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  • October 29, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Robbie Lunnie 

    Wildfires are devastating. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have been 41,051 wildfires this year with approximately 4.7 million acres burned.  States such as Oregon, California, and Washington have been devastated by fire. Aviation plays an important role in helping these states combat this ever-growing threat.

    Historically, airplanes and helicopters have carried out dangerous aerial firefighting operations. Pilots conducting these missions fly at very low-levels, oftentimes putting themselves and their aircrews at extreme risk. Until recently, crewed aircraft were the only means of combating wildfires from the air. However, unmanned aircraft are taking to the skies to conduct life-saving operations in hopes of lowering the risk to aerial firefighters.

    Unmanned aircraft are being used in multiple applications, such as monitoring ground crew positions in real-time, identifying smoldering hotspots with infrared technology, and even delivering rescue supplies. Although these are important uses of unmanned aircraft, another benefit of this technology is being explored.

    Although it sounds like a scene from an apocalyptic science fiction film, unmanned aircraft equipped with fireballs are being used to thwart potential wildfires in the Midwest and Western United States. These aircraft, known as Unmanned Aerial Ignition Systems, are being used to conduct prescribed burning operations. Prescribed burns are fires intentionally started under controlled circumstances to reduce the hazardous fuels near woodlands, grasslands, developed areas, and even national historic sites.

    An example of unmanned aerial ignition systems are small, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft equipped with dispensers designed to drop ignition spheres. Self-igniting ignition spheres, affectionately dubbed “dragon eggs,” are used aboard unmanned aircraft to start prescribed burns in areas where dry shrubs and grasses have a high potential for ignition. 

    The self-igniting plastic ping-pong sized balls are filled with potassium permanganate and are injected with glycol immediately before being deployed. Once injected, the spheres ignite within 30 seconds, giving ample time for the “dragon eggs” to fall from unmanned aircraft and settle on the prairie or forest floor.

    This technology, an industry standard for years, is typically deployed by fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft. However, a team at the University of Nebraska has studied the applicability of using unmanned aircraft technology to safely conduct prescribed burn operations. Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior purchased commercialized versions of Unmanned Aerial Ignition Systems and trained firefighters to pilot them.

    Aircrew safety is one of the biggest motivators for using unmanned aircraft in aerial firefighting operations. Using unmanned aircraft systems gives firefighters the benefit of conducting dangerous, yet critical, aerial firefighting missions from a safe distance, allowing pilots and aircrews a safe return to their home airfields.

  • October 25, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    As Chairman of the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA), I am excited to share some updates on progress we have made in staying true to our mission of supporting and growing aviation throughout North Dakota.

     Over a year ago, the NDAA Board of Directors made a commitment to develop and host an annual aviation career expo for students interested in exploring or pursuing a career in aviation. Hopefully you have seen and heard about it by now. If not, check out our promo video at www.fly-nd.com/career-expo. A big thank you to the University of North Dakota Aerospace for the production of the video. The free FLY-ND Aviation Career Expo, which was scheduled for this October, has been postponed until 2021. In addition to the Career Expo, we have established the NDAA Scholarship Fund. This fund will ultimately be a tool to help students take their first steps towards a career in aviation.

     We have also launched our new website www.fly-nd.com that is the hub for everything we as an association are working on. Events, membership info, scholarships, and news all can be accessed quickly and is easy to use and view from any kind of device. 

    The NDAA has also been working with Senator Hoeven’s and Congressman Armstrong’s offices to stay on top of government funding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently received to address our industry’s workforce challenges. The funds have been appropriated to the FAA and we are expected to be available as early as mid-November. We are taking some initial steps to prepare for a potential grant submission and are collaborating with a number of organizations. These include the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, North Dakota Career and Technical Education, UND Aerospace, North Dakota State College of Science and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to name a few. If you are interested in serving on our working committee, please contact me directly. To learn more about the grant available, visit the FAA’s website at www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ang/grants/awd/

     Your membership and support matters; please consider joining the North Dakota Aviation Association and becoming a supporter in growing aviation throughout the state.

    Darren Hall, Chairman

    North Dakota Aviation Associaton


  • August 18, 2020 15:22 | Anonymous

    The North Dakota Aviation Association is seeking your help to build the future of aviation in ND and around the world. NDAA (formerly North Dakota Aviation Council) has launched a new venture, FLY-ND, to raise awareness of the aviation industry and set the course for an amazing future in the skies!

    To support these efforts, we have established the FLY-ND Scholarship Fund, managed by the North Dakota Community Foundation. The scholarship fund is designed to support aviation students pursuing aerospace careers including some of those listed below:

    Professional Pilot | Maintenance | Aerospace Engineering | Airport Management | Space Studies |Unmanned Aircraft Systems | Atmospheric Sciences | Avionics Electronics

    We recognize the incredible economic impact our industry has on the state, but also see the challenges that lie ahead. Numerous studies have indicated considerable workforce shortages in many aerospace career fields, a stark reality we are already seeing in this industry today. Thus, our mission of student outreach, creating new aviation programs in schools, and developing the scholarship program are our highest priorities.

    Our goal for the FLY-ND Scholarship Fund is to provide impactful giving opportunities to support the next generation of aviators. Please consider joining our mission in support of youth pursuing aerospace careers.

    Or visit www.fly-nd.com/donate

    Any dollar amount is appreciated and helps build our general scholarship funds. You may also designate a career path your donation will support, or it can go into our general funds to support students pursuing any aerospace career.

    To make a donation, please fill out the enclosed donation form and send it in with your check. Or, if you prefer, you can donate online at www.FLY-ND.com/Scholarships. Be sure to select the correct fund – either our general purpose, permanently endowed fund or our general purpose one-time scholarship (non-endowed) fund. Consider making your gift a recurring donation – the same amount every month or every year to provide continuous support to the next generation of aviators!

    If you have any questions, please contact Larry Mueller at larry.mueller@redriverbank.com or at 218-456-2231.

  • August 18, 2020 15:11 | Anonymous

    By Penny Rafferty Hamilton, Ph.D.

    WASP Viola Thompson of North Dakota flew tow target planes at Camp Davis, North Carolina, in support of the World War II effort to train Army gunners. (photo wikicommons)

    In 1942, Viola Thompson, on the left became North Dakota’s first woman to earn a commercial rating. By 1943, she had volunteered for the WASP and became North Dakota’s first woman to earn US Army Air Corps gold wings. WASP Mary Clifford was in Viola’s squadron.

    Viola Thompson was born in 1914, near Fingal, ND. In her early years, her family moved to Fargo. Viola tagged along behind her older brother, Marnel, to watch airplanes at busy Hector Airfield. In 1939, Viola took her first one dollar plane ride. It was just a dollar more for flying lessons, and so her journey began. She attended business school and landed a good job, which supported her new aviation addiction. 

    By 1942, Viola was North Dakota’s first woman to earn a commercial flying ticket. Then, legendary female pilot Jackie Cochran and the newly formed Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) invited Viola to join them at Sweetwater, TX. In 1943, WASP Thompson graduated in the fourth class, earning her coveted Air Corps Gold Wings. She became North Dakota’s first woman to do so. 

    Soon, Viola and other “Avenger Girls” WASP reported to duty at Camp Davis, NC, to form the new Target Tow Squadron. The gals had ill-fitting hand-me-down male mechanic uniforms called “zoot suits”. The women had to roll up the sleeves and pant legs to make them wearable. 

    The U.S. Army still considered these brave and patriotic women “civilians”. They were paid only $150 a month in training and $250 a month in service. Out of that, they had to pay the government $50 a month for room and board. When uniforms finally became available, the WASP paid $12.50 each for the “General’s Tan” trousers and about $10 each for the white shirts. Soon, the iconic Santiago Blue WASP uniform Jackie Cochran designed became available to purchase for dress with berets.

    Viola’s day started at 6:45 a.m. with calisthenics. By 7:15 a.m., it was back to the barracks to change to flying clothes and march to breakfast. Once at the airfield, they entered the “WASP Nest” briefing room for the review on the flying course and assignments. They had to fly back and forth hour after hour, making precise turns while being shot at from the ground. 

    Viola flew Curtiss Helldivers and Curtiss A-25 Shrike as her tow planes to train new male gunnery students on the ground shooting live ammo. She hoped the guys shooting were a quick study and had a steady aim to actually hit the canvas target she was towing and not her plane!  These planes were known to be challenging and unpopular with carrier pilots. In late 1944, the U.S. military shut down the WASP program. Because they were not considered “service members,” they paid for their own transportation home. For years, their heroic and patriotic service was overlooked and forgotten. 

    After World War II, Viola married Robert Mason. They moved to Alaska where Viola earned her seaplane rating and joined the Civil Air Patrol. As we approach the September 2020 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, let us honor all those North Dakotans of our Greatest Generation. 

    Dr. Hamilton is writing a new book, Inspiring Words For Sky and Space Women: Advice from Historic and Contemporary Trailblazers, which is filled with unique “her” stories. 

  • August 18, 2020 15:05 | Anonymous

    The B-17 Sentimental Journey and the B-25 Maid in the Shade visited the Bismarck Aero Center in July. The local community was able to tour these incredibly unique historical aircraft, and a lucky few were able to go for a ride. All proceeds went to support the Commemorative Air Force. Photo credit: Shae Helling

  • August 18, 2020 15:00 | Anonymous

    Oh, the anticipation of enjoying a fly-in while having to take precautions to keep the pilots and other guests safe. Where does one begin to plan for an event like this during a pandemic? That was something that had to be figured out in order to have a successful Kulm Fly-In this summer. 

    Originally, the fly-in was to be a breakfast as part of the Kulm City Band 125th festivities. That celebration, along with so many others in North Dakota, was postponed until next year as a result of COVID-19. The Kulm Airport Board made the decision to continue with their plans, however. The only change was planning it as a supper, instead of a breakfast. Local advertising was kept at a minimum, with one sign being hung in town and others providing fly-in information for pilots. In order to host a safe event, a lot of time was put into reading safety protocols and regulations. It was decided that gloves, hand sanitizer, and individual serving containers would be purchased. The tables and chairs had to be spaced apart, in order to social distance. Also, more people would be needed to serve the meal, as the guests could not serve themselves. 

    On the day of the fly-in, the weather was hot, humid, and windy. However, this didn’t stop the pilots. About 13 planes from Linton, Buffalo, West Fargo, Fargo, Hillsboro, Milnor, and Desmet, SD, arrived. Everyone had a great time visiting and enjoyed getting back up in the air and going somewhere! Plans are being made for another fly-in this August. While everyone hopes that things will be more normal by then, we know what it takes to host a fly-in during a pandemic and look forward to doing it again.

  • August 18, 2020 14:56 | Anonymous

    Local pilots from Bowman Regional Airport (BWW) flew a tribute on May 29, 2020, to show support and say thank you to local area doctors, nurses, EMT’S, police, firemen, teachers, business owners, farmers, ranchers, military, and others who have kept their communities going and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Brent Kline, BWW Airport Manager, organized the event with the route overflying Bowman, Scranton, Gascoyne, Bucyrus, and Hettinger. Taking place in conjunction with BWW’s five-year anniversary, pilots tested their skill with flag drops on targets for discounted fuel price prizes. A pizza party followed for pilots and families. Rodney Schaaf, Airport Chairman, said after two months of virus “ hibernation,” it was a great way to get airborne again!

  • August 18, 2020 14:53 | Anonymous

    By Matthew Remynse, A.A.E., AAND President 

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This quote by Charles Dickens truly defines how March 2020 was for airports in North Dakota. At our commercial airports, March had some of the highest days on record for boardings, with the potential to result in another record month on the way to possibly another record year. Unfortunately, after a pandemic was declared, COVID-19 stole the spotlight. A significant, devastating decline in travel followed, leading to some of the lowest days on record for our airports. According to the monthly statistics, the boardings at North Dakota commercial service airports were down 43 percent in March, 94 percent in April, and 86 percent in May. Additionally, our General Aviation (GA) airports began to see a significant loss in operations. 

    The drastic decline in boardings has left terminals hollow and parking lots empty, but the airports in the state looked for and have found a silver lining during this temporary down. With the support of our congressional delegation, the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was passed, which included funding for airports. As part of the CARES Act, airports that had a federal project were granted 100 percent of the cost versus the normal 90 percent, allowing the local share to be used for other purposes such as operational cost. Additionally, the CARES Act provided eligible airports with a grant that could be used for project or operational costs. Calculated by the FAA, using a congressional formula, the grant distribution amounts varied by airport. The downtime and additional funding has allowed our airports to move forward with parking lot maintenance, crack sealing, airfield markings, resealing terminal flooring, and conducting deep cleaning of the terminals. 

    An unanticipated benefit from the 100 percent grant funding was that it freed up a portion of the 5 percent the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) provides for federal projects. This allowed these funds to be used to jumpstart several projects that were not eligible to receive federal funding. Some of these great projects include a runway extension at Milnor, a fuel system at Washburn, SRE equipment purchases, and obstruction removal at several airports. 

    While there were some unanticipated benefits stemming from COVID-19, airports would like to be back to normal. To do this, airports must instill confidence in the traveler and assure them that it is safe to fly. This concept is not unique to our industry, as this process also happened following Sept. 11, 2001. In today’s world, commercial airports are cleaning well beyond pre-COVID levels, using more effective chemicals, placing social distancing stickers, installing plexi-glass shields, and offering hand sanitizer and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to travellers. At our GA airports, the volunteers are cleaning the pilot lounge often, placing social distancing signage, and offering hand sanitizer. 

    As we move into summer, airports are seeing more traffic and more traveling passengers. All across the state, airports will continue to adapt to meet the needs of passengers, pilots, and friends of aviation. The best of times will return, and the aviation community must work now to be prepared for when that time arrives. Travel will return, traffic will increase in lobbies, lounges, and parking lots. We need to be ready and ensure that we’ve planned the best ways for when the public wants and needs to travel again. In the meantime, there are a lot of projects going on at airfields and still plenty of GA activity, so as always, check the NOTAMS.    

  • August 18, 2020 14:51 | Anonymous

    Mike McHugh, Aviation Education Coordinator 

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650  |  mmchugh@nd.gov

    Since the inception of the Passport Program, created in 2010, 72 pilots have flown to all 89 North Dakota airports and submitted their stamp book to receive their prize: a coveted leather jacket. Each time I talk with a pilot who has completed the program, I ask them to share their journey: How long did it take? What kept you going? Where can we improve? To date, not one pilot has told me they regret picking up a book and collecting stamps. The most recent story I have found fascinating was that of Pat Fagan and his friends. It is definitely worth the read, and you can find it on page 10. Pat is one of approximately 15 out-of-state pilots who have collected airport stamps in North Dakota. 

    With a lack of typical activities this spring and summer, quite a few pilots have been using the extra time to work on the Passport Program. Given the recent interest in the program, I want to share some minor changes for pilots to be aware of in the upcoming months. 

    First, we now have an optional registration for the passport program available on our website. Prior to this registration, we have no information about participants until a completed book is turned in for an award. I would like to encourage those of you working on collecting stamps, regardless of how far along you are, to register on our website: aero.nd.gov/education-programs/passport-program. By completing this short form, we have more information to assist participants and the ability to communicate with them in the future when needed. Registration is optional but encouraged. 

    Secondly, I am excited to announce that we are working with a national group to allow stamps to be received via check-in through a mobile app. The passport book isn’t going away; this app simply gives us another way to collect stamps. Our plan is to expand this option to other states with Passport Programs for easier stamp collection. 

    And last but not least, we are planning to add a Platinum Level to the Passport Program. This would be available for pilots who have completed the Gold Level and are looking for another challenge. While details are being worked out, we hope to officially roll it out by the end of this year. 

    Please remember:

    Check NOTAMS prior to heading out to collect stamps. With construction season, there may be some temporary runway closures. 

    If you are unable to land at an airport or cannot find the passport stamp, do not hesitate to contact the NDAC office and we will mail you a sticker to use in place of the stamp. A picture at the airport or logbook entry showing you were at that airport is always helpful. 

    As you are flying and notice any areas which are unsafe or could be improved, please reach out to the NDAC staff and we will relay the information to the airport manager. 

    Stay safe and I hope to see many of you on the stage at the Passport Awards presentation in Spring 2021!

  • August 18, 2020 14:50 | Anonymous

    By Kyle Wanner, Executive Director

    The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) recently finalized approximately $9.7 million in infrastructure grant allocations to 141 individual projects at 55 different public-use airports throughout the state.

    Seven million of the allocation is being made as a part of a $20 million-dollar transfer that the state legislature approved in the last legislative session from the Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund (SIIF) to provide assistance with the large-scale projects that are ongoing at both the Watford City Airport and the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport.  

    Another $2.7 million of the allocation was made from the Aeronautics Commission Special Fund where the primary revenue source for these grants is derived from state tax collections on aviation fuel and aircraft sales. These state grants are critical in maintaining the needed infrastructure to support the aviation industry, which is a major contributor to the state’s economy and standard of living.

    These state airport grant allocations will help to leverage and supplement the federal funding being received for high priority airport projects within North Dakota, while at the same time ensuring that our statewide aviation system is being maintained.  These grants will also help to create jobs within our communities and will greatly assist our airports in preparing them to be in a better position to help our economy rebound from the impacts caused by the COVID-19 virus.

    Continue reading for a listing of each of the public airports that received a state grant, along with a description of at least one of their funded projects.  A full listing of the airport grants and dollar amounts can also be found in the news section on the NDAC website.  

    Congratulations to all of the communities on their grant awards!

    Commercial Airport Grant Awards:

    BismarckPavement Marking Rehabilitation

    Devils LakePurchase Snow Removal Equipment

    DickinsonRunway 14/32 NAVAID Equipment

    FargoPavement Marking Rehabilitation

    Grand ForksPavement Maintenance

    JamestownWindsock Rehabilitation

    MinotPavement Maintenance

    WillistonDrainage Improvements

    General Aviation Grant Awards:

    AshleyPurchase Mowing Equipment

    BeachPavement Maintenance

    BeulahPavement Maintenance

    BowmanPurchase Snow Removal Equipment

    CandoGeneral Aviation Terminal Repairs

    CarringtonConstruct Public Hangar

    CasseltonAirfield Lighting Repair

    CavalierPavement Maintenance

    CrosbyRunway Safety Area Grading

    EllendalePavement Maintenance

    EnderlinPavement Maintenance

    GarrisonPavement Maintenance

    GraftonPurchase Mowing Equipment

    GwinnerPurchase Snow Removal Equipment

    HazenPavement Maintenance

    HettingerPurchase Snow Removal Equipment

    KenmarePavement Maintenance

    KilldeerPavement Maintenance

    KindredWatermain & Fire Hydrant Installation

    KulmPurchase Land Roller

    LaMourePavement Maintenance

    LangdonPavement Maintenance

    LarimorePavement Maintenance

    LintonPurchase Mowing Equipment 

    LisbonPavement Maintenance

    MandanReconstruct Taxiways

    MayvillePavement Maintenance

    MilnorPrimary Runway Extension

    MottUpdate Airport Layout Plan

    New RockfordPavement Maintenance 

    New TownPavement Maintenance

    NorthwoodPavement Maintenance

    OakesPavement Maintenance

    Park RiverObstruction Removal

    ParshallPavement Maintenance

    PembinaGeneral Aviation Terminal Repairs

    RollaPavement Maintenance

    RugbyPavement Maintenance

    St. ThomasRunway Safety Area Repairs

    Turtle LakeObstruction Removal

    Valley CityReplace Jet A & 100LL Fuel Systems

    WahpetonReplace AWOS

    WashburnConstruct Security Fence

    Watford CityPrimary Runway and Taxiway Relocation

    WesthopeRPZ Land Acquisition

    WishekPavement Maintenance

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