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  • November 26, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By The Staiger Consulting Group

    I certainly did not go to school to be a teacher. However, due to COVID-19, I have become one! Although my second grader may disagree with me, I think I am doing a pretty good job. These times have forced me, and likely many of you, to pause and reevaluate how and where we spend our time and energy, as well as our place and footprint in the world. Maybe we are stretching our skills as a teacher, searching for grant funds to keep programs running, or exploring new ways of delivering business or education in a “Zoom” world.  Some of these situations have come out of necessity and others have presented themselves as an opportunity to grow, expand, and give. 

    Even in the challenging and uncertain times we are navigating, I feel a great sense of hope and excitement for what a post-COVID world will look like. I am excited for the future, especially the future of aviation. There is an excitement in the eyes of these curious and resilient students. They are flexible and hopeful. They are willing and courageous. They are figuring out how to learn and attend school in unprecedented circumstances. I am especially hopeful for students exploring a career in aviation. 

    For students eager to explore their options, the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA) is proud to host the first ever FLY-ND Career Expo (originally planned for this October, it has been postponed until 2021). The NDAA is thrilled to be the launching point for students taking a step in this direction.

    This free event is the first of its kind in North Dakota, with a mission to introduce and inspire high school and college age students to the many careers available throughout the aviation industry. The event will be filled with numerous opportunities for students to engage and learn, from aircraft static displays and numerous aviation exhibitors to our keynote speakers Gil Rud, a former Commander of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and Karen Ruth, a Delta Airlines Boeing 777 captain. There are opportunities for companies to exhibit and showcase their organizations and provide students with information and resources to help them look beyond the horizon and develop a vision for their future.

    One of the highlights of this event is scholarships. We have partnered with the North Dakota Community Foundation to establish scholarship funds for students. If you are interested in donating, there are options for both endowed and non-endowed scholarships. Please visit our website to learn more: If you choose to make a contribution, you personally make a difference in the lives of aviation students. The endowed scholarship is an opportunity to leave your footprint on the industry in perpetuity. Whether it is a financial contribution or the generous contribution of your time and efforts, I thank you. 

    I have hope for students, as well as forward progress of the aviation community. The future is theirs, led by a guiding hand from us. Whether it is programs like the Career Expo or the Chromebooks and notebooks scattered on my kitchen table, the future remains strong and I’m excited for what is to come. 

  • November 22, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Joshua Simmers

    Photo credits Ashley Sabin

    I would have never thought my wife and I could be surprised. And yet, before we decided whether or not we wanted a third child, our youngest (I repeat, youngest) was on her way. Those of you who are not pilots are missing the point: what am I going to do for a fifth seatbelt?

    In Need of a Solution

    Before we were married, I was a kayaker and she a hiker: we both packed light. We both loved – no, more than loved – were addicted to traveling: we’re compatible. Both of our dads and grandpas, as well as my grandmother, were pilots: we’re an aviation family. As we grew our way from the Cessna 150 to the 172 and then out of the 182RG, our young family needed an option. With daycare bills, I initially made do with an Aeronca Champion (Champ), but I was raised with aviation being a family activity and wanted that for my children. So, I used the Champ occasionally as my “motorcycle in the sky” while I searched for an option until five-point car seats quit debilitating our style. 

    We live in western North Dakota, so we had specific criteria for our next plane. It had to be good for unimproved strips, and it better have enough power for short strips. It needed to have a useful load: we are both shy of 6 feet tall and our children are high on the growth charts. Occasionally getting to the city is a must, but more often short, fun destinations and camping trips were the goal. 

    About the time we realized my wife was carrying the completion of our family of three, my dad fulfilled his dream of buying a Cessna 195. That radial engine on that long body is hardly fit for minors to look at, and it flies as cool as it looks. Naturally, we found ourselves at EAA AirVenture, as you are never too old to let your dad buy gas, and camped in the middle of dozens of Cessna 195 “Business Liners.” They had radial engines of every color, including chrome, lined up row after gleaming row. 

    A short distance away, I stole a forbidden glance at a North American Navion, pronounced “navy-on” and often written NAvion, and the dilemma began. 

    Now, you may be wondering why I did not consider six seaters. To bend the assumptions, the Cessna 180 has that little third seat bench you can put in the baggage area, but that’s a short term solution. Every other option that has a longer fuselage for a third row demands a larger powerplant or significantly sacrifices performance. In addition to looking utilitarian (i.e., just not as cool), any six seater with the performance I wanted was out of my price range and anything in my price range didn’t offer the performance I wanted. Is this not the quintessential dilemma in aviation? Some readers will wonder why I didn’t consider the Rangemaster, a descendent of the Navion. The Rangemaster simply doesn’t look as cool once the Navion has taken your fancy. 

    Ford vs Ferrari...

    Watching the Cessna 195 keep my dad on his toes was a little intimidating to me. While I had some dual time in a Piper J3, Aeronca Champ, Cessna 180, Aviat Husky, Cessna 195, and oodles of tailwheel time in a UH-60 Blackhawk, I was lacking the confidence and familiarity to fairly consider the 195 at the time. As other writers have noted: either the Navion catches your eye or it simply doesn’t. My father is apathetic, at best, toward the Navion, but its high body and unique curved rolling canopy captured my attention. In many matters, I prefer form over function and was certainly planning on function over form for any five seater. But apparently I can have both, even if the Navion’s body may not personally attract you. See chart for a side by side comparison.

    A couple of notes: compared to the 195 or most other aircraft, the Navion has a ton of modifications and engine options. Hence, the varied usable loads and airspeeds. Also, not all Navions are certified for five seats. 

    The 195 is a visual representation of an aviation era; that radial engine is unmistakable, the windows and long body are from another time. I think it’s the most photogenic plane outside of the war bird community. The Navion, on the other hand, is more subtle in its representation. Its round and over-sized design also reflect the car designs of the time. It gives a strong nod to the WWII aircraft, as it is designed by the same engineers who made the P-51 Mustang. Much of production went to the U.S. Armed Services for training. When airborne, a Navion looks like a war bird. While a few of the 195’s were also used by the military, it’s only an anecdote to their story.

    Some folks, my wife among them, have questioned whether or not my kids will get too squished in a Navion, which surfaces early memories of sleeping buckled in with my brother in the back of a Champ. They’re kids: squish ‘em for a few short years before the first leaves the nest. Honestly, both the 195 and the Navion offer a roomy bench seat in back.

    Flying a Solution

    The 195 comes to life and demands full attention to taxi, after which it seems to rumble into the sky with neither effort nor aggression. It’s a comfortable dream to fly, trims up nicely, and if it were not so exciting to sit in that iconic treasure, the rumbling of the radial engine would lull you to sleep. 

    The Navion is rarin’ to go and get off the ground as soon as you push the throttle. As one passenger of mine exclaimed, “it’s like an elevator!” Originally manufactured with an adequate Continental O-470, the most popular engine now seems to be the IO-520 with 285 horsepower. This is what mine has, and if I am already climbing at 1200 feet per minute without effort, I can’t imagine what the IO-550 upgrade would feel like! In all my orientation on 90 degree Fahrenheit days, I never once used 600 feet of runway. 

    Known as a stable platform, even in turbulence, a Navion feels smooth and quiet. It has a spring coupled system assisting coordinated turns, either making me better or lazier. For Cessna flyers, a power failure is almost a non-issue, as long as you have a place to land and can tune out your racing heartbeat. Without power, the Navion is a heavy object falling without much sense of any lift at all. Approach this emergency more like a helicopter: pitch for the earth to trade off excessive airspeed for essential lift to soften your landing. 

    The biggest challenge in a Navion is slowing to 100 mph to extend gears and flaps and then descend slowly to the runway. On final, full flaps are like a full-brake and pitches every occupant forward to suddenly look at the intended point of landing, reminiscent of a carnival ride. I spend a lot of time flying low-wing aircraft, so I find Navion landings familiar. Because of the way they sink, one needs to keep adequate power ‘til roll out and remember the height of the fuselage. With landing gear engineered for unimproved strips, it makes every landing feel unfairly smooth. Sure, that gear is robust, but let’s not make it work any harder than it has to.

    Flying the 195 is as familiar as any other Cessna, until landing. Every successful landing is a sheer joy and sense of accomplishment! Regular tail wheel flyers may find it less exciting. For non-tailwheel readers, I’ll just state the basic principle that one doesn’t land a tailwheel like you’re accustomed to, as it’s more like “flying” it gracefully onto the surface with perfect flying pitch and managed power. The 195 complicates this a tad with such a long tail and the pilot seated just at the center point to hardly notice pivoting. You are never done until you have come to a complete stop and this will, or should, keep every pilot not just attentive but on their toes until stopped. While the 195 has me determined not to have my tail in front of me, Navion’s were not designed with toe-brakes so you need a handbrake to do your job. That’s okay, we should all use our pedals and power smartly and not lazily rely on toe brakes. Using the handbrake requires very little transition, you’ll find it as soon as you look for it!

    So, to make my short-story long, I work for a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) where I noticed a Navion in for annual maintenance. It looked cool and had three seatbelts in the back row. I tracked down the owner and asked if my wife and I could simply sit in it, so I could show her what we were considering. He was excited to talk about his Navion and noted he hadn’t been flying it. After I noticed a different Navion fitting our criteria fly off the market quicker than it came on, I decided to ask this local owner if he would consider selling. Shortly, terms were met. 

    The biggest regret I have is that I had to make a choice. At the end of the day, I wanted to try the Navion; it meets 100 percent of my criteria and is within my price range. All of my interactions with Navion owners have been helpful and often jovial. They are a loyal bunch but I’ve not yet had the opportunity to meet many in person. Since we came to terms, I have been fixated on backcountry strips and even my kids are accustomed to watching Navion videos in lieu of bedtime stories. The “195ers,” as they call themselves, are a blast. They are a work-hard/play-hard group, also in love with their inanimate possession. Well, okay, it’s not fair to call an airplane inanimate. We all know planes move and many of us know their respective plane has a soul. Now I understand how people end up with more planes than they can fly. 

    As you can tell, I waited to publish this article until after my purchase was complete; I’d have hated for you to get to my Navion before I did!

  • November 19, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    The ND Aviation Association needs your help. We are looking for volunteers to help with the inaugural Fly-ND Career Expo, held at the Fargo Air Museum. Originally planned for this October, it has been postponed until 2021. The event is the first of its kind in North Dakota with a mission to introduce and inspire high school senior high and college age students to the many careers available throughout the aviation industry. To learn more about the event please visit:

    We have separated the volunteer responsibilities into groups to make the most of your volunteer time. You can participate in as many as you’d like! Here are ways you can help…

    Outreach and Exhibitor Committee: This committee will be responsible for reaching out to potential exhibitors. We have a great list developed of people who may want to attend however, we need help in reaching out to these people to encourage them to participate. Remember, there is no fee to have a booth, so it’s not hard sales! Most of this committee’s work will be done in the planning part of this event.

    Onsite Logistics Committee: This committee will be responsible for helping coordinate onsite logistics at the event. Including, but not limited to, exhibitor set up, student attendees, and overall event setup. Most of this committee’s work will be done onsite at the event.

    Scholarship Committee: This committee will be responsible for soliciting sponsorship dollars from potential donors. In addition, this committee will review scholarship applicants and select scholarship winners.

    Finally, if you can’t help but would like to donate to the scholarship fund, please visit:

    The North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA) has several opportunities for involvement. Volunteers are needed to support the 

    annual Fly-ND Conference (formerly the Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium), the Career Expo, or any of our active committees. 

    In addition, if anyone is interested in serving on the NDAA Board of Directors, 

    please reach out to Mike or Stacy in the NDAA Central Office at or call 701.223.3184 to learn more.

  • November 15, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    This year has been full of challenges in our private lives, professional lives, and in getting out to the airport. For many of us, flying is something we fell in love with at an early age. Then maybe we got married, raised a family, built our professional lives and it hit us- I haven’t flown since I was 19 years old. Maybe it’s time I start flying again! You went out to the airport and with some effort, you and your flight instructor got you and your skills back to a safe level which allowed you to enjoy flying once again.

    If you remember, it took time to get you back up to speed. This included 8-10 hours of ground school and self study along with three or four hours of flight training. And if you were giving it all, you took to the skies once again at the Private Pilot level, building that confidence back with every flight. 

    Unlike the 20 year break from long ago, this past year has grounded many of us for reasons I need not explain. 

    I have been working with our colleagues at NASA and the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) program, reviewing reported flight proficiency issues. What we discovered should be of concern to all pilots. As you know, the NASA reporting system, or ASRS as it is now called, was designed to allow airmen to report non-regulatory events while operating in the National Airspace System. Report after report from professional and General Aviation pilots alike have been stating proficiency was a contributing factor for their report, reflecting a myriad of challenges found in the cockpit due to the COVID-19 shut down. 

    So, if the professional pilots in the system who are active in a training program are reporting proficiency or skill issues, how has this shutdown been affecting the pilots who do not usually train in our system? Concerns have surfaced nationally, pointing towards a lack of proficient and sometimes borderline competent pilots. 

    How do we fix this? During these times of lapse in maintaining our aviator skills, the importance of sitting down, refreshing our knowledge, and flight training to brush the dust off those skills should be our path to remaining safe in an aircraft. 

    Nowadays, all we hear about is getting the face mask on and disinfecting wherever and whenever possible. Keeping your aircraft or rental aircraft disinfected can mean introducing chemicals to the aircraft interior that may be doing more bad than good. I recommend David Tulis’ recent article for AOPA regarding damage by disinfectant. 

    Placard integrity is generally subject to exposure to sunlight, can become fragile due to age, and may be destroyed by the lightest touch, let alone being cleaned with disinfectant chemicals. Use care when disinfecting your aircraft with alcohol or similar based cleaning products. Be advised that any loss of placard data, no matter how small, may require the attention of an authorized mechanic to correct. Take a moment to review 14 CFR Part 91.9, regarding marking and placarding. 

    As for you and your passengers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a “Do Not Use List” that includes certain  hand sanitizers which have been determined unsafe for use. The FDA has determined that some hand sanitizers on the market contain methanol (also known as methyl alcohol) and other ingredients, which may be toxic when absorbed through the skin. They can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, seizure, and even death. These products might be labeled as containing ethyl alcohol, but testing by the FDA has determined that they are contaminated with methanol. Methanol and many methanol–containing products are considered hazardous materials for transport purposes and are regulated for transport by aircraft. Under U.S. global Dangerous Goods Regulations, no one may offer, accept, or transport hazardous material not in accordance with applicable requirements. For your protection and the protection of those on your aircraft please take a moment to ask one very important question:

    “Are you or your passengers carrying any form of liquid sanitizers in the aircraft?”

    Keep in mind that some alcohol based hand sanitizers are very flammable, with flash points in the 70-plus degrees Fairenheit range, which is well below body temperature. This has resulted in occasions of a spark from a cigarette or even static electricity igniting the sanitizer while in use.

    So brush up! Consider what you will need to attain proficiency and what you will need to be safe and clean in your aircraft. 

    WINGS Proficiency Program is a great place to start! Join us today:

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

    Fly Safe!

    Jay M. Flowers, 

    Aviation Safety, National FAASTeam ASI, Operations  |  (701) 226-6283  |

  • November 12, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Matthew Remynse, A.A.E., President, Airport Association of North Dakota 

    Earlier this year at the Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium (recently renamed the FLY-ND Conference) the Airport Association of North Dakota’s (AAND) members and officers discussed and set forth the 2021 legislative agenda. Additionally, the members authorized the AAND board to negotiate and enter into an agreement with Odney Inc. to assist the AAND with its legislative efforts.

    The 2021 AAND legislative agenda includes the following:

    Supporting the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) and their funding request

    Introducing legislation that would allow commercial service airports to enter into contracts with Transportation Network Companies (TNC), such as Uber and Lyft

    Supporting legislation that causes airport authorities to be eligible for infrastructure loan programs 

    Monitoring any new legislation related to Operation Prairie Dog, which was approved in the 2019 Session

    As with past sessions, supporting the NDAC will be a top priority for AAND. During the 2021 session, we’ll be backing the NDAC’s budget request and their appeal to receive carry-over spending authority for funds that were received during the 2019 session, but will not be granted until after July 2021. 

    Another focus will be introducing legislation to allow commercial service airports the ability to enter into contracts with TNC. In the 2019 session, the AAND was unsuccessful in moving this bill forward, which is not surprising as it normally takes two or more sessions to get a bill through. With lessons learned, the AAND is going to try again in the 2021 session. The importance of this bill is that as TNC operations continue to grow in the state, our airports will start seeing less use of the paid parking lots, taxi services, and rental cars, which ultimately leads to less revenue for airports. As a way to re-collect some of the revenue and meet federal grant assurances, the AAND will introduce legislation to change North Dakota Century Code so commercial airports are able to enter into contracts with the TNC. 

    Another focus will be supporting legislation that will allow airports to be eligible for a state operated infrastructure loan program. In the 2015 and 2017 sessions, the AAND provided testimony on legislation that would have allowed airports to be eligible to request low-interest loans through the Bank of North Dakota. However, the bill was modified to remove airports, as the focus at the time was on other types of infrastructure. During the 2019 session, the AAND did not pursue any loan program legislation as Operation Prairie Dog provided a lot of promise. Even with the potential funds provided by Operation Prairie Dog, the AAND feels there is a need to ensure airports are eligible for a loan program. At this time, there are several ideas for a loan program legislators are discussing. Once a direction is known, the AAND and Odney will work to assure airports are deemed eligible to participate in the program. 

    A top focus for the AAND will be monitoring any potential changes to Operation Prairie Dog legislation. In the 2019 session, Operation Prairie Dog approved $20 million for airport infrastructure grants that were to be distributed through the NDAC’s grant program. The $20 million came from the oil and gas extraction tax formula that filled a set of funds or buckets. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has not allowed the buckets to fill as fast as hoped and the airport bucket has yet to start filling. Our vision is to not see any modifications to the formula and allow it to work before making any modifications in future sessions. 

    To continue our efforts to interact with legislators, the AAND plans to host a legislative social and hopes to assist with the development of Aviation Day at the Capital. These are two great events that provide AAND members and the aviation community the ability to interact and promote our industry with legislators and executive branch members. However, with COVID-19 precautions in place, we are not quite sure how the logistics will play out for hosting these events. Just as in past years, the AAND expects that one or two bills affecting airports or aviation will require our testimony.

    Through the hard of work of many, the AAND has been very successful in past sessions. This session should be no different, as the organization is well set up with seasoned lobbyists from Odney by our side and an established rapport with legislators. Most importantly, we have members that are ready and willing to participate if called upon. By this I mean, contacting legislators or testifying if possible. When we unify, our voice is stronger!

    The AAND is looking toward another busy and successful legislative session. As we near the beginning of the session, there will be updates coming from the AAND board via email, as well as conference calls once the session begins. So, be on the lookout for those invites and communications. Lastly, the AAND would like to extend a thank you to all those that have reached out to their legislators or have given time to come to Bismarck to testify in the past. Without these efforts, we would not be as successful. So, let’s look forward to a new year and as always, remember to check the NOTAMs!     

  • November 08, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    Former NASA Astronaut, James Buchli, frequently returns as a speaker for University of North Dakota space studies students and faculty. (NASA archival photograph) 

    By Penny Rafferty Hamilton, Ph.D. 

    North Dakota has always propelled sky and space “stars” to stellar careers. Born in New Rockford, ND, James F. Buchli is an excellent example of accomplishments in aviation and aerospace. In 1963, as Buchli graduated from Fargo Central High School, KVLY broadcast the international news of Soviet Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, becoming the world’s first women in space. KQWB radio blasted out the Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and The Cascades singing “Rhythm of the Rain.” 

    That summer, Buchli left his beloved North Dakota for the U.S. Naval Academy. By 1967, he earned his Aeronautical Engineering degree and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. After some additional training, the Republic of Vietnam was his duty for a year as a Platoon Commander, then Executive Officer, and later Company Commander. Buchli is proof that North Dakota creates natural leaders. 

    By 1969, he landed for Naval Flight Officer training, earning his gold wings. Following that, he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Stations and missions in support of Vietnam War operations. In 1977, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School became his new duty assignment. Over the years, Buchli logged over 4,200 hours of flight time: 4,000 in jet aircraft, including combat in the F-4 Phantom II. Along the way, he earned significant military awards and a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering Systems. 

    In 1979, Buchli was selected to become a NASA astronaut, becoming North Dakota’s first native-born astronaut. Now a full-fledged American “Space Star”, he is a veteran of four space flights and has orbited the earth 319 times, traveling 7.74 million miles in 20 days, ten hours, 25 minutes and 32 seconds. His space missions included STS-51-C flying on the Space Shuttle Discovery. In 1985, he launched on STS-61-A with the Space Shuttle Challenger. In 1989, STS-29, he flew on Discovery. In 1991, he was again on the Discovery mission STS-48, which provided critical data for future NASA missions. He served in the NASA Astronaut Office as Manager of Space Station Systems Operations and later was promoted to Deputy Chief. 

    In 1992, Colonel Buchli retired from the Marine Corps and NASA, but continued his contributions to our space efforts with several leadership positions at Boeing Defense and Space Group. In 2019, North Dakota’s James Buchli was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. 

    Quoted in a February 3, 2019, Valley News Live story about this most recent honor, Colonel Buchli said, “Being from North Dakota, that’s a hard one. You kind of go, ‘aw shucks’ and look at your feet. Being part of that group in my mind is humbling and very special. Whether or not I’ve done as much as others or could have done more, it doesn’t matter at this point...

    “...What matters is along the way I’ve done my best to contribute to our space effort.”

    Isn’t that just like someone from the great state of North Dakota? 

    Author Note: Dr. Hamilton’s latest print and eBook, Inspiring Words For Sky and Space Women, is scheduled for November publication. Learn more at 

  • November 05, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    COVID-19 has brought significant impacts to the aviation industry and the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) staff has been hard at work accepting the challenge to help our state adapt to the current and future environment that the industry is facing. 

    During the Fall of each year, our planning staff, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), works to hold meetings with as many of our public-use airports as possible. This year, the meetings were held virtually due to COVID-19 concerns and we were able to meet with over 40 of our airports over a one-month time period. These meetings are designed to allow a free-flowing conversation between the local airport management, the state, and the federal government, which helps to ensure that everyone has an understanding of the current situation each airport is facing. Throughout this process, we also want to identify all of the potential airport improvement and rehabilitation projects that exist as we work to ensure that the best projects throughout the state are being prioritized. This is a critically important process, as we work to ensure that a cost-effective, safe, and growing aviation environment exists throughout all of North Dakota. 

    Now that these discussions are complete, our planning staff is faced with collecting updated individual capital improvement plans from our airports. We will then work to analyze and combine the information into an updated statewide capital improvement plan that will reflect anticipated funding scenarios and project priorities over the next three years. This is an incredible challenge, as the needs always outweigh the funding availability. We also live in a time when government revenues and funding streams are currently very unpredictable. 

    One significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had specifically on our agency, is the fact that the current and future projected oil revenues the state is receiving have dramatically dropped. Last legislative session, the state’s aviation industry was able to secure the potential of additional infrastructure funding through the passing of HB 1066, formally known as the “Operation Prairie Dog” bill. The intent of that legislation was to provide a certain level of ongoing funding certainty for infrastructure projects throughout the state and created new “buckets” of funds that are projected to fill from future oil tax revenues. These newly created funds are currently authorized to fill up to $250 million per biennium in total, distributing up to $115 million to cities, $115 million to counties and townships, and $20 million for airport infrastructure. Due to the drop in oil demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now estimated that these buckets will most likely not fill during the current biennium. This will result in major impacts to road, bridge, and airport projects all throughout the state and has prompted the need for state agencies and local municipalities to adapt to the current situation.

    Our agency has also seen a significant decline in aviation fuel tax revenues since the pandemic began this past spring, though tax revenue from aircraft sales has held steady. Like many other businesses and government entities, we have been able to reduce operational expenditures during the current biennium and are working on updating forecasts for our budget that will be discussed during the upcoming legislative session. Our planning process allows our agency to fully understand the airport infrastructure needs that our state requires and allows us to educate our elected officials so that they are able to make their decisions with the best information possible. As legislative session approaches, please feel free to communicate any concerns or recommendations that you may have that could lead to a positive impact on aviation in North Dakota.

    Though we are faced with some unexpected circumstances, our office gladly accepts the challenge to serve you. We will continue to work to the best of our ability to make the future of aviation in North Dakota a brighter one.

    Kyle Wanner, Director

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650 |

  • November 01, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Tajae Viaene, Chief Flight Instructor, Fargo Jet Center

    Over the years, I have heard numerous reasons to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). Many of those reasons arise from an interest in earning flight hours, looking for a flexible schedule to raise a family, or a desire to share the joy of aviation with new aviators. Of all these, I have yet to hear someone respond, “because it sounds like an easy job.” 

    Trust me when I say, the instructors sticking around are those who find a special joy in teaching, and they understand the hard work and patience required. With the right organization and mentality, inspiring others to earn their wings can be an immensely rewarding career. As I have been instructing for years now, I want to share a few tips for my fellow flight instructors. 

    Tip #1: Treat every sunset as if it is your first

    I cannot count how many beautiful sunsets I have seen over the years while teaching in the air. That being said, I still enthusiastically perk up and try to take the next best picture of the stunning reflection off our wings. Though it is not my first viewing, the way I react has a direct impact on my flight student’s experience. Imagine how inspiring it is for them to share a special moment with their instructor while gazing at scenery, the likes of which are only reserved for those with a front seat view in the sky.

    Tip #2: Mix it up

    Fellow instructors, before you rule this out as a lifetime career option, let me ask: have you really given this a fighting chance? I do understand the monotony when doing the same kind of training day-in and day-out, but in most cases I can stress: YOU ARE IN CONTROL! When I was in a rut, I took it upon myself to earn more training to diversify my customers and my daily flights. Earning my CFI-I allowed me to teach instrument students and I had the opportunity to fly in many unique aircraft owned by those customers. Later, I earned my Multi-Engine Instructor. Wow! Talk about exciting training and teaching after earning this. Multi-engine training has become my “knack” if you will. The thrill of shutting down an engine and restarting in the air with a student – yeah, that’s not going away anytime soon. 

    Tip #3: Give yourself a break

    My first year of instruction was also the year I flew the most. I worked long hours, rarely declined the chance to fly, and I am pretty sure my kid became accustomed to my absence. I learned a lot that year and the main things were: Don’t forget to take care of your health, your family, and give yourself a break. 

    Maybe you are just beginning to teach, or perhaps you are looking at many more months of instruction due to the delay in airline or corporate pilot positions available with our current economic situation; either way, I hope these tips will help you to enjoy each and every flight with your students.

  • October 29, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Robbie Lunnie 

    Wildfires are devastating. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have been 41,051 wildfires this year with approximately 4.7 million acres burned.  States such as Oregon, California, and Washington have been devastated by fire. Aviation plays an important role in helping these states combat this ever-growing threat.

    Historically, airplanes and helicopters have carried out dangerous aerial firefighting operations. Pilots conducting these missions fly at very low-levels, oftentimes putting themselves and their aircrews at extreme risk. Until recently, crewed aircraft were the only means of combating wildfires from the air. However, unmanned aircraft are taking to the skies to conduct life-saving operations in hopes of lowering the risk to aerial firefighters.

    Unmanned aircraft are being used in multiple applications, such as monitoring ground crew positions in real-time, identifying smoldering hotspots with infrared technology, and even delivering rescue supplies. Although these are important uses of unmanned aircraft, another benefit of this technology is being explored.

    Although it sounds like a scene from an apocalyptic science fiction film, unmanned aircraft equipped with fireballs are being used to thwart potential wildfires in the Midwest and Western United States. These aircraft, known as Unmanned Aerial Ignition Systems, are being used to conduct prescribed burning operations. Prescribed burns are fires intentionally started under controlled circumstances to reduce the hazardous fuels near woodlands, grasslands, developed areas, and even national historic sites.

    An example of unmanned aerial ignition systems are small, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft equipped with dispensers designed to drop ignition spheres. Self-igniting ignition spheres, affectionately dubbed “dragon eggs,” are used aboard unmanned aircraft to start prescribed burns in areas where dry shrubs and grasses have a high potential for ignition. 

    The self-igniting plastic ping-pong sized balls are filled with potassium permanganate and are injected with glycol immediately before being deployed. Once injected, the spheres ignite within 30 seconds, giving ample time for the “dragon eggs” to fall from unmanned aircraft and settle on the prairie or forest floor.

    This technology, an industry standard for years, is typically deployed by fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft. However, a team at the University of Nebraska has studied the applicability of using unmanned aircraft technology to safely conduct prescribed burn operations. Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior purchased commercialized versions of Unmanned Aerial Ignition Systems and trained firefighters to pilot them.

    Aircrew safety is one of the biggest motivators for using unmanned aircraft in aerial firefighting operations. Using unmanned aircraft systems gives firefighters the benefit of conducting dangerous, yet critical, aerial firefighting missions from a safe distance, allowing pilots and aircrews a safe return to their home airfields.

  • October 25, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    As Chairman of the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA), I am excited to share some updates on progress we have made in staying true to our mission of supporting and growing aviation throughout North Dakota.

     Over a year ago, the NDAA Board of Directors made a commitment to develop and host an annual aviation career expo for students interested in exploring or pursuing a career in aviation. Hopefully you have seen and heard about it by now. If not, check out our promo video at A big thank you to the University of North Dakota Aerospace for the production of the video. The free FLY-ND Aviation Career Expo, which was scheduled for this October, has been postponed until 2021. In addition to the Career Expo, we have established the NDAA Scholarship Fund. This fund will ultimately be a tool to help students take their first steps towards a career in aviation.

     We have also launched our new website that is the hub for everything we as an association are working on. Events, membership info, scholarships, and news all can be accessed quickly and is easy to use and view from any kind of device. 

    The NDAA has also been working with Senator Hoeven’s and Congressman Armstrong’s offices to stay on top of government funding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently received to address our industry’s workforce challenges. The funds have been appropriated to the FAA and we are expected to be available as early as mid-November. We are taking some initial steps to prepare for a potential grant submission and are collaborating with a number of organizations. These include the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, North Dakota Career and Technical Education, UND Aerospace, North Dakota State College of Science and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to name a few. If you are interested in serving on our working committee, please contact me directly. To learn more about the grant available, visit the FAA’s website at

     Your membership and support matters; please consider joining the North Dakota Aviation Association and becoming a supporter in growing aviation throughout the state.

    Darren Hall, Chairman

    North Dakota Aviation Associaton

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North Dakota Aviation Association

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Bismarck, ND 58502

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