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  • November 12, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Matthew Remynse, A.A.E., President, Airport Association of North Dakota 

    Earlier this year at the Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium (recently renamed the FLY-ND Conference) the Airport Association of North Dakota’s (AAND) members and officers discussed and set forth the 2021 legislative agenda. Additionally, the members authorized the AAND board to negotiate and enter into an agreement with Odney Inc. to assist the AAND with its legislative efforts.

    The 2021 AAND legislative agenda includes the following:

    Supporting the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) and their funding request

    Introducing legislation that would allow commercial service airports to enter into contracts with Transportation Network Companies (TNC), such as Uber and Lyft

    Supporting legislation that causes airport authorities to be eligible for infrastructure loan programs 

    Monitoring any new legislation related to Operation Prairie Dog, which was approved in the 2019 Session

    As with past sessions, supporting the NDAC will be a top priority for AAND. During the 2021 session, we’ll be backing the NDAC’s budget request and their appeal to receive carry-over spending authority for funds that were received during the 2019 session, but will not be granted until after July 2021. 

    Another focus will be introducing legislation to allow commercial service airports the ability to enter into contracts with TNC. In the 2019 session, the AAND was unsuccessful in moving this bill forward, which is not surprising as it normally takes two or more sessions to get a bill through. With lessons learned, the AAND is going to try again in the 2021 session. The importance of this bill is that as TNC operations continue to grow in the state, our airports will start seeing less use of the paid parking lots, taxi services, and rental cars, which ultimately leads to less revenue for airports. As a way to re-collect some of the revenue and meet federal grant assurances, the AAND will introduce legislation to change North Dakota Century Code so commercial airports are able to enter into contracts with the TNC. 

    Another focus will be supporting legislation that will allow airports to be eligible for a state operated infrastructure loan program. In the 2015 and 2017 sessions, the AAND provided testimony on legislation that would have allowed airports to be eligible to request low-interest loans through the Bank of North Dakota. However, the bill was modified to remove airports, as the focus at the time was on other types of infrastructure. During the 2019 session, the AAND did not pursue any loan program legislation as Operation Prairie Dog provided a lot of promise. Even with the potential funds provided by Operation Prairie Dog, the AAND feels there is a need to ensure airports are eligible for a loan program. At this time, there are several ideas for a loan program legislators are discussing. Once a direction is known, the AAND and Odney will work to assure airports are deemed eligible to participate in the program. 

    A top focus for the AAND will be monitoring any potential changes to Operation Prairie Dog legislation. In the 2019 session, Operation Prairie Dog approved $20 million for airport infrastructure grants that were to be distributed through the NDAC’s grant program. The $20 million came from the oil and gas extraction tax formula that filled a set of funds or buckets. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has not allowed the buckets to fill as fast as hoped and the airport bucket has yet to start filling. Our vision is to not see any modifications to the formula and allow it to work before making any modifications in future sessions. 

    To continue our efforts to interact with legislators, the AAND plans to host a legislative social and hopes to assist with the development of Aviation Day at the Capital. These are two great events that provide AAND members and the aviation community the ability to interact and promote our industry with legislators and executive branch members. However, with COVID-19 precautions in place, we are not quite sure how the logistics will play out for hosting these events. Just as in past years, the AAND expects that one or two bills affecting airports or aviation will require our testimony.

    Through the hard of work of many, the AAND has been very successful in past sessions. This session should be no different, as the organization is well set up with seasoned lobbyists from Odney by our side and an established rapport with legislators. Most importantly, we have members that are ready and willing to participate if called upon. By this I mean, contacting legislators or testifying if possible. When we unify, our voice is stronger!

    The AAND is looking toward another busy and successful legislative session. As we near the beginning of the session, there will be updates coming from the AAND board via email, as well as conference calls once the session begins. So, be on the lookout for those invites and communications. Lastly, the AAND would like to extend a thank you to all those that have reached out to their legislators or have given time to come to Bismarck to testify in the past. Without these efforts, we would not be as successful. So, let’s look forward to a new year and as always, remember to check the NOTAMs!     

  • November 08, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    Former NASA Astronaut, James Buchli, frequently returns as a speaker for University of North Dakota space studies students and faculty. (NASA archival photograph) 

    By Penny Rafferty Hamilton, Ph.D. 

    North Dakota has always propelled sky and space “stars” to stellar careers. Born in New Rockford, ND, James F. Buchli is an excellent example of accomplishments in aviation and aerospace. In 1963, as Buchli graduated from Fargo Central High School, KVLY broadcast the international news of Soviet Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, becoming the world’s first women in space. KQWB radio blasted out the Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and The Cascades singing “Rhythm of the Rain.” 

    That summer, Buchli left his beloved North Dakota for the U.S. Naval Academy. By 1967, he earned his Aeronautical Engineering degree and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. After some additional training, the Republic of Vietnam was his duty for a year as a Platoon Commander, then Executive Officer, and later Company Commander. Buchli is proof that North Dakota creates natural leaders. 

    By 1969, he landed for Naval Flight Officer training, earning his gold wings. Following that, he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Stations and missions in support of Vietnam War operations. In 1977, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School became his new duty assignment. Over the years, Buchli logged over 4,200 hours of flight time: 4,000 in jet aircraft, including combat in the F-4 Phantom II. Along the way, he earned significant military awards and a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering Systems. 

    In 1979, Buchli was selected to become a NASA astronaut, becoming North Dakota’s first native-born astronaut. Now a full-fledged American “Space Star”, he is a veteran of four space flights and has orbited the earth 319 times, traveling 7.74 million miles in 20 days, ten hours, 25 minutes and 32 seconds. His space missions included STS-51-C flying on the Space Shuttle Discovery. In 1985, he launched on STS-61-A with the Space Shuttle Challenger. In 1989, STS-29, he flew on Discovery. In 1991, he was again on the Discovery mission STS-48, which provided critical data for future NASA missions. He served in the NASA Astronaut Office as Manager of Space Station Systems Operations and later was promoted to Deputy Chief. 

    In 1992, Colonel Buchli retired from the Marine Corps and NASA, but continued his contributions to our space efforts with several leadership positions at Boeing Defense and Space Group. In 2019, North Dakota’s James Buchli was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. 

    Quoted in a February 3, 2019, Valley News Live story about this most recent honor, Colonel Buchli said, “Being from North Dakota, that’s a hard one. You kind of go, ‘aw shucks’ and look at your feet. Being part of that group in my mind is humbling and very special. Whether or not I’ve done as much as others or could have done more, it doesn’t matter at this point...

    “...What matters is along the way I’ve done my best to contribute to our space effort.”

    Isn’t that just like someone from the great state of North Dakota? 

    Author Note: Dr. Hamilton’s latest print and eBook, Inspiring Words For Sky and Space Women, is scheduled for November publication. Learn more at 

  • November 05, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    COVID-19 has brought significant impacts to the aviation industry and the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) staff has been hard at work accepting the challenge to help our state adapt to the current and future environment that the industry is facing. 

    During the Fall of each year, our planning staff, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), works to hold meetings with as many of our public-use airports as possible. This year, the meetings were held virtually due to COVID-19 concerns and we were able to meet with over 40 of our airports over a one-month time period. These meetings are designed to allow a free-flowing conversation between the local airport management, the state, and the federal government, which helps to ensure that everyone has an understanding of the current situation each airport is facing. Throughout this process, we also want to identify all of the potential airport improvement and rehabilitation projects that exist as we work to ensure that the best projects throughout the state are being prioritized. This is a critically important process, as we work to ensure that a cost-effective, safe, and growing aviation environment exists throughout all of North Dakota. 

    Now that these discussions are complete, our planning staff is faced with collecting updated individual capital improvement plans from our airports. We will then work to analyze and combine the information into an updated statewide capital improvement plan that will reflect anticipated funding scenarios and project priorities over the next three years. This is an incredible challenge, as the needs always outweigh the funding availability. We also live in a time when government revenues and funding streams are currently very unpredictable. 

    One significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had specifically on our agency, is the fact that the current and future projected oil revenues the state is receiving have dramatically dropped. Last legislative session, the state’s aviation industry was able to secure the potential of additional infrastructure funding through the passing of HB 1066, formally known as the “Operation Prairie Dog” bill. The intent of that legislation was to provide a certain level of ongoing funding certainty for infrastructure projects throughout the state and created new “buckets” of funds that are projected to fill from future oil tax revenues. These newly created funds are currently authorized to fill up to $250 million per biennium in total, distributing up to $115 million to cities, $115 million to counties and townships, and $20 million for airport infrastructure. Due to the drop in oil demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now estimated that these buckets will most likely not fill during the current biennium. This will result in major impacts to road, bridge, and airport projects all throughout the state and has prompted the need for state agencies and local municipalities to adapt to the current situation.

    Our agency has also seen a significant decline in aviation fuel tax revenues since the pandemic began this past spring, though tax revenue from aircraft sales has held steady. Like many other businesses and government entities, we have been able to reduce operational expenditures during the current biennium and are working on updating forecasts for our budget that will be discussed during the upcoming legislative session. Our planning process allows our agency to fully understand the airport infrastructure needs that our state requires and allows us to educate our elected officials so that they are able to make their decisions with the best information possible. As legislative session approaches, please feel free to communicate any concerns or recommendations that you may have that could lead to a positive impact on aviation in North Dakota.

    Though we are faced with some unexpected circumstances, our office gladly accepts the challenge to serve you. We will continue to work to the best of our ability to make the future of aviation in North Dakota a brighter one.

    Kyle Wanner, Director

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650 |

  • November 01, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Tajae Viaene, Chief Flight Instructor, Fargo Jet Center

    Over the years, I have heard numerous reasons to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). Many of those reasons arise from an interest in earning flight hours, looking for a flexible schedule to raise a family, or a desire to share the joy of aviation with new aviators. Of all these, I have yet to hear someone respond, “because it sounds like an easy job.” 

    Trust me when I say, the instructors sticking around are those who find a special joy in teaching, and they understand the hard work and patience required. With the right organization and mentality, inspiring others to earn their wings can be an immensely rewarding career. As I have been instructing for years now, I want to share a few tips for my fellow flight instructors. 

    Tip #1: Treat every sunset as if it is your first

    I cannot count how many beautiful sunsets I have seen over the years while teaching in the air. That being said, I still enthusiastically perk up and try to take the next best picture of the stunning reflection off our wings. Though it is not my first viewing, the way I react has a direct impact on my flight student’s experience. Imagine how inspiring it is for them to share a special moment with their instructor while gazing at scenery, the likes of which are only reserved for those with a front seat view in the sky.

    Tip #2: Mix it up

    Fellow instructors, before you rule this out as a lifetime career option, let me ask: have you really given this a fighting chance? I do understand the monotony when doing the same kind of training day-in and day-out, but in most cases I can stress: YOU ARE IN CONTROL! When I was in a rut, I took it upon myself to earn more training to diversify my customers and my daily flights. Earning my CFI-I allowed me to teach instrument students and I had the opportunity to fly in many unique aircraft owned by those customers. Later, I earned my Multi-Engine Instructor. Wow! Talk about exciting training and teaching after earning this. Multi-engine training has become my “knack” if you will. The thrill of shutting down an engine and restarting in the air with a student – yeah, that’s not going away anytime soon. 

    Tip #3: Give yourself a break

    My first year of instruction was also the year I flew the most. I worked long hours, rarely declined the chance to fly, and I am pretty sure my kid became accustomed to my absence. I learned a lot that year and the main things were: Don’t forget to take care of your health, your family, and give yourself a break. 

    Maybe you are just beginning to teach, or perhaps you are looking at many more months of instruction due to the delay in airline or corporate pilot positions available with our current economic situation; either way, I hope these tips will help you to enjoy each and every flight with your students.

  • 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 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 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

     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

    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 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 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.

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