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  • May 25, 2021 14:52 | Anonymous

    By Ryan Thayer, CEO/Executive Director, Fargo Air Museum

    Hello! My name is Ryan Thayer and I am the CEO/Executive Director at the Fargo Air Museum (FAM). I have been part of aviation since birth, received my solo license at 16, and my private pilot’s license at 18 from UND. My father was my aviation mentor. He was a flight instructor and charter pilot when I was born and transitioned into Air Traffic Control in Fargo, ND. From there he went on to a career in commercial aviation with Republic Airways, Northwest Airlines, and most recently he retired from Delta Air Lines as a 757/767 Captain. Through my father, I found my love and interest for aviation flying, as we were always dreaming and talking about our flying stories.

    Early on in my childhood, ever since I learned to talk, I dreamed of being a pilot. From going to the Fargo and Grand Forks air shows, to flying with my dad, to riding along with him on his Northwest Airlines flights, and even trips to the maintenance hangars, it created an excitement and passion in me for our amazing industry!  

    After high school, I chose to attend the University of North Dakota (UND) to earn an Airline Transport Degree and ratings. Shortly after receiving my private pilot›s license, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place and the airlines stopped hiring and fought just to stay in business. At that point, I decided that it was not the career for me at that time. I transitioned into the Entrepreneurship Program at UND and graduated with a bachelors in Business and a private pilot›s license. Ever since then, I have kept my eyes open for future opportunities to become involved in aviation again. After starting and running many businesses through my career, I found an opening at the Fargo Air Museum looking for a business and marketing specialist to run the Museum as the CEO/Director. It was finally my way back into my love and my passion – aviation!


    Vultee BT-13 Valiant

    Aviation is such an amazing industry, where anyone can come from anywhere and be successful. We need doctors, maintenance technicians, pilots, technology experts, engineers, business and marketing professionals, to name a few. Almost any degree can be a fit for the aviation industry. Education is a large part of what we do at the FAM. From our free camps to our highly interactive Intro to Aviation courses, there is something always going on at the FAM to continue sharing our love and passion for aviation. 

    Our Drone Cage

    Finding a passion in a career is not an easy task for most of us. I was very lucky to have the experiences with my father while growing up. If I were to offer any advice to future students, I would say to follow your heart and your passions and do something you truly love! The path is not always easy, but it›s truly the challenges that help make us who we are in the end. I highly recommend having a goal and a plan to accomplish what you are seeking, but be ready for pivots and changes along the way; it makes the journey exciting and fun. 

    Here at the FAM, we are always looking for ways to engage our guests and to create interactive and memorable experiences. We are hard at work planning a very busy and exciting summer. The events we are hosting include: 

    The First Annual Aviation Career Expo in partnership with the NDAA - May 14

    An Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In - May 15

    Our annual Golf Tournament - June 21

    The Fargo AirSho - July 24-25

    Our monthly Veterans Coffee Hour - the second Wednesday of each month

    Our Youth Camp - three times each month

    Lastly, we have also been working hard on securing new aircraft into the museum with a potential North American F-86 Sabre, Northrop F-5E, Stinson Reliant Gull-wing, Pietenpol Air Camper, and a Grumman J2F Duck. 

    We are also adding interactive exhibits with a Drone Flight Experience Exhibit, where guests fly drones at the FAM as well as in an advanced virtual reality-based Flight Simulator Lab, modeled after the UND’s lab. FAM guests can try their hand at one of the most realistic flight experiences out there. 

    Stinson Gull-Wing Project

    For more information about our upcoming events or to check out the museum, visit

  • May 25, 2021 14:43 | Anonymous

    By Nicole Ingalls-Caley, Northern Plains UAS Test Site

    As the build out of Vantis’ key site locations nears completion and the first stages of testing are on the horizon, it is important to make sure North Dakota’s statewide Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) network is understood and supported by the communities it hopes to serve. In February of this year, we hosted several events in Williston and Watford City to answer questions from local manned aviation pilots, as well as community members. 

    Vantis is designed to open the sky to North Dakotans with safe integration of manned and unmanned aircraft. We want to make sure that our friends and neighbors understand its value to them, and we want to give them the opportunity for input. 

    Vantis Lunch-and-Learn at Roughrider Center

    Community Lunch and Learns

    The goal with these community outreach events was to provide a basic overview of what Vantis actually is, in technical terms, but also to discuss the less technical hopes and aspirations we have for Vantis. 

    In simple terms, Vantis is a network of technologies that allow a UAS pilot to “see” the remotely piloted vehicle even when it’s left their physical line of sight. More than that, it will allow pilots to see from the vantage point of the UAS, or drone. Currently, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights are not allowed without a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which can be both time and resource intensive to obtain. 

    But when we think about the ways in which UAS can improve our lives – improved prescription delivery to elderly, rural residents; faster, more efficient emergency response and search and rescue efforts; faster turnaround on medical tests from larger labs, leading to more immediate treatment; the return of electric or internet services following a blizzard or thunderstorm; infrastructure inspections that are safer for the inspectors and keep life and commerce running smoothly – most of this requires BVLOS flights. 

    By obtaining a waiver for BVLOS flights on Vantis, we provide a single network for multiple users to access many of these life-changing use cases with a lower barrier of entry. In terms of UAS capabilities, Vantis is the holy grail.  

    We wanted to make sure community leaders in Williston and Watford City understood that while Vantis is being heralded as a major technological advancement and a driver of economic development, its value comes from what it enables for North Dakotans. 

    In Williston, our Lunch and Learn was graciously hosted by Williston Economic Development at TrainND Northwest, a division of Williston State College. In Watford City, we were hosted at the Roughrider Center by McKenzie County Economic Development. Both events garnered interest from community leaders, as well as members of the community looking to learn more about Vantis. We were impressed by the range of questions we received and how excited everyone seemed about Vantis’ potential.

    Vantis Pilot Meeting at Overland Aviation Hangar

    Manned Aviation Community Discussions

    The community discussions were designed to be open conversations between manned and unmanned aviation professionals. We are aware that UAS innovation and integration into the National Airspace System (NAS) can create a lot of questions for manned aviation pilots. We were looking to explain how UAS would function in this region once Vantis is complete, as well as to get feedback from manned pilots on how we can ease this transition. 

    We shared a bit about how Vantis works on a technical level, and then dove into how UAS flights on Vantis would affect manned flights in the region. We received questions about how manned pilots could make themselves aware of unmanned flights in the area on a given day and about a dedicated frequency that could be used to communicate with UAS pilots flying in the area. As is common in the aviation industry, safety was the top concern on everyone’s list. 

    One of the biggest things we wanted to communicate was that Vantis aims to be as non-disruptive to manned aviation as possible. UAS flying on Vantis will give way to manned aircraft. We are responsible for being aware of manned aircraft in the airspace in order to detect and avoid. So even if a manned pilot is unaware of flights on Vantis, we are aware of them, and we are ensuring that manned and unmanned aircraft can share airspace safely. 

    It is important to note that receiving a waiver from the FAA allowing BVLOS flights on Vantis will be predicated upon making an impeccable safety case. We have a number of internal criteria that must be met before any flights on Vantis can take place, and they must be met through a rigorous testing process before we move forward. 

    We are building what amounts to public infrastructure; we would never sacrifice public trust in that infrastructure in order to move a bit faster. Like our manned aviation counterparts before us, we are committed to pairing innovation with unwavering safety protocols. 

    In Williston, this meeting was held at Overland Aviation, while in Watford City we were once again at the Roughrider Center. 

    Vantis Radar Install at Williston Basin Airport

    More than Just a Network 

    Since the Northern Plains UAS Test Site was entrusted to administer the creation of Vantis with a significant state investment in this technical infrastructure, we have spent a lot of time talking about what Vantis is. How does Vantis work? Is it like a highway or like a cell phone network or a little like both? Why is it necessary? Why can’t drones fly beyond visual line of sight anyway? Who will use Vantis? What will be the benefit to the state in terms of economic development? Why invest in UAS at all? 

    Those are important questions, of course. But we also think it’s important to talk about the very real impact expanded UAS capabilities will have on the lives of people who have never given aviation, much less drones, more than a second thought. 

  • May 25, 2021 14:36 | Anonymous


    Scott Nelson’s art of an Israeli 109, signed by Leon Frankel.

    By Scott Nelson

    As Leon Frankel sat strapped into the German fighter airplane, he thought to himself, “What’s a nice Jewish boy from Minot, ND, doing here?”

    Leon had been in the service during World War II and came back a decorated U.S. Navy pilot. After spending some time in Minneapolis, MN, after the war, Leon jumped at the opportunity to open a car and truck dealership in Minot, ND, called Capital Motors.

    After the war, everyone wanted to buy a car and with the booming post-war farm economy, the farmers needed trucks. Frankel would order trucks and put grain boxes on them. Red trucks were the most popular, Leon remembered. Business was good, Leon was making lots of money, had his own place and several girlfriends. Life couldn’t have been better.

    It was then that Leon got “the phone call”. The man on the phone identified himself as Steve Schwartz. Would Leon consider coming to the aid of Israel in their time of need? The new country of Israel was in desperate need of trained combat pilots and was reaching out to the veterans of the just-ended war. Leon told Schwartz he would have to think about it. After several days of thinking about the holocaust and the death camps that had come to light in Germany, Leon thought if he didn’t help, he would never be able to live with himself. Leon asked Schwartz what kind of plane he would be flying. Schwartz said he couldn’t tell him, but they would be just as good as what the enemy had. This, as it turned out, was a big lie!

    The U.S. government frowned on its citizens going to Israel to fight; in fact, it was highly illegal!  

    A story was concocted that Leon had to get to Italy to stop the marriage of his brother and bring him back home. Once out of the country, Frankel diverted to Czechoslovakia to learn to fly fighters being sold to Israel.

    There was an arms embargo against the newly formed state of Israel, in an effort to avoid another full-blown war. Israel’s Arab neighbors were well-equipped with aircraft. The only country Israel could find to sell them fighter aircraft was cash-starved Czechoslovakia, who bought them at highly inflated prices.   

    During World War II, the Germans built a factory in Czechoslovakia to produce the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter plane; however, the war ended before production could begin. The Czechs were left with the factory as a spoil of war and decided to produce the plane as their own, renaming the Avia S-199. There was a problem, however: the warehouse that contained the Daimler-Benz DB 605 engines was destroyed by a fire. Another warehouse contained Junkers Jumo 205 engines, plus props destined for the Heinkel HE 111 bomber. The ill-suited Jumo engines and large paddle propellers were fitted onto the 109s, which was like putting a truck engine into a sports car and resulted in extremely poor handling.

    Leon had flown the Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber in the U.S. Navy. Flying the 109 was a whole new ball game! The Czechs nicknamed the 109 the Mezik, meaning Mule, because it was such a stubborn machine to fly. These planes didn’t even have a fuel gage, just a red light that would turn on if you were running low on fuel. If the light came on, you may have only had five to 15 minutes left. They didn’t have the right machine guns to go with this plane, so they mickey-moused another type under the cowling. Every time they were fired, the pilots prayed they didn’t shoot off their own propeller. They also had 20 mm cannons in pods under the wings.

    The fighters were dismantled, loaded into Douglas C-54 Skymaster transports, flown to Israel, and reassembled just in time.

    When Israel declared independence, they were immediately attacked by their Arab neighbors. Egyptian leaders had told their army that Israel had no military aircraft. The Egyptian Army was within miles of overrunning the Israeli capital, when the newly arrived 109 fighters strafed the column and so demoralized the Egyptians that they were forced to turn back.

    The Egyptians were flying Supermarine Spitfires, bought from the British, and the rumor was that some were flown by ex-German pilots. The irony was not lost on the Israeli pilots. Jews flying German 109s against Germans flying British Spitfires.

    Frankel flew against Arab air and ground forces as his targets. He also flew very dangerous aerial reconnaissance missions over enemy fortifications in Egypt and Jordan, all alone with no escort.

    On his last mission, over the Negev desert, Frankel saw another 109 pursuing an Egyptian Spitfire. The pilot was Rudy Augarten, a former World War II Republic P-47 Thunderbolt pilot. They were flying toward Leon as Rudy was shooting big junks off the Spitfire. Leon then saw another Spitfire below him, heading his way. Frankel flipped over and chased it, but it had gotten too far ahead of him.

    At this point, the red light came on. Leon was lucky to catch sight of a friendly airfield at Ekron and landed. As they were refueling the plane, Leon noticed some oil dripping from the engine. He pointed it out to one of the mechanics who tightened some screws, declared it fixed, and gave the thumbs up sign. Frankel took off and headed back to base.

    After several minutes, the engine started to run rough and Leon noticed the oil gage was reading zero. He tapped the gage, in case the needle was stuck, but the needle did not budge. Soon, the cockpit started filling with smoke and Leon looked for a place to put down. Bailing out of these planes was not a good idea, so he decided to crash-land. Frankel hit the ground hard, but other than some scrapes and bruises he escaped uninjured. 

    Leon started walking, not knowing if he was in Israel or Jordan. In the distance, he saw a truck loaded with soldiers headed his way. Surrender was not an option. Other pilots shot down behind enemy lines had been tortured to death. Frankel had a 38 pistol with six shots. He planned to fire five shots and save the last for himself. As the truck got closer, he was much relieved to hear them hollering in Hebrew. Frankel was rescued! When Leon got back to his base, there was a 109 burning on the runway. The pilot, one of Leon’s close friends, had been killed in a landing accident. 

    The next day, at the funeral, Frankel lost feeling in his legs and arms and collapsed. He was hospitalized for several days and recovered, but decided to pack it in. New pilots were coming in and the crisis was over. It was time to go home. Frankel had flown 25 missions for Israel, ironically the same number of missions he had flown in the U.S. Navy.  

    Getting home to the U.S. was not easy for Leon, as fighting for Israel could mean losing his citizenship. He was stopped at passport control in New York and interrogated all night. Leon claimed he had been going to school in Italy, but his suitcase was full of pictures of him standing beside airplanes in Israel. Finally, by morning, the authorities told him to tell the truth or he was going to jail. Leon replied, “Go ahead, put me in jail, at least I can get some sleep.” With that, the authorities told him to get the hell out of there and released him.

    Leon Frankel ended up living in Minnesota, was married, and had two children. He passed away in 2015.

    Author’s note:  

    I had the opportunity to talk to Leon several times on the phone and once in person at the Fargo Air Museum. He had flown with Stew Bass in the U.S. Navy and had come to Fargo, ND, to see Stew for the first time since World War II. Leon flew the Avenger torpedo bomber and like Stew, received the Navy Cross for helping sink the Japanese cruiser Yahagi. Stewart Bass volunteered many years at the Fargo Air Museum, and also passed away in 2015.

  • May 25, 2021 14:22 | Anonymous

    Congratulations to the North Dakota winners of the 2021 International Aviation Art Contest.

    The theme for this years contest was “A Friendlier World with Air Sports.” Information for the 2022 contest will be posted on the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission website in the fall. Youth ages 6-17 are encouraged to submit artwork.

    1st Place Intermediate

    Kate Barnick, Edgeley Public School

    2nd Place Intermediate

    Esther Sprenger, Elgin - New Leipzig Elementary

    3rd Place Intermediate

    Mckenna Cook, Edgeley Public School

    1st Place Junior

    Afton Olson, Elgin - New Leipzig Elementary

    2nd Place Junior

    Martina Prudente, Elgin - New Leipzig Elementary

    3rd Place Junior

    Daisy Sabin, Elgin - New Leipzig Elementary

  • May 25, 2021 14:12 | Anonymous


    North Dakota Aviation Association Fly-ND Summerfest

    August 19 • Fly-In Washburn

    Join us as we celebrate summer and aviation: 

    • Golf Tournament
    • • BBQ
    • Honoring Hall of Fame inductee, Bill Beeks

    Watch the & Facebook for more details!

  • May 25, 2021 11:00 | Anonymous


    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 or reach out to Mark and Kitty:

  • May 25, 2021 10:54 | Anonymous

    By Jay M. Flowers, National FAA Safety Team ASI, Operations

     (701-226-6283 /

    Back in 1972, a pilot by the name of Dennis Rohlfs and family moved next door to our home in Bismarck, ND. As time passed, Dennis and my dad became very good friends. It was through that friendship I was asked to join Dennis on a flight to Wheatland, WY. 

    As a 12-year-old, the awesome level of that trip will never be forgotten. My father, being a stockholder in Dennis’s company, afforded me opportunities in aviation most would pay to be given. Basically, I was a “ramp rat”, cleaning airplanes and helping out where I could, taking a free airplane ride whenever I could, all in awe of the adventure known as aviation.

    In 1979, I started to fly and what a trip that was. The company employed several charter pilots that all had a hand in mentoring me at some point during my education as a young airman. The best part was that I was being trained by the best in aviation, preparing me for the rest of my life. Thank you all for a job well done!

    The truly career-minded airman will always set themselves goals, such as hitting a positive rate on climbout or total hours needed to apply for that next aviation position or job. In 1984, I reached my fourth goal of becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). That was quite a day, when I passed the check ride, crawled out of the airplane, went into Dennis’ office and was asked to come to work as his new CFI. I went back down stairs and smudged the wet ink on the Inspectors Endorsement on my new Flight Instructors Certificate. I spent the next 37 years teaching people how to fly, and what a life it has been!

    Through the years, as do many pilots, I looked to the airlines. One problem was that deregulation was bankrupting airlines as fast as they took on new routes. Before long, the industry was in such turmoil that staying with this small Part 135 operation seemed pretty secure for a family man. I spent 22 years at Executive Air Taxi Corporation (EATC) and I would not give up a single moment of my time there. Starting out as a line boy and CFI, I worked my way up as a Charter Pilot, Company Instructor, Chief Pilot, and Director of Operations. I managed the company Hazardous Material and TSA Safety Assurance program for a time, and found myself as Company Check Airman for nearly 16 years in more than a half dozen family types and models of airplanes. The biggest challenge was keeping all that straight, as I myself may have been giving checks in those aircraft, but I also had to pass flight checks proving myself to the FAA. At some point late in my career, I looked back and found that I had taken more than 320 flight checks with the FAA on board. In all, there were only two failures, both of which I failed myself on for not following company and self-best practices.

    Aviation is not a desk job or a day-to-day grind in an office or business somewhere. You might say that the worst day I ever had in the air still beat the best day I ever had on the ground -  except, of course, the day my daughter was born. An aviation career does come with a few attachments: 

    1) You NEVER stop learning. About the time you think you have seen it all, you will find something you have never seen before.

    2) It is a career which requires your attention. Aviation, although buried in timetables, has the worst timing for a family man. A charter pilots’ life is supported by a group of customers that very rarely are on time. Your schedule is their schedule.

    3) The possibilities are endless. I remember one story in particular: my co-pilot and I left southern California at 80 degrees and no wind, and headed east and north for New York State and landed in a blizzard. We fought our way through the crowds to our overnight location, somewhere near New York City. The next day, we diverted twice until we could finally land at an airport in another snowstorm and parked in the middle of nowhere.  We took a limo to a hotel to catch a little shuteye, just long enough before we headed home the next morning. I remember my copilot mentioned something about what a day that was. My reply was, “Nowhere but this job can a person have a front row seat to a flight from California, out over the Pacific Ocean, across the southern U.S. border to the Atlantic Coast, land after some planning and forethought in a blizzard, only to depart to some location nowhere near where you planned. Then, the next day fly over all of the Great Lakes and be home in time for supper. Sounds like a life like none other to me!”

    In 2005, I left EATC and worked with the University of North Dakota Research Group in Alaska, as Captain of their Citation II research aircraft. The mission was to fly into icy conditions and relay that location to our flight team, seeking known icing certification in a Sikorsky S-92 Helicopter. 

    In 2006, I applied and was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an Inspector, supported by my years of training and expertise as an airman. I progressed from Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) to Principal Operations Inspector (POI), then from FAA Safety Team Program Manager (FPM) for North Dakota and Minnesota to my current job with the National FAASTeam ASI out of Washington D.C.

    The biggest change I have seen since taking on this facet in my aviation career is the advent of Unmanned Aircraft, Electric Airplanes, SpaceX, and the true application of ADS-B in the airspace. It’s funny how I’ve spent more than the last 30 years flying with equipment like GPS, Loran, DME, TCAS, and RMI. All of these tools have led us to a safer era with ADS-B. 

    This year’s biggest challenge is preparing for EAA AirVenture and Sun N’ Fun, which are a few of my many responsibilities here at the National FAASTeam. Each year, over 700,000 attendees join together at these events to aspire and enjoy all that aviation has to offer. At AirVenture, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the FAA offer more than 250 educational events, designed to educate airmen, pilots, and mechanics, all with the same passion we know as aviation. We hope to see you there!

    Safety is a motivated action which requires attention, skill, and refreshment throughout time.

    Train often, Fly Safe!

  • May 25, 2021 10:51 | Anonymous

    Hello! My name is Janell, and I am excited to be the new Licensing Specialist at the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC). It has been a wonderful experience getting to know the local pilots who stop by and handling the many calls I receive each day.

    A portion of my job is to license aircraft, aerial applicators, and aircraft dealers. I have the pleasure of working with aircraft owners of all levels, from the first ever recent purchase to those with numerous aircraft who have been flying for decades. For those who have not researched North Dakota aircraft excise tax and registration just for fun, this article is for you. The NDAC understands how exciting it is to purchase or acquire an aircraft. We are here to help with the process of making sure your aircraft is compliant with North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) 57-40.5, which states that the State of North Dakota imposes an excise tax on all aircraft purchases. So, what does that mean? 

    There is a 5% excise tax on the purchase price of any aircraft purchased or acquired, either in or outside the state of North Dakota, if the aircraft is required to be registered under the laws of this state. Aircraft used exclusively for aerial application purposes have an excise tax imposed at a rate of 3%. If an aircraft is parked, hangared, or has landed in North Dakota for 30 or more unique days within a calendar year, it is required to be registered and an excise tax is due, unless it has been previously paid in another state.

    Our office receives notices from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that include information such as flight activity, aircraft considered to be based at a North Dakota airport, and changes made to the ownership of any aircraft in our state. This alone can trigger a notice from our office alerting you of a tax owed. If you are registering your aircraft with the FAA when you transfer the legal ownership of your aircraft, then the excise tax is due within 30 days. Aircraft owners should be proactive with registering their new purchases with us.

    Is it possible to avoid paying this tax!? 

    It’s no surprise that there are a few aircraft owners in every state that would want to attempt to avoid paying sales tax, since aircraft are typically high-ticket items. Purchasers often buy their aircraft from an out-of-state seller, in which sales tax is not collected, and some do not realize that the corresponding excise tax is triggered when the aircraft is subsequently brought into North Dakota. Those using a Montana address are not automatically free from paying the tax, if their aircraft are parked, hangared, and/or landed in North Dakota for more than 30 unique days in a calendar year. However, exemptions do exist! Credit for excise tax paid in other states will be honored; we just need proof. If the state you paid tax in collected less than 5%, you may need to pay that difference, but we are not looking to collect more than 5%. Each state’s regulations and registration requirements differ. Make sure you research the regulations of the state you want to frequent your aircraft, as it may need to be registered in multiple states. Other excise tax exemptions, like aircraft for use as an air ambulance, can be found by reading section 57-40.5-03 of the NDCC.

    The tax is also a one-time fee and we have reciprocity with other states. Keep your tax payment record, as it could save you from paying excise tax to another state if the aircraft is ever relocated. Also, if you utilize an aircraft dealer and perform a trade-in on a new aircraft, then you would also be eligible to receive credit on the tax that has already been paid. Credit is only granted on trade-ins and is not eligible if two separate private aircraft transactions occur.

    We understand that no one enjoys paying taxes; however, it is important to understand where your money is going. The taxes and annual registration fees collected by our agency go directly into a special fund, which enables the state to provide airport infrastructure grant funding to ensure the safe operation of North Dakota’s public-use airports. The fees support the maintenance and preservation of the very airports that you are able to enjoy and utilize, once you purchase your aircraft.

    Be sure to visit the licensing section of for information about making sure your aircraft is properly registered with the State of North Dakota. Please also feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions that you may have. You can reach me at or by calling (701) 328-9650.

    Janell Pederson, Licensing Specialist 

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission


  • May 25, 2021 10:45 | Anonymous


    When learning how an airplane achieves flight, one of the first things we learn about is the Four Forces of Flight. Lift, weight, thrust and drag are needed to be controlled by the pilot in order to achieve successful flight. The four forces can also be used to describe the path to a successful career in aviation. I will use the example of a career as a pilot, but I believe that these four forces will be applicable to most if not all careers in aviation. 

    Lift = Knowledge and Experience

    Much like an aircraft needs the combination of Bernoulli’s principle and Newton’s Third Law to generate lift, achieving lift in your career can be attributed to a combination of knowledge and experience. I am often asked, “Should I attend college if it is not required to become a pilot?” I typically answer that adding knowledge through a collegiate program will almost certainly benefit you long-term. Initially, it may be faster and/or cheaper to obtain the experience needed to be hired as a pilot without attending post-secondary education, but in the long term you will be in a pool of other pilots with similar experience. It is the knowledge obtained through a degree program that may help set you apart from other candidates. Typically, the higher degree obtained the better off you will be. Remember, not all collegiate programs are created equal. While the core knowledge needed to obtain a pilot certificate, or many of the other classes, may be similar, knowledge may also be quality of the training fleet, and standardization, and especially  industry relationships. While one school may give a minimum knowledge needed to move on, another may give you access to industry relationships, which will help you succeed faster. I have written previously about the importance of a personal learning network. Remember the WHO you know may be just as important as the WHAT you know. 

    Experience may be more like Newton’s Third Law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Employers will have requirements, such as a minimum number of hours, or other experience requirements. Again, the more experience you have, the better! Add your knowledge and experience and you are sure to obtain more lift! 

    Thrust = Motivation

    Motivation is like the thrust on the aircraft. Remember, it is excess thrust that causes lift. While some aircraft have bigger engines and some smaller, only you can determine the size of your engine. The more motivation or thrust you have, the easier it is to generate lift. Students who show motivation will have a much easier time building relationships, studying for tests, and getting to the airport to fly. This motivation will shine and before you know it, you will develop more personal relationships and your career path will become easier. Students who are motivated tend not only to score better on knowledge exams, but also find themselves with many more opportunities. Scholarships, internships, and other experiences tend to find their way to motivated individuals. Remember, only you can determine how big your engine is! Just as engines require fuel, oil, and maintenance, it helps to surround yourself with people who will motivate you. Joining aviation organizations such as the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA0, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Civil Air Patrol (CAP), American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), and others will help keep you fueled. 

    Drag = Personal/Medical 

    Drag: nobody likes to talk about it, but it is there. Something is holding you back. Just as in an aircraft, there are two forms of drag: parasitic, the drag caused by going faster, and induced drag, the bi-product of lift. Personal factors, such as past medical history, or not being in a community close to an airport are the personal “aerodynamics” that we must live with. As you gain momentum in your career path, it may seem more and more difficult to go faster.  Remember, motivation is the thrust that is needed to overcome drag. Much like parasite drag is caused by the shape of the aircraft, each of us has different levels of being “aerodynamic”.

    Induced drag is an inevitable consequence of lift. As your motivation increases, you may become physically and mentally worn out. You may struggle to find more fuel or money to keep flying, amongst other factors. Remember to stay ahead of the power curve. Try to plan ahead so these factors are not holding you back right after you begin your takeoff roll. 

    In most cases, personal factors can be overcome. I would like to remind students that even if there is so much personal drag that motivation cannot overcome it, such as a medically disqualifying factor, there is still a career for you in the industry. I encourage you to talk to an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) before deciding you are unable to fly. They may be able to help you overcome the issue. In most cases, putting in some additional effort may help you overcome the drag that you naturally have. In any case, don’t give up. Many other careers in aviation exist other than being a pilot. Consider Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Air Traffic Control (ATC), maintenance technician, airport management, or the many other paths to a career in aviation. 

    Weight = Luck

    While the weight of an aircraft is relatively fixed, you may find yourself with a different amount of luck than one of your peers. While some students have a natural advantage, we all come with different levels of baggage. Luck is the only one of the four forces of flight which you have little influence over. A great quote that holds true in many cases is “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. While you may have the least control over the weight of the aircraft or how lucky you are, you do have some control on how much baggage you bring on the journey or where you place it in the aircraft. My tip for you: remember, lift opposes weight and excess thrust creates lift. Remember that with a little bigger engine, or with a little more motivation, your career in aviation can and will take flight.

    Flight Planning

    In addition to getting the hypothetical aircraft in the air, flight planning is a critical step in your career. While some students choose to take a jet on a direct course to their destination, this takes quite a bit of lift to get to the higher altitudes and a lot of additional thrust to get the aircraft moving. Some students will take a J-3 Cub approach: it may take a little longer to get there, but in the end, the destination is the same and it will take a lot less lift and thrust. There is no wrong path. For some students, the best answer is low and slow and many refueling stops along the way, for others, a direct path with a high-altitude view. Whatever your course, whatever aircraft you choose to fly, and wherever your destination, I hope that the advice mentioned above will help you get there. As always, please feel free to contact me to assist in your career flight planning.

    Mike McHugh, Aviation Education Coordinator 

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650 |

  • May 25, 2021 10:35 | Anonymous

    By Ryan Riesinger, Executive Director, Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority President, Airport Association of North Dakota

    What do you want to be when you grow up? When there are so many possibilities, how are you supposed to know and find your way?

    For me, it is fair to say I may not be where I am today if it was not for my dad. While it is not uncommon for parents to have a great influence on who their children will become, my dad opened my eyes to the excitement that is aviation. I grew up in the Twin Cities area and frequently on summer evenings we would end up at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport (MSP) to watch the planes takeoff and land from our parking spot on Post Road. My dad taught me how to tell the planes apart not just by their size, but by the location of the engines or the design of the tail. I found it amazing that something so large could even get off the ground. 

    When it came time to attend college fairs and choose where to go, my dad was influential. I attended one college fair and my dad said, “That’s where you should go.” Ultimately, I only toured that one university. In the fall of 1991, I packed up and moved to Grand Forks to pursue a degree in Airport Management at the University of North Dakota (UND).

    I thoroughly enjoyed my years at UND. Each year seemed to become more interesting, as I advanced in the curriculum. I will never forget my first solo flight at GFK and when I received my private pilot license in the spring of 1993; I had a true sense of accomplishment. My professors stressed applying for internships, and through that I ultimately worked at three different airports before my graduation in the spring of 1996.

    Twenty years later, I found myself driving back to Grand Forks to become the Executive Director at the Grand Forks Airport (GFK). When I graduated from UND, my goal was to become a Director of an airport someday, somewhere. However, I did not know when or where that would be. What I know now is that for those 20 years, working in progressively more responsible positions at airports in Worthington, MN (OTG), Madison, WI (MSN), and Saginaw, MI (MBS), I met many great people who shared the same passion for aviation. They helped immensely in the pursuit of my goal.

    Aviation is filled with wonderful people, who are deeply passionate and giving of their time. If you are a student with an interest in aviation, I encourage you to take that aviation class in high school, attend an airshow, go to your local airport, and talk with the pilots or aircraft owners, or simply watch the planes takeoff and land with someone who shares your excitement. I am confident you will find your passion in this great industry.

    Last month, I was elected to be the new President of the Airport Association of North Dakota (AAND). I am honored to be in this role and will do my best to represent our state’s airports. If you have any ideas or suggestions of how to make AAND or our airports better, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

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