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July 30 Headlines
Fly-in highlights Lincoln Airport
Wind in the Woods
Commentary: Where the Presidency Is Headed
Community Hall & free ice cream
This is Montana:Virginia City: Montana’s first Incorporated town (Part I)
Life on the lookout
Helena's Fusion 4133 talks 'bots
My smart Mouth: Small town life
Hay Hotline source for producers short on listings of hay for sale and available pasture online
Few over-the-counter and surplus hunting licenses available Aug. 3.
Teacher Feature: Lincoln School welcomes new music teacher
Lincoln PTSA Summer Summary
Remember, letters to the editor, guest editorials and commentaries are welcome
We should have our photo site up and running someday!!!
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Fly-in highlights Lincoln Airport
by Nancy Schwalm
Around fifteen fly-in aircraft and more than seventy people gathered at the Lincoln Airport on Saturday for the 13th annual fly-in barbeque and monthly meeting of the Helena Vigilante Hangar of the Montana Pilots Association.
Since 2003 Jerry and Liz Cain have organized the barbeque and they invite members and their families to fly into Lincoln for the meeting and social.
The Cain’s extend their invitation to include all members of the Montana Pilots Association, the Recreational Aviation Foundation, the county road crew members who work to keep the runway free from ice and snow, as well as friends, neighbors and any other pilots who happen to be in the area at that time.
Cain said a few Lincoln residents read about the fly-in event in the newspaper and showed up to see what all the hubbub was about. “That was a first for us, but it was great,” he said.
In the past, Cain has hosted local high school students, who come out to the airport and check out the hangers and airplanes and he is considering hosting an open house in the future to invite the public. “Unless you have an airplane out here, there isn’t much opportunity to come onto the airport and check it out.”
At this year’s fly in, pilots who just recently learned to fly and veterans who have been navigating the skies their entire lives were in attendance, and there were restored antique planes, homemade versions and off the shelf airplanes. Whatever their experience, whatever their aircraft, it was clear from the laughter around Cain’s hangar that people were having a great time catching up and talking airplanes.
When asked why they were there, many people said that Lincoln has a “beautiful airport” and it is such “a pleasure to come here.” For others, it was the company. “We enjoy the hospitality,” said Neil Salmi, a pilot who flew his 2012 home-built experimental aircraft up from Townsend. Salmi added that people don’t realize the importance of an airport until they have a forest fire nearby. Many of the pilots within earshot agreed.
Lincoln’s airport is one of only 18 state run airports around Montana, which is a huge deal considering the size of our state. “You have a great runway! Lincoln Airport is listed as a backcountry airport, and let me tell you, it is the best backcountry airport I have ever been to,” Charles Ellis from Helena said. In 2006, Lincoln’s airport changed from the original recreational and emergency airport to the FAA-certified basic general aviation airport it is today. Stipends from the federal government paid for the improvements to create better airports for general aviation and important wildland firefighting areas. According to Harold Dramstad, Aeronautics Division Safety and Education Bureau Chief, the Montana Pilots Association supplies tools and equipment for each of the state airports to host work days. The local hangar clubs, 14 of them around the state, organize the events and provide the labor. “We work together to complete projects like painting the outhouse, mowing and spraying weeds, chopping firewood and of course, having a barbeque,” Dramstad said. “There isn’t too much labor involved, but it is always a good time.”
So, who flies around the Big Sky? One pilot got his start in flying at age 10. Charlie Sherman grew up in Alaska and would ride his bike to the airport and help the pilots wash their airplanes in exchange for a ride. Those experiences as a child led him to obtain a commercial pilot’s license and earn a living with Western Delta for 44 years. Sherman resides in Lincoln for most of the year, but flies to Arizona for the coldest of winter months – he doesn’t mind the commute.
Lu Gardella, a Lincoln resident of fifteen years, has also worked for Western Delta for 44 years and plans to hang up her commercial wings in two years to enjoy retirement.
Another attendee, Pete Morris, previously lived in Lincoln and had a hangar and airplane here. Morris is eighty-nine and hasn’t missed a Lincoln fly-in event yet, though he now relies on other pilots to get him to his destination.
Hank Galpin from Kalispell flew into Lincoln in his 1928 Travel Air 6000 airliner. He has spent 10,000 hours restoring the aircraft back to its original condition. “The only thing not restored to original condition in this plane is the six ashtrays that would have been placed next to each of the seats,” he said.
The lovingly restored aircraft features crank down windows, wooden dash and steering wheels and even a bathroom. “Hank plans to add a woodstove next,” joked a pilot from Great Falls.
Charles Ellis from Helena said he was born into a flying family. “My father was a bomber in World War II, he taught me how to fly, but interestingly enough, didn’t teach me how to take off or land.”
Ellis brought six passengers up with him, so obviously he learned the other basics elsewhere.
Doug Vulcan, a seven-year resident of Lincoln, is currently building a hanger on the Lincoln airport grounds. He has been flying for more than 20 years and recently purchased an ultralight aircraft. “Building a hanger and owning an airplane were two items on his bucket list,” he said, and he’s excited to use them both in the near future.
Writer’s note: I had no idea how many pilots there were in Lincoln. One expects to meet pilots in Alaska where they have six times as many pilots per capita compared to the rest of the United States, but Lincoln, Montana?
Prior to attending the fly-in, I had never appreciated the importance of having an airport in Lincoln. I knew of a few pilots around the area and assumed that the most use the airport received was for wildland firefighting personnel going to and from assignments. Never before had I considered its potential impact on our economy, self-sufficiency, future development or sustainability.
I still don’t fully-understand its potential role for Lincoln’s future, but with only 17 other state-run airports throughout the Big Sky state, I would say that this is yet another feather in the hat for this beautiful, remote, rugged little town of Lincoln. I hope to see an invitation to an open house at the airport, so I can learn more about this incredible resource in our backyard. Maybe you will, too.