By Kitty and Mark Burke
Aviation has been a part of my life since I met Mark. We both were raised on farms in Bowman, ND, and met each other during our childhood. It wasn’t until high school, though, that we became close friends. Mark and his brother, Bruce, owned an Aeronca Champion. During the summer of our junior year, he flew me to Rhame, ND, to get my senior pictures taken. We landed in a stubble field, as there was no public airport in Rhame. That’s when I fell in love with flying!
That winter, I was visiting Mark at his family’s farm on a cold, winter Sunday. After feeding the cattle and going for a ride in the Champ on skis, we went inside to warm up. We made hot cocoa and were talking and laughing. When Mark leaned in to kiss me, I said, “This could change everything.” He asked, “Do you want it to change?”
That’s when our story truly began. We started dating our senior year, and one year after graduating high school we were married. We were both 19-years-old and felt ready to take on the world. We moved to Bismarck, ND, and were blessed with four children.
Aviation has been a significant part of our marriage and family in many ways. We enjoy flying as a hobby, depend on it for transportation, and Mark has developed a career out of it. Throughout the early years of our marriage, Mark would rent a plane and fly us all out to Bowman to visit our family. As the years went by, we continued to use airplanes as a mode of transportation to see relatives and for vacation travels.
While growing up, Mark first became interested in aviation when his neighbor, Stanley Pope, shared his love of flying with him. With Stanley’s encouragement, Mark took his first flying lesson at 15-years-old from JB Lindquist, in Hettinger, ND. Years later, Bob Simmers opened the door into an aviation career for Mark by letting him ride along on “doctor trips” in the Piper PA-34 Seneca. Mark worked part time for Aircraft Management Services, which became Bismarck Aero Center, flying the Senecas and single engine Cessnas. Later on, Fred Adams introduced him to a turbine aircraft career. Mark continued to study for and receive various type ratings, including becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), Certified Flight Instructor - Instrument (CFII), and Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI).
I simply flew along as a passenger for many years. After the kids were all grown up, I started paying more attention to what was going on with the instruments. One day, I asked Mark to teach me how to land our plane. He said, “Kitty, if I’m going to teach you to land the plane, I want you to get your private pilot’s license.” Mark was my CFI. I had to learn from the get-go that when we were flying and he was teaching me, I was not his wife but his student. This was a challenge many times, but I was willing to go the distance and get my license. Mark was an amazing instructor. I learned to fly in a Cessna 150 and received my private pilot’s license at age 52! I also learned to fly our Maule with the big tires.
After I got my private pilot’s license, we sold the 150 and the Maule and purchased a Cessna 182 with retractable gear. In 2020, we had a new engine and all new avionics installed. We love going on flying adventures together to visit fun destinations. Every summer, we fly to the backcountry in Idaho. We camp, hike, and explore several of the backcountry airstrips. Our favorite public airport in Idaho is Johnson Creek, and our favorite private airstrip is Allison Ranch. We also like to fly to Minnesota to see our son and daughter-in-law. Some of our other favorites include: Madeline Island in Wisconsin, Moberg airstrip in Bemidji, MN, and Bowstring in northern Minnesota.
Three of our adult children and their spouses live in Fargo, ND. After a visit to our kids in May of 2016, we were returning to Bismarck and decided to drive through Kindred to check out the airpark there. A residential airpark in Kindred, ND? We knew barely anything about it and had to see it to believe it! When we arrived in the clean and neat little town, we saw several empty lots with the taxiway in their backyard. There were already three homes there, so we asked one of the owners a few questions about them. On our way home, we decided that we should buy a lot and build a house once Mark retired. The next day, we purchased a lot. Shortly after, we decided to start building a house right away and use it as a weekend getaway home, until we could retire years down the road.
We wanted to be closer to our kids and grandkids, so we looked at our resources and decided our airplane could provide the link between living and working in Bismarck during the week and living in Kindred onweekends. We started building in October of 2016 and moved in May of 2017. In 2018, Mark took the early retirement option from work and we moved to Kindred full-time. He flew for a year with the fine folks at the Fargo Jet Center; currently, he flies a corporate aircraft based in Fargo.
We have fallen in love with the people in the Kindred airport community. Our immediate neighbors share a common bond with their love of aviation. We get to see our kids and grandchildren every week, and Mark loves his new job. We love having neighbors over and we enjoy getting to know the new couples who are building their dream hangar home.
Our house was designed on a napkin by Mark. It is a very unique layout, with an open floor plan. On the taxiway side of the house we have a mock “control tower”, complete with a windsock on the top. Inside, you find a winding staircase and a fort for our grandchildren, complete with an old avionics panel and binoculars. Mark and I love to go up there and watch the stars come out and airplanes land. From the street-side of the house, it looks like we just have a three-car garage. However, there is a large hydraulic hangar door on the taxiway-side. The inside is huge! We have been able to fit seven cars and an airplane in there. On early summer mornings, we love to open the hangar door and enjoy a cup of coffee while sitting at a table next to our Cessna 182RG.
When Mark has to go to work, I help him push the airplane out and he makes the nine-minute flight to the Fargo Airport, instead of a 35-minute drive. Living on a taxiway and having a hangar attached to our home is a dream come true; we never really expected it to happen. Living at a federally funded airport is a very rare situation. It is a unique opportunity to have access to an airport like Kindred, which has two instrument approaches, lights, fuel, maintenance, and is very well maintained. The snow on the runway and access to the runway is cleared by the airport manager, and the taxiway is cleared of snow by the taxiway owners.
Mark and I often receive phone calls and inquiries from North Dakota and Minnesota pilots who are interested in living at an airpark. We always invite them over to visit the Newport Ridge Airpark and answer any questions they may have. Mark and I absolutely love to watch as our potential neighbor’s eyes light up as they consider the possibility of making their dream become a reality.
To learn more about the Newport Ridge Airpark, visit www.newportridgekindred.com or reach out to Mark and Kitty: firstname.lastname@example.org