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  • February 29, 2024 13:10 | Anonymous

    By Adam Kurtz | Reprinted with permission from UND Today

    After successful pressure-suit test at UND, Helios Horizon pilot preps for record-breaking flight in Nevada

    Some tense moments arose on Nov. 8 in the room housing UND’s high-altitude chamber, located on the ground floor of Odegard Hall.

    But all was well in the end. UND Aerospace physiologists successfully assisted Helios Horizon — a private electrical aviation entity — test a partial-pressure suit, a piece of equipment needed for pilot safety when flying at high altitudes. That meant pilot Miguel Iturmendi had to sit in the subway car-like chamber while UND technicians decreased the air pressure to create the conditions he will experience flying in an unpressurized cockpit at more than 44,000 feet.

    A failure of the suit, or other piece of equipment, could have led to physical consequences such as “the bends,” otherwise known as decompression sickness, which many may associate with undersea divers. It also impacts pilots flying at high altitudes.

    Helios Horizon pilot Miguel Iturmendi stands with his project manager, Javier Merino (far left), UND Space Studies Chair Pablo De León and the UND team members who operate the high-altitude chamber. Photo by Arjun Jagada/School of Aerospace Sciences.

    When you go up to altitude, we lose the atmospheric pressure,” explained Tom Zeidlik, UND’s director of Aerospace Physiology. “That atmospheric pressure is what keeps the nitrogen in our blood. As soon as you lose that pressure, the nitrogen comes out of the solution, so we get air bubbles in our tissue — and that’s how we get the bends.”

    Zeidlik, speaking to this reporter (who tries to avoid the deep end of the pool, much less high altitudes, and is not a good flyer) broke down the importance of the pressure suit:

    “He has inflatable bladders inside his suit. It’d be like when I pull my shirt real tight. So, instead of using atmospheric pressure, he is using the pressure from the suit to keep all the bubbles inside, so he doesn’t end up with decompression sickness.”

    Why do this? Why test the suit at UND?

    Iturmendi and project manager Javier Merino are with Helios Horizon, the company that is working to advance electric or battery-powered flight. They are doing that by setting and then smashing records for high-altitude flight in a battery-powered airplane.

    Iturmendi holds the current record of about 16,000 feet, set in June 2023. Early next year, he intends to blow past that record by flying at about 45,000 feet in Nevada.

    For Merino, it’s about proof of concept; that electrical planes have a place in aviation.

    “We’ve seen that electric aviation is the future, so we wanted to prove the concept that we can fly high with batteries, when people thought it was not possible,” he said.

    Reaching an altitude of 45,000 feet in the electric plane meant testing the suit. It just so happens that pilot Iturmendi knows Pablo de León, chair of the Department of Space Studies, and his work designing spacesuits. The pair spoke at a conference in Argentina in April, and Iturmendi broached the idea of using UND’s altitude chamber.

    De León agreed and ran the idea by Aerospace Dean Robert Kraus, who gave the test the green light.

    The test got started at 9 a.m. Nov. 8, with Iturmendi breathing pure oxygen for about 100 minutes, prior to the chamber door being sealed. That purges the blood of nitrogen and is done prior to an event that exposes one to great changes in air pressure, De León said.

    A Tense Moment

    Once the test got underway, Steven Martin, manager of aerospace physiology operations, sat at the control panel of the chamber and communicated with Iturmendi about altitude, and how he was feeling. Every so often, as the pressure decreased in the chamber, he asked Iturmendi “cognitive questions,” to make sure he was not experiencing any difficulty in thinking that would have indicated a medical problem.

    Miguel Iturmendi and Javier Merino, with Helios Horizon, go over equipment, while Pablo de Leon, UND Space Studies professor, assists. Photo by Arjun Jagada/School of Aerospace Sciences.

    “What’s 6 times 6 times 2?” went one question. “72,” Iturmendi answered, without difficulty.

    Had there been a medical emergency, Eric Toutenhoofd, an aerospace physiology technician and instructor, was also inside the chamber — in a sealed and separate compartment — to render assistance. Toutenhoofd experienced only 25,000 feet of atmospheric pressure, which is the altitude UND Aerospace students experience during their training.

    The idea was to have a trained person in the chamber who’d be more readily able to have access to Iturmendi. Outside the chamber were two Altru paramedics and an off-duty member of the Grand Forks Fire Department. As luck would have it, they were not needed, though there was a tense moment.

    As the air pressure decreased — simulating an increase in altitude — Iturmendi seemed to have some difficulty closing the visor of his helmet. His fingers also seemed to tremble, and the room outside the chamber quickly got very quiet.

    “He got our attention,” Zeidlik said, but a quick cognitive question later determined he was not in any danger.

    Martin announced they hit 44,000 feet, and Iturmendi quickly gave the signal to level off and descend.

    And just like that, the test was over. Altitude Chamber Technicians Alyssa Geatz and Jennifer Watne slowly restored the air pressure in the two compartments to normal (for them, the work was a balancing act of maintaining airflow in and out of the chamber).

    “I’m alive!” Iturmendi shouted to applause, as he finally exited the chamber. He breathed deeply, to get used to the normal air pressure. He described the experience as uncomfortable to say the least, but the test was successful.

    He said he is looking forward to the record-breaking high-altitude flight, and to flights even beyond that:

    “Next year, we will try to do a stratospheric flight,” he said, and mentioned the possibility of coming back to UND for more testing on the pressure suit.

    Speaking after the test, Dean Robert Kraus said he was pleased with the results, and with the efforts of the UND and Helios Horizon teams.

    “UND Aerospace has long been recognized as one of the top aviation programs in the country,” he said.  “Our faculty and researchers continue to expand the limits, and Tom Zeidlik and his team of experts in aerospace physiology are recognized across the industry. The group from Helios Horizon has been great to work with, and we look forward to their success in setting new altitude records for electric aircraft.”

    Steven Martin, manager of aerospace physiology operations (right) and Altitude Chamber Technician Alyssa Geatz look on while Miguel Iturmendi tests his suit. Photo by Arjun Jagada/School of Aerospace Sciences.

  • February 29, 2024 13:05 | Anonymous

    By: Jay Blessum, President of Minot Aero Center 

    Short daylight and busy lifestyles for most of us result in not getting off the ground  very often during winter months. Get out there! It can be a lot of fun when you  do. Low density altitudes make your airplane perform well and most days the air  will be stable and make for smooth flying. There are some things I have learned from my experiences that I would like to share. 

    Plan to preheat your engine; if it is colder than 25 degrees, the overnight low is  likely the temperature of your engine. Multigrade oil is beneficial. Start cranking  immediately after priming, every second that you don’t give the fuel, you just  primed time to drain out. Leaving the primer unlocked during start will give the  engine a little more fuel. After the start, make sure the primer is in and locked as  that extra fuel will make the engine run poorly. Some aircraft have a winter front  that covers a portion of the air inlets or a cover for the oil cooler that will help  keep engine temperatures up.  

    Watch for sand and ice when you choose where to do a runup. You might not  be able to hold still and sand can damage the prop. Don’t taxi through snow.  Your brake discs will be warm enough to melt some, get wet, and freeze later, possibly causing a skidding wheel. If that happens during takeoff it could result  in a flat spotted tire, sometimes severe enough to go flat. Taxiing on ice can be  risky, especially moving downwind where you could lose control even at slow  speeds. Try your best to not breathe on the windows and even though it’s cold  in the cockpit try opening a vent or pilot window to keep condensation from  making foggy windows. Only use a soft cloth or heat to clear windows, as plexiglass scratches easily.

    Make any power changes gradually and use the carburetor heat plenty. Make  sure you bring a warm jacket, hat, and gloves, maybe a blanket for passengers.  Drafty vents can be covered with tape to help keep the cockpit warm. If you  make a stop, consider using an engine cover to keep it warm, even in a light  breeze your engine will cool off in minutes.

  • February 29, 2024 13:01 | Anonymous

    The North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA), along with other Tri-State Agricultural Aviation members, is hosting a Flying in the Wire and Obstruction Environment Course. This course is acclaimed by professional airplane and helicopter operators world-wide and will be held on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, ND.

    This course will be a full-day, eight-hour course. The instructors give low-altitude aviators the essential skills needed to safely operate an aircraft in wire and obstruction environments. This course is for both airplane and helicopter pilots that are working in the wire environment. Learn how to identify signs of wires and why ag aviators hit wires they already knew were there. This course may very well save your life – wire strike accidents continue to harm the ag aviation industry. Nationally in 2022, there were eleven wire strike accidents, one of which was fatal. In the 2023 season, there were 16 wire strike accidents, 7 of which were fatal. 

     This training will be free to attend. The course will be taught by Utilities / Aviation Specialists Inc. (UAS), a unique group of aviation safety practitioners who provide safety auditing, specialized training, installation of safety management systems, and technical aviation consulting. They provide mission-specific expertise in specialized applications which require skill sets above those found in most routine transport operations.

  • February 29, 2024 12:56 | Anonymous

    By Jenna Grindberg, Dakota Territory Air Museum Director

    We are always looking for new, refreshing ideas to keep the community engaged with the museum during the winter off-season. On December 2, 2023, the museum hosted 20 participants aged eight and up, along with their adult chaperones, in the museum’s first ever Learn and Build Model Building Session. For the first session, the participants got an up-close history tour of P-51D “Little Horse” before sitting down and building their very own P-51 Mustang. We are currently planning one session per month through April and will feature additional aircraft in the museum’s collection. You can sign up for the next session at

    If you would like to sponsor spots in upcoming sessions for families in need, please reach out to the museum directly at 701-852-8500 or

    Photos by: Katy Larcombe

  • January 29, 2024 13:30 | Anonymous

    By Ron Lundquist 

    Starting with the fall of the 2023 school year, there’s another high school that’s offering aviation as an elective. Kindred High School in Kindred, ND, has launched its aviation class with 30 kids divided into two sections. Not bad for the first year!

    The class has been trying to get off the ground (pun intended) for a few years and finally the stars lined up. With funding from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) and the high school itself, the program is showing very promising signs of success!

    Aviation has such a rich history in the Kindred area, with of course Bob Odegaard and his world renown warbird restorations, but the airport is literally across the street from the school.  The city boasts the states’ only residential airpark but even nonresidents of the park witness aircraft landing and departing daily as the airport is in their backyard. It’s hard not to get excited about airplanes! Colonel Lyle Andvik, a Kindred High graduate, commanded the 119th Happy Hooligans in Fargo, ND. Major General Mac Macdonald and Major General Darrol Shroeder, also of the 119th and both North Dakota Aviation Hall of Famers, both grew up just miles away in nearby Davenport, ND. Today Captain Brian Kesselring, past commander of the Blue Angels, has his personal hangar and airplane at Kindred, continuing that military aviation connection.

    Scott Bartram, the instructor for the class, is a former Naval Aviator himself. Scott served 24 years at various posts around the globe, flying the Beechjet 400, B737, B707 and the Gulfstream IV. He flew for a short time for Skywest Airlines on the CRJ 200/700/900. He retired for good from the Navy in 2017 and in 2018 began teaching Math and Computer Science at Kindred High; when approached to lead the aviation program, he responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”

    As of now, there are a number of kids that want to pursue flying lessons and local Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Mark Burke is able to accommodate at least some of them. Other students expressed interest in the maintenance field, drone technology, and some are just curious. With the course centered around the core curriculum from AOPA, the class will prepare the students for the FAA Private Pilot written exam but also aims to expose them to all the careers that exist in the aerospace field through speakers that visit the class and field trips. The program also started its own drone flying club that meets regularly.

    This statewide program owes a huge thank you to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and more specifically Mike McHugh, the NDAC Education Coordinator, for his vision and enthusiasm to expose kids to aviation! If you’re curious about starting this worthwhile program in your school, Mike is the first phone call you should make to accomplish this. The people that have spearheaded aviation programs throughout the state can also help you. 


    Don’t wait! Make that phone call!

  • January 29, 2024 13:19 | Anonymous

    By Amy Johnson, CRACTC Registrar/Marketing Coordinator

    The Central Regional Area Career and Technical Center (CRACTC) is a “Virtual” Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, approved by the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education, that provides CTE opportunities to students within our member districts (and sometimes beyond), where every student has the same educational opportunity regardless of the size or location of the school.  Aviation is one of eight program areas that the CRACTC has to offer.  Currently, 40 students from 22 schools throughout North Dakota are enrolled in aviation classes, ranging from Ray in the west to Central Valley on the eastern side of the state; Towner in the north, to Linton in the southern part of the state. Regardless of your high school location, students can explore the A\aviation industry through CRACTC’s Aviation I, Aviation II, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS - Drones) programming. 

    Aviation instructor Jeff Horan, a full-time Executive Pilot who teaches part-time for CRACTC to give back to the aviation industry and its future workforce, states the program is designed to include STEM based learning preparing students for a career either on the flight deck or exploring all the other career pathways within the aviation industry. Students’ aviation online classwork is also supplemented with desktop flight simulators provided to each participating school, Redbird simulators through collaboration with Bismarck Public Schools, flying drones, troubleshooting preflight exercises at an Aero Center, and participating in student flights with certified flight instructors (yes, students actually get to fly!) through collaborations with our industry partners.   

    Clayton Vert is a student from Max, ND, currently enrolled in the CRACTC Aviation II course programming, who recently completed his Student Flight at the Minot Aero Center.  “It was amazing! I got to experience some parts of the pilot career that I had never experienced before, namely the checklist procedures and ATC communications.  As for flying itself, I flew the airplane from taxi way to ramp with almost no assistance, which is a huge mile marker for me,” Clayton states.    

    The CRACTC also works alongside industry leaders at the Bismarck Aero Center, Minot Aero Center, and Grand Forks Aero Center, along with Basin Electric and other industry partners, to provide unique experiences for our students.  Students have the opportunity to learn from industry experts, which they normally wouldn’t have access to and experience new technologies within the aviation field. 

    Please follow CRACTC on our social media platforms, Central Regional Area Career and Technical Center on Facebook and @CRACTC1 on X (formerly Twitter) or check us out on our website at 

    Happy Flying!

  • January 29, 2024 13:15 | Anonymous

    Did you know that aviation education is currently available to every high school student in North Dakota? 

    Though what is available may vary from school to school, every student has the opportunity to enroll in a high school education program through either a class offered in person at their high school, virtually through the Central Region Area Career and Technical Center, or through the North Dakota Center for Distance Education. 

    We currently have in person instruction offered around the state in the following locations: Bismarck, Jamestown, Kindred, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, and Williston. While in person instruction is the preferred method of delivery, it is exciting that schools who may not be able to offer a class because of a low number of students, do have the availability to collaborate with a distance education provider for this instruction. This allows for around 500 students in North Dakota to learn about the aviation opportunities available, including flying and non-flying career paths. 

    For schools looking to start an aviation program, even small or rural schools, there are resources available. One such FREE resource is the AOPA High School STEM curriculum: Though many resources exist, AOPA has put ample resources into this curriculum to ensure it remains free and available to schools. Furthermore, the curriculum is designed for any teacher, even those without an aviation background, to effectively teach the curriculum. What this means is any school with a licensed teacher may use the curriculum regardless of the teacher's content background. AOPA provides six different courses for schools to choose from and provides for a potential four year pathway, if the school chooses. 

    There are many possibilities to gain access to aviation education in your local school. If you would like to help get more opportunities in your local community, I recommend first reaching out to your school to see what opportunities currently exist, and then contacting the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission to see how we can help. 

    Together, we can help more students see the many opportunities that exist for careers in aviation. 

  • January 29, 2024 13:00 | Anonymous

    By Maria Romanick, Operations and Maintenance Manager, Minot International Airport

    Winter Ops – It sure doesn’t seem like we’ve had much of a true winter yet this year, but I am not going to fall for that quite yet. At the time thi s article gets published, we will have made it through the holidays without significant snowfall to affect holiday travel. I don’t think that’s something that can be said for the last few years, and boy, am I grateful! As the Operations and Maintenance Manager for the Minot International Airport, there are a lot of things to juggle, and the juggling only intensifies during what we call a “snow event.” There are the standard day-to-day functions like monitoring the various surface areas of the airfield and notating them properly within the NOTAMs and FICONS. Daily inspections required by the FAA have to get logged appropriately and timely. Things really start to get exciting once the snow starts flying. 

    As for many employers these days, it’s been challenging to get and retain skilled employees. A lot of our current employees have started out with little-to-no experience. The time and dedication our team spends on learning from within and from industry experts is vital to what we do. Our team and our equipment fleet is all ages. From brand new to Vietnam-era equipment, the skill sets needed to operate the various types of equipment are endless. And now for a word from our Operations and Maintenance Foreman, Alex Choi.

    Q: What goes into keeping an airport safe and operational in the winter? 

    Continue with recurrent training, continue to be knowledgeable of what we are doing as airport operations and snow removal, share our knowledge, and communicate with each other during actual operations. It is a never-ending task to ensure our equipment is safe and fully functional. Airports must have a good fleet replacement program to replace aging equipment. When the snow flies, airports are required to continuously monitor the airfield. That requires staff to stay alert and be ready to go out as needed. Operations staff must understand the situation and how to react if weather shifts/changes. We do our best to follow Department of Labor and Department of Transportation requirements as good guidelines, in order to prevent operator exhaustion. To the best of our ability, it is our goal to have a fully open and operational airfield throughout the winter, providing a safe and welcoming experience for everyone who uses the airport as their mode of transportation.

    Q: How many pieces of equipment do we have working at one time during a snow event? 

    With our current staffing and schedule, normally we can run one to three pieces of equipment at a time. During Wednesdays, we can run four to five pieces of equipment at once. This operation includes both airside and landside. Operations staff are available 24/7 and must update NOTAMs according to the weather.

    Q: What advice do you have for pilots and passengers? And what can pilots do to assist you in this process?

    It would be much appreciated if pilots would make a radio call when leaving from the ramp and coming in to land on the runway. Please read NOTAMs for what is open and closed. Any questions? Airport Operations is here to help!

    As always, we like to remind the public and passengers that we are trying our best to keep the airfield open and maintain good pavement conditions for the pilot to decide whether or not it is safe to land. As much as we’d like to, we can’t control the weather and visibility. In addition, the airlines have their own policies for IFR requirements. We want you to fly in and out as safely as possible!

  • January 17, 2024 13:28 | Anonymous

    Welcome back to winter in North Dakota! Navigating the skies above our state during this season serves as a reminder of the incredible importance of real-time weather reporting.

    For pilots, the significance of precise weather information cannot be overstated. Variables such as wind speed, turbulence, visibility, and cloud cover wield substantial influence over flight operations. Real-time weather updates emerge as indispensable tools, enabling pilots to make informed decisions, adapt flight paths, and select optimal altitudes to navigate safely through potentially adverse conditions.

    Beyond ensuring safety, weather conditions play a pivotal role in fuel consumption and overall operational efficiency. Factors like headwinds, tailwinds, and temperature fluctuations directly impact fuel burn rates and weather forecasts are utilized to fine-tune flight plans which can reduce operational costs and environmental impacts. 

    Over the past 15 years, North Dakota has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to enhancing weather reporting infrastructure. In 2008, the state had 23 Automated Weather Observation Systems (AWOS). Fast forward to 2023 and North Dakota now proudly has 35 sites delivering real-time weather reporting. This remarkable expansion has significantly benefited Part 135 and air ambulance operations and has elevated the reliability and accessibility of aviation across the entire state.

    Recent additions, such as the Bottineau AWOS (2022) and the Killdeer AWOS (early 2024), exemplify North Dakota’s dedication to advancing its weather reporting capabilities. The most recent addition of the Killdeer AWOS, promises to further augment the state’s comprehensive weather reporting network in Western North Dakota. 

    Ensuring the sustainability of this crucial infrastructure, the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission provides on-going support for the system by covering the costs of the tri-annual inspections necessary to maintain AWOS certification. Additionally, the commission covers the expenses of the NADIN connection for each site, which allows direct internet access for the weather information to become available to the public. State grant funding is also available to install and replace equipment at AWOS sites throughout North Dakota.  The state program has alleviated the financial burden on local communities and helps to ensure that the entire state system has robust weather reporting.

    Introducing innovative tools, the FAA weather camera program now also offers our airports with a weather reporting alternative, particularly when an investment in an AWOS system is not feasible. The Ashley Municipal Airport has recently become the first in North Dakota to enable a live weather camera feed. This weather reporting option can be further explored at We encourage other airports to connect with us to also explore options to enter into this program and enhance their weather reporting capabilities.

    In the realm of aviation, weather reporting stands as a cornerstone of safety and operational efficiency. To secure North Dakota’s position in a competitive economic and business climate, we remain steadfast in our commitment to maintaining and improving our weather reporting capabilities. As technology also continues to evolve, we embrace the challenges and opportunities that it presents, as we work to ensure a safe and efficient future for aviation in our great state.


  • January 17, 2024 13:18 | Anonymous

    The North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame committee announces that Dan Kasowski has been selected for induction into the state’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Dan will join the prestigious aviation hall of fame group that currently includes 48 other individuals who have all had a significant impact on the growth, development, and promotion of aviation in North Dakota. For more information on the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, visit 

    Dan Kasowski was born in Buffalo, ND, in 1958. He grew up on his family’s farm, where his mechanical aptitude began at a young age. His journey as an aviation mechanic began immediately after high school, when he pursued his Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) training and certification at Dakota Aero Tech in Fargo, ND. In 1978, he started his career at Rugbee Air Care in Rugby, ND. After one year in Rugby, he moved back to Fargo and worked at ProAir Services for a short time, until they permanently closed operations. In the fall of 1979, he emerged as a pioneering force in the new aviation school that was formed at the University of North Dakota (UND). As the second full-time mechanic employed by the organization, Dan became an integral part of UND’s aviation program, eventually ascending to supervisory roles.

    Throughout his career at UND, Dan’s influence reached beyond the mechanics and technicians that he mentored, his impact extending to aviation professionals across North Dakota and the nation. He traversed various roles, progressing from a technician to supervisor, inspector, shop manager, and quality assurance manager. Notably, he held the position of Director of Maintenance for over two decades, overseeing both the main campus and satellite operations under the FAR Part 145 certificate. He received his Inspection Authorization (IA) in 1982 and his Private Pilot Certificate from the University of North Dakota in 1988. Dan currently oversees approximately 100 full and part time employees. 

    Under Dan’s leadership, UND’s flight operation consistently garnered the FAA Diamond Award, a testament to their commitment to training, safety, and professional development. His strategic guidance navigated the institution through multiple fleet changes, significantly enhancing safety across all flight operations. Dan’s humble demeanor and unwavering dedication to safety contributed to UND’s impeccable safety record, establishing North Dakota as a premier global destination for pilot training.

    Beyond UND, Dan actively participated in the North Dakota Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (NDPAMA) throughout his entire career. He held various officer positions and served as its President multiple times. Dan also had a pivotal role in establishing the NDPAMA aviation mechanic scholarship which gave a preference for North Dakota students. He continually showcased his commitment to nurturing the next generation of aviation mechanic professionals.

    Dan served on the North Dakota Aviation Council for seven years, and in 2004 and 2005 he assumed the role of Chair for the North Dakota Aviation Council, where he played a key role in organizing the state’s annual conference and fostering collaboration among aviation stakeholders. His involvement extended to advisory boards at area technical schools offering A&P programs, where he championed the value of giving back to the aviation community by leading through example.

    "Dan’s legacy is not just a testament to his technical expertise, but also to his commitment to mentorship, safety, and the broader aviation community. His profound impact, stemming from mentorship and dedicated work in the field, has positively impacted many individuals within and beyond the North Dakota aviation community."

    The induction banquet ceremony will take place in Grand Forks, ND, at the annual Fly-ND Conference on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at the Alerus Center. The social will begin at 6:00 p.m. and the banquet starts at 7:00 p.m. 

    To learn more about the state’s aviation conference or to purchase tickets for the hall of fame event, visit Questions can be directed to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission at 701-328-9650.

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