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Nestled in the heart of the Methow Valley, Twisp has a population of 900 humans, 30 airplanes and 26 hangars. It is an amazing place populated by amazing pilots. Every May on the Saturday after the third Thursday the Okanogan Ferry Chapter OF THE Washington Pilots Association gathers at the Twisp Airport for the Annual Barbeque and May meeting.
This year the meeting was preceded by a group of 10 Twisp pilots flying to Anderson Field in Brewster where they were met by the Bridgeport High School class of 2011 wanting to see what it's like to fly in an airplane. The back story on this is that Bridgeport finished among the nation's top three High Schools in the White House Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge in a contest to have President Obama speak at their commencement. As soon as Chapter Vice President Bob Hoffman heard that Memphis won the contest he thought maybe there was a way to give these young people some local recognition for their achievements. 90 percent of the Bridgeport students are Hispanic, most coming from low income families, and many are the first in their families to go to school. Nevertheless 80 percent of the graduating class is going on to college or technical school. With this in mind, 10 pilots and seven airplanes left for Anderson Field where flights were given to all those students who attended, including the School Superintendent and his wife. Pilots included Jerry Cole, Dan Kuperberg, Don Owens, Mike Real, Mike Port, Mike Palm, Bob Howsen, Bob Ulrich, Bob Hoffman and Fred Wert who videotaped the event.
In the afternoon members and guests began arriving at the Twisp Airport by land and by air. Chapter President Lee Orr and Treasurer Lola Orr arrived from Tonasket in their 1930 Model A touring car street rod hybrid in spite of threatening rain clouds. Ross Darling hovered above the airport in his Hughes 500 but then upstaged himself by arriving in his restored Viet Nam era V-100 Commando, a fully amphibious armored car. Mike Port, who hangars a Debonair and a Cub, recently completed restoring his Stearman and was giving tours. There are some people you just can't help but like and that's why everyone is always glad to see Paul and Gini Wagner. Paul served as a USAF pilot for 27 years that included flying the F-100 Super Sabre. He then flew charters until losing his medical certificate in recent years. Chapter Vice President Bob Hoffman, now retired, piloted his own twin engine aircraft commuting from Twisp to Boeing Field to his dental practice. Bob Hoffman, assisted by retired airlines pilot Bob Howsen, barbequed the steaks to perfection. There's no doubt that Twisp pilots are interesting and friendly, but the real measure of their worth is their spirit.
After feasting on steaks and trimmings President Lee Orr opened the meeting with a summary of upcoming local fly-ins. Twisp hosts its fly-in on June 10 and 11 with a $12 steak dinner on Friday from 5 to 7:30 provided by the Grange. Breakfast is served Saturday morning from 7 to 11 for $7 (kids $5 and families $20). Camping is available. Tonasket's Father's Day fly-in is June 18 and 19 with a $10 barbeque on Saturday from 5 to 8 and Sunday morning breakfast from 7 to 11. Camping is available. August 26 through 28 the Wings Over Republic Fly-in at Curlew Lake offers boat cruises, food, camping and lodging, and too many other attractions to list. For a colorful and vivid description of this unique event talk with Justin and Carol Smith who, among other things, manage the Republic Airport and are very active WPA members. For full details visit the website: wingsoverrepublic.com.
Next Bob Hoffman summarized some future programs in the making which included an FAA representative to talk about airplane maintenance and an FAA physician to discuss pilot maintenance issues. A really promising program on light sport aircraft will be provided by an X-Air Light Sport Aircraft representative from Bend, Oregon and, weather permitting, demonstration rides will be available. This will be at our August potluck meeting which will be held at the Twisp Airport on Saturday, August 20, at noon.
Barry Huck, of Western Aviation, formerly known as Western Avionics, traveled to Twisp from Felts Field to provide a program on a topic of interest to us all. While the cost of airplanes is currently down the price of avionics continues to increase as more features are made available. Barry explained the new Garmin portables GPS's and demonstrated the new touch screen panel mount GPS/NAV/Comm. Barry's talk covered 3-D sound (something I'd never heard of before), WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) approaches (soon coming to an airport near you), and potential GPS interference that may be caused by the potential expansion by LightSquared to provide nationwide 4G cell phone coverage utilizing frequencies in the same spectrum as GPS (currently undergoing testing and pending FCC permission). Barry also covered ADS-B, Advanced Direct Surveillance-Broadcast, the cornerstone of the NextGen Air Transportation System. Currently scheduled for implementation on January 1, 2020 Barry pointed out that while ADS-B can do amazing things the price point does not yet make it widely marketable for general aviation aircraft. Barry finished his presentation with an explanation of the current status of 406 mhz ELT's (Emergency Locator Beacon). This can best be summed up by pointing out that while it's not required, it is what actually works. He also emphasized that the physical location and installation is critical to its proper functioning in an emergency. Many of those in attendance, including myself, have had avionics installed or repaired at Western Aviation and all have been impressed with the integrity and quality of the service. Barry pointed out that Western Aviation is now a full service facility and has recently added fuel to their offerings. Members had plenty of interest and questions about the latest Garmin GPS.
You wouldn't expect to find the president of the pilots' organization for the state in Twisp but there he was in his hoodie sweatshirt and shorts blending right in. WPA President Dave Lucke was able to take time out of a busy business life and WPA duties to travel the distance to Twisp. Being from Eastern Washington, he is no stranger to the fact that the spirit of aviation burns brightly in some of its remote valleys. Dave rounded out the meeting addressing the excise tax issue, the importance of increased membership and land use planning.
As the meeting closed we could feel the moisture in the air increase and temperature drop as the threatening dark clouds in the south did their work. We watched as the rain moved east into the Okanogan Valley and then northward into the Okanogan Highlands. The rain stopped short just a few hundred yards south of the runway and, for the time being, our little piece of aviation paradise was preserved.
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