, and Cohen and friends Dick Komberec and Steve Smith took over the land when it went up for sale. The museum honors and preserves the history of this premier mountain flying service. On display are remarkable artifacts from the history of the area, such as the original DC–3 that dropped the Mann Gulch smokejumpers in 1949; that famous fire killed 13 firefighters. The 18,500-square-foot hangar is packed with similar historic aircraft and artifacts. There’s a 1929 Travel Air 6000, 1941 Stearman, 1930 de Havilland Moth, and a Stinson Voyager, as well as a 1947 Federal two-and-a-half-ton flatbed truck and 1944 Ford Jeep in display areas that tell their stories through newspaper clippings, old photos, and collected letters. Cohen is a semi-retired writer and publisher who has written or published more than 150 pictorial history books. The museum will be open during the AOPA Fly-In.


AOPA Fly-in Missoula
Photography by Mike Eliason

Fighting fire from the sky

Neptune Aviation is nation’s premier airtanker service

Since 1993, Neptune Aviation has been the nation’s primary provider of large, fire-fighting airtanker services. This aerial firefighting company holds contracts with the U.S. Forest Service to provide the firefighting workhorses that are dispatched across the country to support fire and rescue nationwide.

The company moved to Missoula, Montana, from its original facility in New Mexico when it came under new ownership in the early 1990s. Neptune Aviation supports 14 airtankers, nine BAe 146 aircraft and five P2V airplanes. The P2V has been the main aircraft for firefighting for many years but the model is being phased out in favor of the larger BAe 146 aircraft. The payload of the BAe 146 is 3,000 gallons of fire retardant while the P2V holds 2,082 gallons.

In addition to providing the airtanker fleet, Neptune Aviation also services and maintains the aircraft in its massive facility located on the Missoula International Airport. Visitors can see the airtankers in hangars and on the field during the AOPA Fly-In.

Friday Workshops

Experience more

Dive deep with one or more of these in-depth workshops

An exciting Friday schedule gives pilots a chance to attend their choice of two to eight workshops ($99 per attendee; you may take advantage of the entire workshop experience) offering an intensive, deep dive into hands-on, experiential learning on selected vital topics.

Pilots interested in attending the Friday sessions can arrive Thursday afternoon and camp out. Then head for the pavilion that hosts the workshop of your choice, including Skills and Safety, You Can Fly, Aviation Experience, or Maintenance and Ownership. Lunch is included in the workshops’ cost.

Owner-Performed Maintenance

Mike Busch, Adrian Eichhorn, and Paul New
Time: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Main Stage

What you’ll learn:
Discover how to be the manager of your aircraft maintenance. Learn preventive maintenance owners can perform; participate in hands-on engine and airframe labs; learn what your engine is telling you.

VFR Advanced: 500 miles and beyond

Dave Hirschman and Chris Eads
Time: 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
You Can Fly Pavilion

What you’ll learn:
This will help VFR pilots enhance their skills for longer-range flights with higher complexity and improved safety awareness, while expanding their enthusiasm for the pilot lifestyle.

Backcountry Adventures & Skills

Richard McSpadden, Mike Vivion, Jeff Fouche
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Skills & Safety Pavilion

What you’ll learn:
Learn how to maximize your flying skills in mountainous terrain; understand the differences in mountain flying; discover the basics for backcountry airstrips; discuss techniques and rules for backcountry flying.

Aviation Photography

AOPA Photographer Mike Fizer
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Aviation Products Pavilion

What you’ll learn:
Join AOPA’s leading photographers as they explain the skills for great aviation photography. Learn techniques and tips to improve your photography skills and discover new concepts specific to aviation.

IFR Advanced: flying with a modern GPS

Max Trescott
Time: 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Skills & Safety Pavilion

What you’ll learn:
With WAAS-based recievers and a recent rule change, a pilot needs to know when GPS can and can’t be used on non-GPS approaches. Walk through briefing the approach and flying VOR, ILS, and GPS.

The Blue Threat: waging the battle within

Tony Kern
Time: 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Aviation Products Pavilion

What you’ll learn:
This workshop seeks to answer the question why good pilots make bad decisions that result in incidents, accidents, and fatalities. Based on the book Blue Threat: Why to Err is Inhuman by Tony Kern.

Mastering IRF Basics

Gary Reeves
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
You Can Fly Pavilion

What you’ll learn:
A three-hour review of the instrument rating ACS, rules, regulations, and everything you’ve forgotten since you took your written test a long time ago. A perfect review for pilots who are rusty.

Rriday Fun

More to do!

4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Exhibit HallHappy Hour, 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Exhibit Hall and Aircraft Display

Meet exhibitors and view aircraft, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Preregister online.

Saturday Highlights

STOL demo

How backcountry pilots do it

AOPA Fly-in MissoulaA highlight on saturday will be a unique demonstration by the Texas STOL RoundUp flight team sponsored by Phillips 66 at 1 p.m. They will perform both the Obstacle and Traditional STOL demonstrations using 50-foot pylons. Approximately one dozen aircraft will participate and demonstrate the backcountry capabilities of each aircraft and the skills of the pilots flying them. Additionally, a seminar will be presented on STOL operations and backcountry flying skills by presenters Mike Vivion, Phil Whittemore, Paul Brown, and Ken Wittekiend on Saturday at 9 a.m.

See the full Saturday schedule.

Special Flyouts

Extra extra

AOPA fly-out opportunities are amazing

Montana is an aviator’s dream. Soaring in the wide, open skies over the rugged majesty that is the great American West offers views and experiences unparalleled just about anywhere else. AOPA’s fly-out opportunities this June are nothing short of spectacular. Each event occurs on one day of the weekend. Go online for dates and times and to register.

AOPA Fly-in MissoulaBob Marshall Wilderness, Friday, June 15
Experience the beauty of the Montana backcountry on this scenic fly-out. You will fly over the Chinese Wall, a limestone spine averaging about 1,000-feet high and stretching unbroken for a dozen miles. The massive curtain of rockface marks the Continental Divide and borders the Rocky Mountains in Montana. You will also fly over the 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, the third largest in the lower 48 states. Before stopping at Kalispell City (S27) for a quick break, you will see “Montana’s Crown Jewel,” Schafer Meadows airstrip. Schafer Meadows is the last airstrip within the wilderness boundaries in the state of Montana. After a final briefing (and a quick leg stretch) at Kalispell City, depart as a group for Crystal Lakes (01MT) private airstrip and tour the private Stonehenge Air Museum, home of more than two dozen vintage aircraft including the world’s only airworthy Seafire Mk 47.

AOPA Fly-in MissoulaSeeley Lake, saturday, June 16
Join the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) for a spectacular overnight fly-out to Seeley Lake, Montana, nestled between the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Mission Mountain. Fly through Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park to this unspoiled natural beauty, the last lake in a chain of natural lakes in the Northwestern United States. The RAF will host its famous potato bake once participants have landed and set up camp. Hot, grilled potatoes and a delicious steak sandwich from Lindey’s Prime Steak House, a local restaurant, will cap off an evening of camaraderie and campfire storytelling. Rise and shine the next morning for a traditional pancake breakfast and an opportunity to continue flying in this Montana wonderland.

AOPA Fly-in MissoulaLibby to Sandpoint, Sunday, June 17
This day tour takes fliers to the original movie set of Steven Spielberg’s iconic aviation story Always in Libby, Montana (S59). Starring Richard Dreyfuss, this 1989 movie tells the story of an aerial firefighter who is mentored by the spirit of a firefighting pilot killed in a daring maneuver to save another pilot. After touring the set, depart on a 30-minute flight to Sandpoint, Idaho (SZT), to tour the Quest Aircraft Co. manufacturing facility. See these “sport utility vehicles with wings,” aircraft produced to bring services and supplies to the most remote regions of the world with their short takeoff and landing capabilities.


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