TOWNSEND — “Young Eagles” took to the skies Thursday at the Fourth of July Fiesta Fly-in & Breakfast at the Townsend Airport.
Others were queasy.
Organized by Neil and Tracy Salmi, the ninth annual fly-in drew 57 airplanes from across the state and country.
“We sold 200 breakfasts,” said Neil of the crowd turning out for the event.
Besides offering a hearty breakfast, the highlight is free airplane rides for kids. They’re sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association, which seeks to introduce more youth to flying.
By noon, 42 Young Eagles had taken flight — as passengers that is.
“It was fun,” said 10-year Shelby Gunther of Bozeman, who had just taken her first flight in a small Cessna 172 with Helena pilot Lance Seaman. “There were a lot of (air) pockets. It made me feel queasy.”
Madison Suttorp, 9, of Thompson Falls, agreed. “It made me queasy, but I thought it was fun.”
“I thought it was really fun,” said 11-year-old Lexi Cornforth of Bozeman. “I would love to do it again.”
Meanwhile, 1-year-old George Rodewald of Missoula was a bit too young to be an eagle, but he looked ready to fledge from the nest of his father’s arms.
“He’s fascinated,” said his father, Dan. Every time a plane took off, George’s eyes tracked the plane.
“I love planes,” said Dan. The family was in town for the Fourth of July to visit relatives. “We had no idea this was going on,” but they couldn’t resist stopping by once they knew.
Roger White, who farms 5,000 acres of wheat north of Great Falls, flew in for breakfast in his Seneca II.
He just needed a break from farming, he said. “This is my second time down for the fly-in.”
Socializing with other pilots and admiring the array of aircraft suited him fine. Nearby a brilliant blue and yellow BT 13 (bombing trainer) from the 1940s bounced down the runway, launching into the clouds. A few minutes later a flashy silver and red Cessna 195 followed.
“It’s a good gathering of people,” said certified flight instructor Barrett Farrell of Bozeman, who flew in for his first Fiesta Fly-in in Townsend.
“I think it’s got great value,” he said. “It gets the aviation community all together. Events like this are getting more sparse because of the cost of fuel.
“Just make sure it happens again next year,” he said.
Also planning to return next year are Glenn and Gwen Mathis, who flew in from Orange, Texas, in their Rans S19 Venterra. Glenn built the plane from a kit, which took him about three years.
“We flew 1,342 miles each way to go to a fly-in for breakfast,” joked Glenn with a smile, admitting they’d been spending almost two weeks exploring Montana and Idaho. “It’s been a blast.”
“This is our first trip to Montana — we love it here,” said Gwen. “We’re already planning a trip back next year.”