Helena Doc wins 2014 RAF Founder Cap Raffle

We are pleased to announce this year’s RAF Founder’s Cap Raffle winner – longtime RAF supporter Dr. Bill Gallea of Helena, MT. 

He was delighted to win the Zulu2 and the Sierra headsets, his preferred brand. Here’s what Bill said, and it would be hard to put it in better words:
“I am thrilled to have won the LightSpeed headsets.  I have tried them on; they fit beautifully; and I am completely confident that they will serve me, Jeanne, and our passengers very well.  I look forward to flying with them! With this new headset I now have the top-of-the-line of my favorite headset maker . . . and a great headset for my passenger.   Wonderful day!    Thanks so much to the RAF for all it has given to aviation.  And thanks to you all for your leadership of the RAF!”

It should be noted that his wife, Jeanne MacPherson is the RAF Safety and Education Coordinator.

LightSpeed Aviation has been a good friend to the RAF for many years and we appreciate their generous help this year.  

Wisconsin passes Aviation-Friendly Statute

It took two years, but we finally got Wisconsin’s Recreational Use Statute (RUS) amended to include noncommercial aviation. The new language protects owners of private airstrips. There are 177 private airports in the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics database and many more that have not been registered with the FAA.   

The RAF wishes to thank a number of these private airstrip owners, especially Don Kiel for working hard contacting many Wisconsin State representatives.  Also helpful was Jonathon Harger, Political Affairs Director of EAA in Oshkosh who testified at hearings for both legislative houses.  The bill was sponsored by Senator Joe Leibham (R) in the Senate and Representative Paul Tittl (R) in the Assembly, and garnered bi-partisan support. Governor Scott Walker signed the bill April 17th in the Capital Office.


– Contributed by RAF Wisconsin Liaison Chuck Aldrian


Here is RAF Wisconsin Liaison Chuck Aldrian (in RAF orange) with Governor Scott Walker as he signs the bill into law.

Return to Blackwater Airfield

Exactly one year ago the RAF hosted the first public aviation event in decades at Blackwater Airfield 8FD3.  In fact, the event was chronicled on this webpage (see the April 4 2013 entry):  a long, forgiving turf airstrip, all the campground amenities a brief walk away in the beautiful Blackwater River Forest, and kids, families and singles all keen to return.  So much so that the return this year just about doubled the number of aircraft visits and number of overnight campers.

Number of aircraft that flew in:  36

Number that camped overnight, either one or two nights:  24

Number of sunburned faces with wide smiles:  55-60 

Number of gripes, complaints & 'issues':  none were heard

It really was the best combo of excellent weather and much fellowship.  The Forest Service folks provided a potable water source by the airfield, they cleared out the fire pit and provided firewood (supplemented by John Hall whacking away with his axe while some of us watched with a wary eye) and this in turn meant Saturday evening the kids could manufacture abundant Smores.  And we combined the Saturday afternoon snacks with a general get-acquainted session that demonstrated what a deep and also broad exposure the people there have had to aviation.  It was also good to once again find so many locals flying in to 'their Blackwater Airfield', just like last year.

The Florida Forest Service needs to retain Blackwater Airfield's identity as a private field but they were also open to allowing public access to it - for groups or individuals - throughout the year.  And so a simple no-cost User Permit process was developed to make that possible.  The RAF now has a full description of this, the airstrip itself and the forest in the Pilot Info section of this website.  Be sure to check it out.

But we're not done yet.  We hope to soon begin working with Blackwater's District Manager, Mike Hudson, on the first of our RAF-sponsored improvements to the airfield:  a toilet/septic system at the south end of the field so no after-dark hikes through the forest, no matter how short they may be, will be required by airfield campers.

We asked a number of the visitors if they thought we should make this an annual event and the answer was always 'Yes, please!'  So keep this beautiful destination in mind for early to mid-April of next year.  Come to that, this article probably should have been titled "The First Return to Blackwater".

Would you like to watch the Return to Blackwater?  Member Wayne Whitley was kind enough to produce a video of the event which you will find at YouTube here.

RAF isn’t just about flying the Rockies

Not every RAF success story is tied in with remote backcountry airstrips.  Sometimes it can be about partnering with more ‘traditional’ aviation groups for the betterment - and fun - of everyone.  One such example was the recent RAF Rodeo Weekend held in Arcadia, Florida.  A local airport support group blossomed at this orphaned municipal airport with the goal of making it both economically healthier and also a true recreational destination.  They saw what the RAF is about - not just protecting and supporting recreational airstrips but also enjoying them! - and asked if maybe we didn’t have a lot in common and should combine forces.

Now it might bust a stereotype or two, but Florida is cattle country.  In fact, it grazes more cattle than Texas.  It’s also part of the professional rodeo circuit.  And “little Arcadia” (Pop:  7,612) hosts the Grandaddy of Florida rodeos:  the 85-year young Florida Championship Rodeo.  “What if we hosted you folks for Rodeo Weekend, and you got us started with having weekend campouts under The Big Oak by our grass strip?” asked George Chase, the Friends of Arcadia Airport President.  And that’s just what we did.

Fun always seems to be part of the RAF agenda, but it’s a rare RAF event that doesn’t also have some higher purpose in the mix.  That was true in spades with this RAF Weekend.  Hard though it is to imagine, the City Council had never considered allowing an ‘aviation group’ to visit their airport before…let alone to camp out (gasp!)  But as Friends worked through each issue, the entire region ended up being part of the RAF’s Welcoming Committee.  The County Administrator drove the taxi van, the President of the Rodeo Association offered everyone special tickets, and the City Council welcomed the guests. 

While it was unique, this Friday-Sunday event was like many other RAF events:  new friends made, a fun activity involving everyone, and even an adventure or two like getting a borrowed 6-man tent set up in the dark.  But it was more than that, too.  Friends has demonstrated to its city government the potential their airport holds, Friends future is now on more solid footing, and there’s already planning afoot for Rodeo Weekend 2015.  Which the City Council won’t be gasping about.

Want to watch the weekend?  You’ll find a short Youtube video on it here.

Sun 'n Fun 2014

Its springtime and time once again for Sun ‘n Fun!.  The RAF will be there in Lakeland, FL again but don’t come looking for us at our old “on-the-pavement” location, we’ve moved to the woods, lakeside, under live oak trees draped with Spanish moss – that’s where we belong and that’s where you’ll find us; out by the campground at the RAF Fire Hub.

Map to the RAF Fire Hub

Each day our activities start at 6:30 AM; we’ll be fire side with piping hot coffee and what we promise are the best donuts you have ever tasted

Throughout the day, stop by and take a break in the shade.  You’ll meet RAF board members, state liaisons and other friends and members. It’s a great time to catch up on all that is going on; we’ve got recreational airstrip destinations opening up across the country, plenty of activities planned for your summer flying and lots of other exciting news to share.

For some fun we’ll be holding a tent pitching competition throughout the day, we’re calling the RAF Tent Rodeo.  As a couple, team or by yourself, pitch a tent you’ve never seen, in the fastest time and win one of the daily prizes. you’ll also be registered for the week’s-end grand prize drawing.

In the evening we’ll build the fire and provide the best place to relax and spend time with friends old and new.  Musicians, bring your instrument and we’ll play music and sing songs into the night.

The annual RAF member’s appreciation dinner is Thursday evening 6:30 PM at the RAF Fire Hub. This event always brings together aviation industry leaders and friends from around the world.  

This year we are doing a potato bake – we’re serving up baked potatoes with all the toppings to create your own culinary masterpiece.  Lemonade will be served, otherwise BYOB.

Be sure to stop by the RAF Fire Hub before Thursday evening and register for the event. Not a member? You can join on-line click here  or at the RAF Fire Hub during SnF. 

For your convenience, all during the week, we will be running a golf cart shuttle from the southwest end of the vendor display hangar “D” to and from the RAF Fire Hub.

We are looking forward to a great week; the weather is forecast to be perfect with cool days and chilly nights that will be just right for Fire Hub gatherings we can’t wait to see you there!

                                                                                  Fire hub picture courtesy of George Kounis - Pilot Getaways


Bob Kay passes suddenly

Words cannot describe the sense of loss we felt at the news of the sudden passing of RAF Washington State Liaison Bob Kay. Bob was known by many RAF supporters, and set a high bar for the position of Liaison. He regularly organized effective work parties, collaborated successfully with Washington State Dep’t of Transportation on airstrip projects, and shepherded legislation through the state capitol adding aviation to its Recreational Use Statute (RUS.) Bob’s career in aviation is full of remarkable military and civilian accomplishments, of which he spoke seldom. He preferred to focus on the RAF mission, usually with work gloves on, filling gopher holes at one of his favorite backcountry strips.

Rol Murrow, RAF Board member, reflects all our thoughts in this message, “Bob was a treasure and his contributions to all of us as friend, mentor, example, and major contributor to the future of recreational aviation will live on and forever enrich our lives and those to come.”

Bob’s wife and avid supporting partner Jo Schumacher stated Bob’s passion best with this message:

 I want you all to know that Bob LOVED the RAF and every last one of you. Flying and the outdoors were his passions. I want all of you to know that I and the family appreciate what each of you have given Bob.  I especially understand his depth of passion for flying and all it entails.


Bob leaves his beloved family – wife Jo, sister Maureen and brother-in-law Ray, son Kevin, daughter Tammy, and grandchildren Skyler, Lila, Kaitlyn and Megan and their families.

Jo concluded with this request, “I would love to hear your Bob stories,” and announced that a celebration of Bob’s life will be planned.  Please send cards and notes to Jo Schumacher at 17427 SE 288th St, Kent, WA 98042-9469

Ron Normandeau Wins Spark Plug Award

No Surprise

 At the recent Montana Pilots Association’s (MPA)30th annual gathering the RAF’s own Ron Normandeau was the recipient of the Spark Plug Award. This particular award is given to an individual who energizes the membership of the MPA. Ron was recognized for his behind the scenes efforts to lead the planning effort on numerous United States Forest Service plans in the state of MT. Ron is the acknowledged expert on government planning process. Who would have thought that the RAF would be fortunate enough to have the kind of talent that Ron brings to the team. We could not be more pleased that the MPA recognized Ron for what he does not only in MT but all across the country.

Pictured on the right: Scott Newpower, President MPA, Ron Normandeau and John McKenna, President RAF

RAF board meeting held in Denver

RAF board members take a popcorn break during their daylong meeting recently in Denver, Colorado.

Signature Flight Support hosted the meeting in their facility at Denver International Airport.  We would like to thank Signature for their support and generosity.

All board members were present including vice-president-elect Reade Genzlinger, secretary/treasurer Tim Clifford and board members Rol Murrow, Pete Bunce, Steve Johnson and Alan Metzler. Colorado liaison Patrick Romano attended as well.

In addition to covering regular meeting agenda items, Patrick Romano presented an exhaustive inventory of Colorado airstrips. He included strips that are open for use, private or haven’t been used for many years. Many pilots seem unaware that 30 plus backcountry recreational airstrips exist along the Front Range and on the Western Slope. It took a lot of work both in the air and on the ground to first identify their locations and then research ownership and access.  According to Patrick the strips range from open without needing permission to those that are currently closed and for sale. He now plans to work through the list to gain access everywhere possible.  We know that getting “aviation” added to the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (RUS) should facilitate access to many of these destinations.

Tim Clifford commented, “board members continue to be excited about the future of the RAF.  The RAF is driven by passion for aviation with a strong volunteer force and the future is looking very bright”.

2013 Year End

Surprised?  So am I.  Over ten years ago, six individuals sat around a campfire and concluded that something needed to be done to save recreational and backcountry airstrips as well as the unique opportunities they provide. This month marks our ten year anniversary since the RAF officially incorporated.  Our surprise comes from the fact that we never really dreamed so many of you would share our concern; it’s funny how that has worked out. That original group of six has multiplied 1000 times to nearly 6000 members. Thank you for the strong showing of interest, involvement and financial support over these last ten years.

Now we’re really going to work!  And, we’re asking you to help us with our building campaign. Don't worry, the RAF is not breaking ground on a headquarters or even expanding the infrastructure of the organization.  What we want is to build is a stronger community of supporters - people like you who have been willing to bring us this far. Quite frankly, we need money to do that.

Today the RAF has a voice that counts; one that congressional decision makers want to hear. A voice that is respected by public land managers in the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management as well as with state land managers and private airstrip owners from Maine to Florida, from Washington to California and all points in between. You and your organization have made a difference and you should be proud.

Whether it is our network of state liaisons or our science and environmental committee, the RAF is fortunate to have the best crew of volunteer folks that any organization could expect to have. We just need more like them doing more good and while these fine individuals donate their time and effort, it just takes real money to support their activities - dollars that come from you.

We know this time of year brings a lot of requests for your donation dollars.  We hope you will take a strong look at the RAF and ask yourself: Is this something I believe in?  Is this something that gives me good value for my donation? Are they getting things done?  Our website lists some of our recent successes.  I hope you will take the time to review them.  We think you will agree that things are getting done – recreational aviation opportunities are growing at an exciting pace.

So here is your RAF at the 10th year anniversary. We need you now more than ever.  You should know that we take your investment in the RAF serious. Should you have any questions, the names and phone numbers of your RAF directors are listed on this website, just click here. We always want to know how you feel, and what we need to do to continue earning both your financial assistance and your willingness to encourage your friends to join the RAF.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you out there soon.

RAF Christmas

Christmas Day is one that is filled with good memories for me. I grew up surrounded by family and friends who were more interested in giving than receiving. As a little guy I remember my uncle, who was the mechanical engineer of the family, staying up later than the rest. Not until many years later did I learn that it was his job to take care of those items that had some assembly required. Friends stopped by and visits to the neighbors down the road were part of the routine. That day of the year was seemingly about relationships and spending time with people that were important to our family.  

So goes it with the Recreational Aviation Foundation. We have grown to be quite a family and that is how I hope we are known to others. Our RAF family is special in that we truly appreciate the gift of flight that binds us together, and we are even more appreciative for the gift of flying to unique places that many have never experienced.

Many of you are just like that uncle of mine; you stay up late just to make sure that those things that need attention get taken care of. Often without mentioning your handiwork to others in the RAF family.

 The gift that our family is giving to aviation this year is one that we know will endure. It will not wear out, nor go out of style, but rather provide memories for future members of the  family to enjoy and pass down for years to come.

Thanks to Mike Todd for sharing this photo with us.

Merry Christmas to all,

John McKenna

President RAF

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