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  • December 22, 2022 12:38 | Anonymous

    Exploring North Dakota Airports

    Looking for a new destination this fall? Plan a visit to Hillsboro Regional Airport, just four miles south of Hillsboro, ND! The North Dakota airport passport stamp can be found in the general aviation terminal.

    Here are a few local attractions to explore:

    Hillsboro Airport Flight Simulator

    Interested in getting some simulator time just for fun or to maintain your instrument currency? Hillsboro Airport is home to a new certified flight simulator. They have a free introductory flight, as well as basic and premier membership plans available.

    Visit for more information and contact information.

    The Clubhouse: Indoor Golf & Practice Facility

    The Clubhouse is an indoor golf simulator, practice facility and party rental space featuring a Full Swing golf simulator, putting green, TVs, theater chairs and kitchenette. The facility is located in the heart of downtown Hillsboro. 

    16 W Caledonia Ave Hillsboro, ND 58045

    Contact Ryan Opdahl at (218) 779-2658 to schedule a time, or visit their Facebook page for more information:

    If you work up an appetite while exploring Hillsboro, here are a few recommendations:

    The Hillsboro Cafe – a community-centered gathering spot where the focus has been on great food and friendly service in a “Welcome Home!” atmosphere.

      Hours: Tues-Fri, 7 am to 2 pm; Sat, 8 am to 2 pm

      Address: 3 N Main St Hillsboro, ND 58045

      For more information, visit

    Goose River Brewing – a new brewery and restaurant featuring delicious pub food and tasty brews.

      Address: 24 West Caledonia Ave Hillsboro, ND 58045

      Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3pm to 10pm; Sat-Sun, 12-6pm

      For more information, visit

    Please visit these locations’ websites or call to confirm hours and availability. 

    Do you have a favorite attraction to explore or a dining recommendation at your North Dakota airport to share with our readers? Submit your discoveries to  

  • December 22, 2022 12:25 | Anonymous

    On October 1, 2022, approximately 20 volunteers gathered at the Garrison Dam Recreational Airpark in Riverdale, ND, to give the airport a fresh look. The group was made up of North Dakota Aeronautics Commission staff, aviation enthusiasts, members from the Mandan EAA chapter, and the Recreational Aviation Foundation. 

    The project consisted of multiple improvements to the site:

    New cones were installed throughout the airport on the runway, apron, and segmented circle.

    Excessive tire tie-downs on the apron were removed.

    Multiple new information signs were installed.

    Excess trees and shrubs were removed from the perimeter to enhance safety and airport appeal.

    Thank-you to all of the volunteers who helped make the event a success!


  • December 22, 2022 12:15 | Anonymous

    The 54th Helicopter Squadron landed a UH-1N “Huey” at Glenburn Public School in Glenburn, North Dakota to allow students to tour the aircraft Sept. 27, 2022.

    The community event was brought to fruition from a simple conversation involving 1st Lt. Sarah Melton, a 54th HS pilot and a local girl in a café.

     “One of the little girls I met in the café asked me ‘Who are you, what do you do?’ and I said, ‘Well I fly helicopters up on base’,” said Melton. “And she said, ‘You fly helicopters!’ and I said, ‘Yeah do you want to see a picture?’ and her eyes just lit up.”

    Melton took the conversation to heart and decided she wanted to give the opportunity to all the kids in the Glenburn community a chance to see the helicopter up close and meet with the air crew.

    After months of coordinating with her squadron and the school, Melton was able to get all the required permissions to land a helicopter at the school’s softball field.

    Upon arriving at the school, the air crew was greeted by students ranging from kindergarten to seniors in high school.

    “It was cool to see them make the connection, to get to see them climb in and look at all the buttons and move the control sticks,” said Melton.

    Being able to contribute to the community youth was important to Melton, as she felt she could provide some inspiration for the kids who may one day want to join the armed forces.

    “If they don’t have any family members who work on base, they don’t really have a connection to it,” said Melton. “Especially, to see a lot of the little girls who had never thought about becoming pilots or military at all. It was cool to give them the option and opportunity to see they can do whatever they want.”

    Reprinted with permission from the 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

  • December 22, 2022 11:42 | Anonymous

    By Julie Theisen, Director of Business & Program Management, Northern Plains UAS Test Site

    The history of North Dakota aviation is impressive. The future of North Dakota aviation is even brighter, thanks to its leadership in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) infrastructure and technology.

    The Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), in partnership with Thales USA, a global technology leader and air traffic management provider, is in the process of creating Vantis, the statewide UAS system that will facilitate beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights across North Dakota. The program can be expanded into other states and regions, allowing commercial and innovative opportunities.

    James Cieplak, Vantis’ Program Director, recently spoke to an economic group in Minot, ND, and shared how the system will work and what commercial possibilities will be available as Vantis takes flight.

    The first point was how UAS is actually a misnomer, in terms of all of the people behind “unmanned” flying. 

    “It takes more men and women to fly an unmanned aircraft now, per FAA regulations and rules, than it does a manned aircraft,” said Cieplak, who has spent a long career in implementing advanced aviation-systems technology. 

    As the UAS industry grows, more and more people will be employed in it, both with direct piloting on the ground, as well as support industries. Vantis will make UAS (or drone) flights possible for longer distances, as well as safely integrated with traditionally piloted aircraft.

    Investing in the Future

    Thales USA is the system integrator for Vantis, deploying communications and surveillance infrastructure across the state, which enables operators to pilot UAS remotely and detect other aircraft in the airspace.

    When completed, Vantis will serve as a highway in the sky for UAS, opening up capabilities in a variety of industries including oil and gas or utility inspections, retail and medical deliveries, or agricultural enhancements.

    The state of North Dakota has made a multi-million-dollar investment through its legislature because it sees the economic possibilities, including uses not even envisioned yet. The state built on its decade-long history of UAS research, development, and commercialization at the NPUASTS to start the system now known as Vantis.

    “This is about commerce and economic development, not just putting up infrastructure,” Cieplak said.

    Scalable beyond North Dakota

    Positioning North Dakota as the leader within the UAS industry is the goal, and the economic benefits of being first to market in this particular space. In testing and facilitating repeatable and economically viable UAS flights, Vantis is developing an economic model that is scalable beyond the state. As Vantis expands beyond North Dakota, it will be able to generate revenue from service fees that go to the state’s general fund.

    “We are looking at additional revenue sources from Vantis. One is the ability to put this aviation infrastructure not just here in North Dakota,” Cieplak said. “All of that infrastructure can then be monitored from here, and we can actually have a fee for service for replicating this and putting it in other states.”

    Vantis utilizes North Dakota’s fiber optic infrastructure to connect test sites in Williston and Watford City to its newly opened Mission and Network Operations Center (MNOC) in Grand Forks. The MNOC just celebrated its grand opening in June 2022 and will serve as the system’s heart, as it expands across the state to Bismarck or Minot, and eventually beyond its borders.

    The system has already had real-world applications, as its groundwork helped North Dakota assess and prioritize utility repairs this spring following a blizzard. By utilizing drones to inspect damage in remote and inaccessible areas, utility companies were able to restore power more quickly to residents. 

    In the future, what is learned and perfected with Vantis can be applied to other fields of autonomy, not just in the air. The system can be used to help public transportation, snow removal, or any number of ideas. Cieplak said the program is looking at how it could be applied to agriculture and roads, as well. 

    For now, every BVLOS flight stakes North Dakota’s reputation as an aviation leader even further.

  • December 01, 2022 11:18 | Anonymous

    Where did you grow up? If not in North Dakota, how long have you lived here?

    I am originally from Washington, IL, which is mid-state, just across the Illinois River from Peoria. It’s a small farming community of about 6,000, but has grown over the years to 16,000 now. The main crops there are corn and soybeans, instead of all varieties of wheat and sunflowers. So, just a different look to the fields here, but the small town atmosphere is the same. We have been here 32 and a half years. We were stationed at Minot Air Force Base (AFB) in 1990 and decided to make North Dakota our home, after we both retired from the U.S. Air Force.

    My husband was in Vehicle Maintenance Control and Analysis, which did all the scheduling for maintenance for the entire vehicle fleet at the base, as well as handling accidents and such. We met in Sacramento at Mather AFB and married there.  We love the openness of North Dakota, it is truly a beautiful state, and we raise Deutsch Kurzhaars (true German Shorthair Pointers) and my husband loves the bird hunting here. Those are the main reasons we stayed.

    When did you first become interested in aviation?

    Growing up back home, Dad and Mom would take my sister and I to the airport on a Sunday afternoon, when you could park close to the airport just to watch the planes come and go. It was cheap entertainment for kids. I always loved watching them but never really seriously wanted to fly. My great-uncle was a B-17 waist gunner in WWII, killed in action over Holland almost at the war’s end, so aviation was there in my blood as well. When I was in junior college, just before I joined the Air Force, I got a tour of Peoria Tower and that’s when I really got hooked on air traffic control. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. 

    Where did you train for your ATC career? 

    I received my training in the Air Force at Keesler AFB, in Biloxi, MS. At the time, it was a five-month course, probably a lot more intense than it is now. The washout rate was extremely high then, at 87%.

    How many towers have you worked at?

    My first base was at Williams AFB, AZ, which is now Mesa Gateway Airport. I worked in radar there in the Ground Controlled Approach (GCA), which mainly did Precision Approach Radar (PAR) finals. It was extremely busy, as it was an undergraduate pilot training base, the busiest in the Air Force at the time. I then went to Mather AFB, CA, worked in the GCA there until it closed. Then I moved up the tower. It was the 10th busiest tower in the Air Force, as it was the navigator training base. They had a Strategic Air Command (SAC) wing of B-52’s and KC-135’s, as well as EC-135’s that could launch the Minuteman III missiles. It was very congested airspace with three airports within seven miles of each other, all trying to stay out of the other’s way. It was absolutely the best place to learn to work tower traffic. As I said, I met my husband there and from there, I went to Incirlik AB, Turkey, for a year, while he went to Korea. From there, we both returned to Ellsworth AFB, SD, for four years, then we went to RAF Alconbury, UK, for three years, ending up at Minot AFB. I was TDY several times while at Alconbury and went TDY to Bosnia while at Minot. So I’ve worked in about eight different towers, including Magic City Tower.

    Who has inspired you in your journey as a Controller?

    It would have to be my chief controller at Ellsworth AFB. He not only taught me how to be more organized, but also taught me how to treat people who worked under you and was great at working traffic. I’ll always be thankful to him. 

    When did you become Tower Manager?

    I started July 7, 1997. I retired from the Air Force on Friday the 5th and started at Minot on Monday, the 7. I was glad I was able to start right away, as I wouldn’t be rusty from not working for a while and then coming back. I had worked in both the tower and the Radar Approach Control (RAPCON), so I was familiar with the airspace and General Aviation traffic already. I just had to learn how to work it in the tower. I became the manager in May 2006, when the air traffic manager decided to retire, and remained the manager until I retired. So I had two full ATC careers, 22 years in the Air Force and 25 years as a contract controller with Midwest ATC.

    What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

    That one’s tough, but I’d have to say it’s the controllers I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve worked with some truly outstanding people, who have helped me grow as a controller and become the best I could. But it’s also getting people safely to and from places they need to go, and definitely helping the Minot community during the flood of 2011. The tower conducted over 1,300 helicopter operations alone, most of them in the valley where we couldn’t see them, just giving traffic advisories of who was in the valley, all without a single incident. Anything we could do to help the community, we were glad to do, including keeping sightseeing tourists out of the airspace. There were too many important recovery flights going on, not to mention the loss of people’s homes that didn’t need to be seen.

    Do you have a favorite story from your time in ATC?

    Again, that’s kind of tough, but there’s one that always sticks in my mind. It was here at Minot and a student was returning from the southwest practice area to the traffic pattern. Since the tower does not have radar, we always ask for position reports and rely heavily on their accuracy. He had initially said he was seven miles east, so I told him to report a two mile right base Runway 31. I had other traffic arriving from the north, so I asked his position and he said five miles east. I kept looking and looking but couldn’t see anything, so I asked him his position, and again he said five miles east, over the trestle bridge. I immediately turned around, looked to the southwest and sure enough there he was, over the trestle bridge. I told him if he was over the trestle, it was physically impossible to be five miles east, unless the bridge moved. He then corrected his position rather sheepishly and came in to land. Still makes me laugh to this day, only time I had to point out that a bridge couldn’t move.

    What are your plans for retirement? 

    Right now, I’m mostly just going to enjoy life, spending more time with my husband and furkids, visiting my sister and her family in Minneapolis, MN, and just watching the snow go by this winter and not having to worry about getting out in it. Next summer, I hope to have a larger garden, be more involved in dog training, and do lots of walking to get ready for the Susan G. Komen 3Day Walk for the Cure in San Diego next November. My husband and I hope to do some traveling, once he decides to retire. I’ll keep in touch with the controllers and airport staff, but that will probably be it as far as aviation is concerned. After being a controller for 47 years, it’s time for a change. 

    What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an Air Traffic Controller?

    If you decide to become a controller, look at your options on how to become one. The military is a great experience, especially the Air Force, as that’s all you do in the Air Force as opposed to the other branches. The FAA Academy is a good way to start and they do have periods where they hire off the street to go to the academy in Oklahoma City. There are a few private ATC schools but they are pretty expensive. Probably 75% of the FAA is made up of prior military controllers. If you can get a tour of your local tower, set one up with the manager, they are usually happy to accommodate. High school students can request a job shadow, especially here in Minot. Talk with the controllers, as they can give you a lot of good insight into the job. It is an absolutely great career where every day, every hour, is never the same.

    A sincere thank you to Jan for the lasting impact you have made on North Dakota aviation during your career, and congratulations on your retirement!

  • December 01, 2022 11:05 | Anonymous

    On October 6, 2022, the 6th Annual Props & Hops event was held at the Mandan Regional Airport - Lawler Field. The event rallied local aviators and area businesses to help support long-time aviator Kelley Bethke in his battle against prostate cancer. “The event brings the community and local aviators together for a night of fun and support for our friend Kelley,” says committee member, Dean Affolter.

    This year, Props and Hops generated $17,000 in net proceeds, through ticket sales, silent auction donations, corporate sponsors, and private donors. 100% of the proceeds were passed along to the Bethke family to provide some joy and relief.

    “As a selection committee, we look every year for a way to help within our small local aviation community. Those around the Mandan Regional Airport know the good person Kelley is. We want to rally around him and his family and show him that he is not alone. Kelley is a very deserving beneficiary.” Says committee member Lyle Kinnischtzke. “We hope the community will come out to help us raise money and support his fight against cancer.” 

    The event featured regional craft and light beers, along with Mandan’s famous Robby’s ribs. Entertainment for the evening included live music, a silent auction, and a conversational aircraft static display. Special thanks to Dr. Danny and Paula VanBuskirk for bringing their T-6, Bob and Carol Simmers for bringing their C195, and Taylor Anderson with Cirrus Aircraft for bringing her SR-22 to the event! 

    Props & Hops appreciates the support from over 20 regional and aviation sponsors. Our Stein and Boot Level sponsors of $1,000 or more include Silicon Plains, Cirrus Aircraft, Signature Events, Northern Plains & Equipment-Mandan, BNC National Bank, and the Mandan Aero Center.

    Props & Hops is a state and federally registered 501c3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 2017. The organization’s mission is to bring positive attention to the aviation community by showcasing the benefits that the airport brings to local communities and raise funds for aviation related causes that are tied to Bismarck/Mandan and surrounding area. The organization designates a selection committee made up of five local aviators to determine an annual beneficiary within the surrounding aviation community. Props & Hops has been able to donate over $80,000 to selected causes over the years.


  • December 01, 2022 10:51 | Anonymous

    The 16th Annual UAS Summit and Expo was held in Grand Forks, ND, this past October. There was an excellent turnout, with over 600 attendees, more than 60 speakers, and dozens of exhibitors. 


    The UAS Summit & Expo started as a small gathering of regional stakeholders. Now, 16 years later, the event in the Northern Plains of North Dakota has become a yearly major event for UAS experts from around the world. It’s the original epicenter of drone research, earned its place as the Silicon Valley of Drones and as you’ll see from the commercial, government and military flight activity filling the sky of the Northern Plains and beyond every day, it has truly become America’s UAS proving grounds.


  • December 01, 2022 10:36 | Anonymous

    Welcome back, everyone! What an exciting past couple of months it has been for the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA)! We were thrilled to host the second annual Summerfest event in Williston this past August. It was a day of clay shooting and golfing for aviation enthusiasts across the state, who came together to network and raise money for scholarships. An exciting evening followed, with a steak dinner hosted by Overland Aviation and the Williston Air Show performers, who showed off their aerobatic talents the next day at the airport. It was two days of awesome events led by a great group of volunteers. 

    October brought the third annual Career Expo, held at the Fargo Air Museum in Fargo, ND. This event consists of industry leaders, exhibitors, aircraft displays, guest speakers, and of course  scholarships! The goal is to provide students with information and resources that will help them look beyond the horizon and develop a vision for their future. There were static displays of aircrafts from all aspects of the industry and numerous companies exhibiting at the event, who shared with students what their role is in aviation. In addition, we award over $13,000 in scholarships to deserving aviation students. Again, this event was led by an amazing group of volunteers, and we were thrilled to have over 170 students, instructors, exhibitors, and supporters in attendance. 

    Finally, the NDAA was honored to be recognized by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) with the Excellence Award by a Regional Group for all the progress this organization has made over the past few years! Several members of the board attended the NBAA national conference in Orlando, FL, to receive this prestigious award. 

    We would also like to offer a huge thank you to all the hard-working volunteers and committed NDAA board members, who see all the possibilities of this industry in our great state. It also couldn’t be done without the support of every member, sponsor, exhibitor, and friend to our industry. Your continued support and participation are noticed and recognized. Preparations have already started for the 2023 Fly-ND Conference, which will be held March 5-7 in Bismarck, ND. If you have any ideas for speakers or sessions, we encourage you to reach out and share your ideas with us. We are looking forward to another great conference and hope to see you there! 

    As the new year fast approaches, I love the last few months of the year almost as much as the first day of January! The last few months feel like the best time to end the year strong and feeling prepared for the best start of the new year. It is time to start ramping up for a great start to 2023. What a perfect time to get involved and give back! What might that look like for you? Well, there are so many options to get involved in the NDAA; I hope you consider how you can make a difference! 

    Stacy & Mike Krumwiede

    NDAA Executive Director

  • November 22, 2022 14:19 | Anonymous

    Over the last year, the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA) has accomplished quite a bit in expanding opportunities for youth in North Dakota. Most recently, this October, the association hosted the third annual Fly-ND Career Expo at the Fargo Air Museum in Fargo, ND. This event continues to build off of the success of last year’s Career Expos, with more than 170 students attending this year’s expo. We appreciate all of the exhibitors that shared their passion for the industry with all of these students and the sponsors that helped make the event happen. 

    Students were able to hear about the industry from Karen Ruth, an A330 captain for Delta Airlines, as well as a panel of students pursuing aviation in the collegiate environment. Students were exposed to careers in a cross section of the industry including pilots, mechanics, air traffic control, military, game and fish, engineering, unmanned aerial systems, and many more. The event provided a great opportunity for the aviation community to rally together, share experiences with high school students, and network among themselves. There was great energy during the event. 

    In addition to the learning opportunities during the event, students were awarded $13,500 in scholarships. I am excited to see the scholarship opportunities for these students grow! These aviation scholarships help ease the financial burden for many students. I am constantly amazed by the donations of individual and corporate donors, and am also very pleased to see a couple of scholarship funds have now become endowed and will fund an annual scholarship. 

    Mike McHugh, Aviation Education Coordinator 

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650 |

  • November 22, 2022 14:01 | Anonymous

    In early September, 2022, the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) was in attendance at the National Association of State Aviation Officials Conference (NASAO) in Greenville, SC. This is an annual gathering of state and federal aviation officials, as well as representatives from all facets of aviation, to network and discuss current and future issues within aviation. There were 33 states in attendance and this year’s theme of “Future Forward” covered a vast array of issues that impact aviation across the United States. North Dakota’s aviation team participated on multiple panels and NDAC staff member Mike McHugh received two national awards for his work on a state and national level to enhance and promote aviation education initiatives. It was a great showing from North Dakota!

    North Dakota provided a general session presentation and discussion on the implementation of the ND Statewide Beyond Visual Line of Site Network, VANTIS. Pictured from left to right: Frank Matus – Thales, Jim Cieplak – NPUAS Test Site, Kyle Wanner – ND Aeronautics, Trevor Wood – NPUAS Test Site.

    ND Aeronautics Commissioner Kim Kenville (far left) participated on a panel discussion that discussed the future aviation workforce.

    NDAC Staff member Mike McHugh received the NASAO “State Aviation Distinguished Service Award” for exceptional work throughout his career to develop and enhance aviation education opportunities throughout North Dakota and the United States. Pictured from left to right: Mike McHugh – ND Aeronautics Aviation Education Coordinator, Kyle Wanner – ND Aeronautics Commission Director

    NDAC Staff member Mike McHugh received the NASAO “Chair Award” for his work throughout the past year to provide strategic direction to the NASAO Center for Aviation Research and Education. Pictured from left to right: Tony McCloskey - NASAO Chair and Director of Aeronautics in PA, Mike McHugh – ND Aeronautics Aviation Education Coordinator

    Congratualtions, Mike! 

    Thank you for all you do for aviation in North Dakota!

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