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  • May 10, 2023 11:06 | Anonymous

    Hello to all of you once again! As always, I hope this edition of the North Dakota Aviation Quarterly finds you doing well. I’m excited to write today about a couple of happenings in the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA).

    We are also very excited to announce the return of the NDAA Fly-ND Conference to Grand Forks in 2024! There has been a push over the past few years to bring the conference back to Grand Forks, and I’m excited that we’re able to do that! We’ve got a great group helping to put the conference together, with leadership from Ryan Riesinger, Beth Bjerke, Trevor Woods and each of their teams. We already have some very cool events in the works for the conference, so stay tuned for more information!

    We’re also excited to announce the 2023 Fly-ND Summerfest, to be held in Bowman, ND, on June 17, 2023. This year’s recipient of the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame is Bowman local Rodney Schaff. To honor his induction, we are thrilled to bring this event to Bowman. This is also in conjunction with the Bowman Bottom Line Aviation Poker-Run and Fly-In. We have a number of events in store for this day, so stay tuned for those as well.

    Take Care,

    Justin Weninger, Chairman

    North Dakota Aviation Association

  • March 02, 2023 11:58 | Anonymous

    Commercial Company Utilizes Vantis to Satisfy FAA Safety Requirements for Advanced UAS Operations

    Leveraging Vantis, the state’s first-of-its-kind UAS network, uAvionix, an avionics company specializing in drones, received approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) small unmanned aircraft flights in North Dakota. uAvionix, with support from the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, demonstrated to the FAA that it established adequate risk mitigations to satisfy required safety standards for the specified BVLOS operation within the national airspace system.

    North Dakota leads the way in bringing UAS to commercial sectors safely and economically with Vantis. This success adds to the foundation that Vantis has set for the next phase of operation this summer and the state continues to lead the way for autonomy and automation.

    “This first-of-its-kind approval for our partners is a critical step that validates our state’s investment and years of work to bring UAS aircraft to commercial sectors in a safe and economic way.” said North Dakota Governor Burgum; “Other states are reaching out to us as a national leader in UAS.”

    “We are incredibly proud to lead the way in North Dakota with our partners from Vantis and Thales”, said Christian Ramsey, uAvionix President. “Being able to demonstrate much of our ecosystem in approved BVLOS flight is a major milestone for our company, our partners, and the broader aviation ecosystem.”

    The Northern Plains UAS Test Site, administering Vantis for the state of North Dakota, partnered with Thales USA to develop and implement Vantis, a UAS system that allows UAS pilots to command and control the UAS and remain well clear of other aircraft when flying beyond visual line of sight. Vantis consists of ground-based aviation infrastructure, like that used in traditional aviation, which significantly lowers the barrier of entry to BVLOS flights for multiple users.

    “Vantis was designed to serve many drone operators across multiple sectors,” said Trevor Woods, Executive Director at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “This first approval is an important milestone for Vantis, as a blueprint for widespread commercial BVLOS enablement.”

    “We thank the Federal Aviation Administration for acknowledging that our approach to BVLOS in North Dakota maintains the same safety standards that the agency expects for all users within the national airspace,” said Frank Matus, Director of ATC and Digital Aviation Solutions for the Americas at Thales USA, the state’s infrastructure partner for the Vantis network. “We continue to collaborate with FAA as regulations evolve to ensure that Vantis meets the needs of all stakeholders.”

    About uAvionix 

    uAvionix was founded with the mission of bringing safety solutions to the unmanned aviation industry in order to aid in the integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into National Airspace Systems (NAS). uAvionix offers low SWaP TSO certified and uncertified avionics for General Aviation (GA), Airport Surface Vehicles and the UAS markets. The team consists of an unparalleled engineering and management team with a unique combination of experience within avionics, surveillance, airport services, UAS aircraft development, radio frequency (RF), and semiconductor industries.

    About NPUASTS

    The Northern Plains UAS Test Site is one of seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test sites in the nation. The mission of the NPUASTS is to collaborate with FAA and industry partners to develop systems, rules, and procedures to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System without negatively impacting existing general or commercial aviation. NPUASTS is administering Vantis. Visit for more information.

    About Vantis

    Vantis is North Dakota’s statewide unmanned aircraft system (UAS) beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) network, the first of its kind in the nation. Created by North Dakota with an initial investment in 2019, Vantis provides turnkey support to commercial and public UAS operators through infrastructure and regulatory approvals allowing applications and usability over a variety of industries. Visit for more information.

    About Thales USA

    A global technology leader, Thales platforms provide air traffic control (ATC) services across 40% of the globe’s airspace, making Thales the #1 air traffic management (ATM) provider in the world. The company provides solutions, services and products that help its customers – businesses, organizations and states – integrate the right mix of existing and new technologies to anticipate and address the demands of our evolving airspace system. In Vantis and North Dakota, Thales delivers an aviation-grade UAS integration capability designed specifically to complement manned aviation infrastructure while enhancing safety, integrity, interoperability within the airspace system.

  • March 02, 2023 11:34 | Anonymous

    By Joshua Simmers

    I’ve never considered myself adventurous; like many people in aviation, I just want as much as I can get from my limited trips around the sun. Like all of us, I have my nuanced interests: I’ve always enjoyed sleeping in a tent and as I grew into adulthood, I started camping out of my kayak. It was natural to transfer this habit into my flying hobby. The compact and lightweight approach to my kayaking stuff and my wife’s hiking stuff transferred easily to the baggage compartment, making us the most flexible travelers you’ll ever meet. This article is intended to show you the fun and ease of it with relatively low investment. If you’re already in aviation, I hope by the end of this article you wonder why this would sound novel…

    It’s Quiet. 

    Besides the flexibility to land anywhere, anytime, and having the means to stop for the day, the best part of carrying the camping gear is finding a quiet place to rest. If you travel by car or shuttle, you end up at a fun hotel downtown, with lights, streets, and the accompanying restaurants. But when you land at a remote strip, chances are few people know about the destination and there isn’t a road commonly used to get to it (and food always tastes better when you’re camping anyway.) My favorite is Ryan Airfield (2MT1) near West Glacier, MT. The only noise you’ll hear is maybe another plane, which only draws everyone out to gawk and enjoy. 

    The People. 

    The second reason these places are quiet is also the second reason why I love flying and camping: the people. Every visit and every campfire has been with truly wonderful folks – and of all ages – adventuring and taking it all in. My parents, whose ages I won’t disclose, started doing this about five years ago (see tip No. 1: get a good air mattress.) Perhaps at your typical campground, people come in after dark bringing stereos, ATVs, and loud late fun. Aviators are not arriving at remote strips after dark and won’t exchange late night rowdiness for smooth morning flying.

    Practical Gear Tips:

    Your best investment is your air mattress. Find a lightweight model that is easy to blow up. There are some that deflate to a size smaller than a pop-can, and some larger than a shoe box. The little ones are insufficient for me and the big ones seem a waste of space with nothing gained over a quality hiker’s air mattress. Look for one that inflates to about 2-3 inches. We had double-mattresses and found out the singles work best. I like ALPS Mountaineering’s double insulated air mattresses. They’re shaped like a U to keep you centered and save on weight, as the bag acts as the inflation pump.

    You’ve noted I prefer the insulated air mattress. Warmth is essential. If it is cool, you can lose a lot of heat to the ground; when it is warm, this mattress is still great. Similarly, as you’ll eventually find yourself in fun and remote destinations by water or mountains, layers are essential. I not only have numerous layers (including a lightweight rain jacket) for dressing, I also have a layered sleeping bag so I can use just the right amount of insulation.

    Bring a light, soft, fleece stocking cap. If it is cold at night, it really helps you hold your warmth and aid sleep. 

    Nothing takes the chill off and starts a perfect day like a cup of coffee. One must always choose their luxuries, and I wouldn’t blame you for making allowance for a small coffee grinder and French press. For those who know what good coffee I savor, please ignore the fact that I use Starbucks instant single serve powdered coffee packets when camping. Either way, a portable stove is essential.

    We carry “a kitchen.” It’s a soft sided square bag with a zipper lid, holding the aforementioned stove, an aluminum pot and pan, a knife, a bottle/wine/can opener, reusable plastic plates and bowls to feed six, a tiny bottle of soap with a scrubby, and a single dish towel. My tin coffee cup works for a libation, as well as coffee.

    Toilet paper.

    I fly a low wing aircraft. We prefer folding chairs that sit low, so we sit under the shade of the wing. So far, we still have space and weight for two of these chairs (sorry to the kids – they can sit on a log.).

    In a group our size, where we have two adults and children in different phases, we’ve also decided to carry multiple lightweight tents, instead of one large enough for the family. This offers us great long-term versatility, in addition to splitting up the family according to needs and bedtimes.

    As far as pillows go, we make the kids deal with their little play pillows. They sit with them for comfort and napping during flight. I found an inflatable pillow that I really like by Nemo. I couldn’t ever find a travel pillow that sat right and now I can just inflate this one to my preference, although it took me a couple purchases to get it right.

    We sprung for an Otterbox cooler. It doubles as a backpack and is airtight as well as watertight, so it won’t leak in the aircraft. It competes with the infamous soft-sided Yeti in all categories, has twice the interior capacity, and is the only one in that market made in the USA. It perfectly fits the mission.

    I can’t find a solar charger that’s worth its price. But I don’t go camping to use electronics. An increasing number of remote strips offer power and if I charge my phone and iPad in flight, I ration my usage and don’t bother with a secondary battery.

    While a fluffy towel and robe are great for hotels, I make do with a lightweight hand-towel and hope for enough privacy to finish air drying. The more you camp lightweight, the better you will note what you can do without. As a woman at a fly-in recently broadcasted from her shirt: “Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how to get along without it.” The only non-negotiables in this hobby are avgas and lift.

    A first aid/survival kit is something I won’t fly without. Dr. Justin Reisenauer gave a great presentation on this at the gathering formerly known as The Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium. Bandages, first aid tape, antiseptic, tweezers, salve, sunblock, water tablets, Benadryl, Imodium, duct tape, and a signal mirror are a start and should always be accessible in or while exiting the aircraft.

    My headlamp is great. Also bring a knife and matches, ideally water resistant, in a dry container.

    If you have a large aircraft or even just a NAvion without kids in the back seat, I recommend the Ooni portable pizza oven. I’ll stop discussion on this here rather than focusing on food for the entire remainder of the article.

    Find one quality pair of hiking boots and maximize their use. Vasque makes an affordable waterproof ultra-comfy boot that is narrow for pedal control. Quality wool socks are underestimated and a great asset. I like to couple this with a lightweight pair of sandals to get out of my hiking shoes or to the shower. 

    I love my hammock.

    Other Practical Tips:

    It doesn’t always work. While I haven’t gotten caught in the rain with soaking gear to pack in my baggage compartment, it’s only a matter of time. A while ago a buddy and I ended up camping behind a tree to avoid the lights of the airport facilities. We tired of listening to the adjacent highway and opted to fly to a new destination the next night only to hear a nearby carnival and street dance. Lessons learned: 

    – No. 1: If not at a remote strip, consider proximity to highways and railroads

    – No. 2: Sometimes, it just won’t be the best experience

    – No. 3: I think sleeping with ear plugs in is no problem. Like I always tell my kids, the risk of trying something new is that it won’t work. The adventure is not knowing!

    Sometimes the greatest surprises await like the time we got to swim in crystal clear springs in the Nevada Desert.

    The best resource ever is The Recreational Aviation Foundation. Their website is second to none, with information about as complete as you can get, and is available to the public with the offer for you to donate. They offer a map online to help you find the right destinations and rely on local, grassroots efforts and strips. Second to that, many state airport directories let you know which airports allow camping. Check out Minnesota’s directory. Finally, you can always snoop and ask.

    Since we are two adults and three kids in a NAvion, we look for destinations with water. We have the purification tablets to use fresh water, but most resources will let you know if there is potable water. We can make it a day with water in our useful load but basically have chosen to limit our camping to places with potable water.

    Bring tea bags. They’re light and take almost no space. If you need a warm-up before bed or after a cool spell, you can get something delicious, warm, and caffeine free. TAZO makes a Glazed Lemon Loaf tea that tastes just like its name. How’d they figure out a sugar free calorie free dessert that warms me up?

    In the morning, don’t be in a rush. While pilots love the morning air, the sunrise at any airport is about my favorite thing. Let the dew dry from your tent before packing it away, to save airing it out later, and enjoy that cup of coffee.

    While I could fill every Quarterly with cooking ideas and tips, you can easily find easy hiking meals at the outdoors store or google ideas. Everything tastes better when camping. Rely on oatmeal, noodles, fresh peppers, and dried items you like to make simple dishes and don’t cook too close to your aircraft. Avoid leftovers, as it’s better to have a little less than you need and be content or eat some nuts or a power bar. Cheese is the easiest ingredient that can survive with little to no refrigeration and can add a lot of flavor and satisfaction to the meal or charcuterie board.

    For those new to rugged camping in general, I offer some universal laws to those of us familiar with backcountry camping: 

    –“Pack it in, pack it out.” I don’t even bring disposable plates, as it is not kosher to burn your garbage in these places. Think about what you’re bringing and how you will transport your used and empty packaging back out. I am not a big fan of wet wipes when camping with water on hand and the responsibility to pack out garbage.

    –If bears are not in the area, other rodents are. Keep your food out of your tent and sealed and secured. We put ours back in the baggage compartment every night if the destination doesn’t have designated boxes for food storage. (Bear spray and other pressurized contents are not a significant issue at the altitudes we fly.)

    –Airports have toilets, so I’ve never worried about where to dig a hole.

    –Bring eco-friendly soap and if there is no designated space for dishes, clean your dishes and hands away from open water, water sources, and camping/sleeping areas.

    –No souvenirs.

    –If there is no campfire ring, then there is no campfire.

    Your plane will work for this; AirVenture is a testament to this. I have seen Cirrus’ and Pilatus’ and Husky’s and all sorts of things on grass strips. Your aircraft doesn’t determine whether you can fly and camp, it only determines where. 

    If you venture into mountain strips, fly your experience level. Start with simple places. Sparky Imeson’s Mountain Flying Bible is a great introductory resource. Instruction cannot be overvalued.

    Destination Tips:

    If camping isn’t your thing, Seely Lake (23S) offers lodges that look pretty sweet. If tenting isn’t your thing, Ryan Airfield offers no-frill cabins for donors only. Cavanaugh Bay (66S) and other places have resorts at the end of the fields. But I still love the feel of waking up next to my plane; it reminds me of waking up next to my dog.

    There are great destinations closer than you’d think. We have flown and hiked to camp at Garrison Dam Recreational Airpark (37N) and the International Peace Garden (S28). Kulm (D03) is the happiest airport in North Dakota and on my list for camping.

    I reiterate The to find the best places. Ryan Airfield is their flagship, but they also tipped me off to West Yellowstone (KWYS) which offers a campground and bikes for pilots at no charge. Bozeman (BZN) even offers showers! The list is endless.

    Cavanaugh Bay (66S) is the only place I’ve been that potentially surpasses Ryan Airfield. The strip is as smooth as a dream and you can swim if you can bear the water temperature. Make sure you refuel at Boundary County (65S ) - they have ice cream.

    Speaking of ice cream, Ephraim/Gibraltar (aka Door County, WI, 3D2) has a shuttle car to ice cream and just put in campfire rings. Just north of them is Washington Island (2P2), which is gorgeous to fly into and quiet as can be. 

    If the resources I mentioned are lacking, ask. Last summer, we held the Midwest NAvioneer convention at Poplar Grove (C77), a user-friendly privately-owned airport in Illinois. Lacking information, I asked and received permission to camp and woke up next to, not one, but a row of iconic NAvions gleaming in the morning sun! (There have been other times when I admit, I have not asked…) There are also several private strips around; there’s nothing wrong with asking the owner for permission. I find I meet good people wherever I go.

    Let’s face it: you love flying, and you love aircraft, waking up under your wing is about the best way to start your day. See you out there!

  • March 02, 2023 11:25 | Anonymous

    From the Klosterman family come true tales of the air, starring UND-trained pilots who received the Annette Klosterman Memorial Scholarship

    By Jim Klosterman

    UND graduate and Delta pilot Rose Kirby sits in the cockpit of an Airbus 350, just before taking off for a nonstop flight from Detroit to Seoul, South Korea. Kirby was the 2011 recipient of the Annette L. Klosterman Memorial Aviation Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Rose Kirby and the Klosterman family.

    Since 2008, my wife Jan, our son, Peter, and I have sponsored a scholarship within the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND, in loving memory of our daughter, Annette. The scholarship specifically is designated for a woman majoring in Commercial Aviation who demonstrates the same passion and work ethic that Annette did during her four years enrolled at UND.

    Annette graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2007 with a degree in Commercial Aviation and a minor in Economics. As with many Commercial Aviation graduates, she stayed on at UND following graduation as a full-time flight instructor to build up her flight time. This is a normal post-graduation activity because, as readers may know, pilots seeking employment with a regional airline must accumulate at least 1,000 hours of flight experience before they can be hired.

    But it was only five months after her graduation in 2007 that Annette and her student were killed when their Piper Seminole aircraft collided with a flock of geese over central Minnesota on a night flight returning to Grand Forks. As any parent can imagine, it was a devastating blow, and our world was turned upside down overnight!

    However, due to Annette’s incredibly positive experience at UND, we felt compelled to honor her by establishing an endowment to help other women pursuing the same passion of flight.

    Since 2008, we personally have met all 17 scholarship recipients (some years have had more than one recipient) and maintain regular contact with most of them. Jan and I refer to them as our “adopted flight daughters,” and it has been an absolute joy to see these women excel in an industry long dominated by men.

    The majority of the women have found their way into the commercial airline business, becoming first officers and then captains for both regional and major airlines. Others are flying cargo jets, a bush plane on floats in Alaska and an F-16 fighter in the U.S. Air Force. There’s also an FAA inspector in the mix, as well as another who designs satellites at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    We are so proud of them all! And to give UND Today readers a sense of their amazing stories, what follows are updates that we received recently from just two of the scholarship recipients who graduated several years apart.

    Christine Benson, a UND graduate and pilot for JetBlue, stands with her mother, Pamela, a JetBlue captain with more than 40 years of flying experience. Christine was the 2018 recipient of the Annette L. Klosterman Memorial Aviation Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Christine Benson and the Klosterman family.

    Like mother, like daughter

    Christine Benson, who hails from Pennsylvania, was our scholarship recipient from 2018 and graduated from UND with a Commercial Aviation degree in December 2019. Christine was well-acquainted with the airline industry from a very early age, having grown up in a home where both of her parents were commercial pilots.

    Her father retired three years ago after a career with American Airlines, and her mother is currently a captain with JetBlue Airlines with 40 years of flying experience under her belt.

    After graduating from UND, Christine stayed on as a flight instructor to build the necessary hours of flight experience. By the way, students at most flight schools must accumulate a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience before they can be hired by a commercial airline. But flight training at UND is so in-depth and rigorous that in accordance with FAA regulations, airlines can accept UND-trained pilots who have a minimum of 1,000 hours of flight experience.

    You see, training at UND goes far beyond just learning how to take off and land safely. Mandated courses include not only flight training (in both single and multi-engine aircraft) but also Aviation Safety, Flight Physiology, Aerospace Law, International and Long-Range Navigation, Gas Turbine Engines, Aerodynamics, Aircraft Systems, Meteorology, Air Traffic Control and other subjects that I undoubtedly forgot.

    Christine was hired by Republic Airways in mid-2021 and began flying an Embraer 175, a regional jet that typically seats up to 80 passengers. More recently, Christine made the jump to JetBlue, the nation’s fifth-largest airline.

    At JetBlue, she was able to immediately take the yoke of the Embraer 195, a larger version of the 175, which typically seats up to 105 passengers and carries a price tag of $50 million to $60 million. I wonder if she has a license plate frame on the back of her car that says, “My Other Car is a Jet.”

    So awesome for a young lady who graduated from college just three years ago! The professionalism of the training at UND produces pilots who are as well-equipped as any to enter the cockpit.

    Above is a photo that Christine recently shared with us. It shows Christine with her mother, Pam, a senior captain in her own right (as I mentioned) with JetBlue.

    Understandably, it’s Christine’s dream to fly together with her mother in the cockpit. But in fact — although Christine may not fully understand this, not being a parent herself — it’s probably even a bigger dream for her parents!

    Christine will need to fly the Embraer for at least one more year before she can apply to be trained on the Airbus and be eligible to fly with her mother. That would be a first for any of our 17 scholarship recipients, and we look forward to it.

    Rose Kirby, a UND graduate who’s now a pilot for Delta Airlines, stands beneath an Airbus A320/321 during a pre-flight check. Kirby was the 2011 recipient of the Annette Klosterman Memorial Scholarship at UND. Photo courtesy of Rose Kirby and the Klosterman family.

    Smooth skies over the Pacific

    Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but I must repeat that the scholarship recipients’ success after graduating from UND has been phenomenal. Here’s another example: Earlier this year, we received an update from Rose Kirby, our daughter’s scholarship recipient from 2011 (gosh, where has the time gone?).

    Rose has been an absolute joy over the years to keep in contact with, as we have followed her career after she received her world-class education in Commercial Aviation from UND.

    After graduating from UND and not being a fan of the infamous North Dakota winters, Rose relocated to Phoenix to continue flight instruction to build flight hours. After gaining this experience over two years, she got her first commercial job, which saw her flying sightseeing passengers over the Grand Canyon and other tourist attractions in the Southwest.

    Then, Rose applied for her first regional airline job and was hired by GoJet in 2015. As a GoJet pilot, she flew around the country in a Canadair Regional Jet, which — depending on the model — seats 60 to 90 passengers.

    After a few years with GoJet, Rose was able to move up to the major airlines. She was hired by Delta in early 2017. You may have flown with her in the cockpit recently, as Rose has spent the past five years flying an Airbus 320, a $100 million aircraft that typically has a passenger capacity of about 160.

    But Rose is hoping to fly internationally, and the A320 was not designed with the needed range to cross the oceans. So, Rose applied for international flying with Delta; and, she recently told us, her application was accepted!

    Rose now has completed her training in the Airbus 350. Designed with long distances in mind, the aircraft can carry up to 400 passengers and fly up to 8,700 nautical miles or about 10,000 statute (think land) miles on one tank of gas.

    This state-of-the-art aircraft just started commercial service in the past five or six years and carries a price tag of just more than $300 million.

    Imagine that: being out of college for only about 10 years and being responsible for flying such a machine! I’m trying to imagine $300 million, and I’m reduced to putting it in household financial terms. So, I’m thinking, if that was a typical 30-year mortgage with 20% down and an interest rate at 5.5%, that would equal monthly payments of $1.36 million.

    You know, Rose used to send photos of herself standing next to her aircraft, and now it is photos of her standing under her aircraft. Above is a recent photo of Rose — reprinted with her permission — standing beneath an Airbus 320/321 during a pre-flight check. This is the aircraft that she’s flown for the past five years before moving up to the Airbus 350.

    How many other women in the world could be featured in such a photo?

    The second photo of Rose is the lead photo of this story; it shows her in the cockpit of the Airbus 350 before a nonstop flight from Detroit to Seoul. Flights this long actually require a crew of four pilots with a separate rest area per FAA regulations; to me, it looks like the cockpit is almost large enough to set a buffet table for transoceanic flights.

    This photo montage honoring Annette Klosterman is part of a poster that describes her life and legacy, and that hangs on the wall outside the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab at UND. Click on the image for a high-resolution image of the full poster. Photo montage by Heather Schuler/UND.

    With gratitude and love

    To repeat, the success of these UND grads has been made possible by the tremendous and professional training they received at UND. It has been a true joy for our family to watch their success after graduating, and we easily can say that sponsoring the scholarship in our daughter’s memory has been one of the most gratifying activities we have participated in.

    To those who have been gracious enough to contribute to this scholarship, please know that your generosity is indeed bringing about real-world results! These young ladies repeatedly have told us not only how meaningful the financial assistance is to them, but also how encouraging it is that people whom they’ve never met are willing to make an investment on their behalf. We are so proud of them all! Jim, Jan and Peter Klosterman

  • March 02, 2023 11:22 | Anonymous

    Photo by Andrea Johnson/MDN Branson Keeley, a student in the aviation technology class at Minot High School-Magic City Campus, works in class on Nov. 23.

    Students in the Aviation Technology program at Minot High School have a leg up on others who are interested in aviation careers.

    “It’s all for free,” said Meric Murphy, the instructor, as his students practiced air traffic control procedures last Wednesday in their classroom at Magic City Campus. “This would cost $150 to $200 an hour if they were doing it on the outside.” 

    Each computer has its own call sign, like Lima or Foxtrot, and students were practicing the procedures needed to safely direct an aircraft off the runway and into the air.

    “They don’t have to memorize it because they use it so much during the year,” said Murphy.

    Student Branson Keeley, whose dad is in the Air Force, said he is interested in an aviation career and going into the Air Force.

    Student Noah Miller, who is also in Minot High’s ROTC program, said hopes to earn an ROTC scholarship and enroll in the aviation program at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

    Murphy said the software program, which is less sophisticated than more expensive equipment, still enables the students to practice about 90% of what they could in a more realistic simulator. Those who take two years of aviation technology at Magic City Campus will log hundreds of hours of instruction that will enable them to accelerate through their pilot training and obtain certification more quickly and sometimes at less expense. They also will fly simulations in which multiple instruments on an aircraft are inoperable and in hazardous conditions and do it successfully.

    “You earn your keep about once a year being a pilot,” said Murphy.

    Murphy, a former air traffic controller at Minot Air Force Base, tells his students that if they apply themselves to their education, they will go far in the field.

    He said high schools in many of the larger districts in the state have similar programs funded in part through grants as there was a concern about the shortage of pilots.

    Murphy said there is a shortage of people going into all fields of aviation right now, so students in his aviation technology classes will be highly employable as air traffic controllers, pilots, in aircraft maintenance, or airport operations. Many of his students have gone on to aviation careers.

    “It’s unlimited right now,” said Murphy.

    Reprinted with permission from The Minot Daily News.

  • March 02, 2023 11:19 | Anonymous

    In early November, the Dickinson Airport opened their new Primary Runway 14/32, after a long reconstruction and expansion project. The project shifted and expanded the runway from a length of 6400 ft. to 7300 ft. It also included the construction of a full-length parallel taxiway, which operated as a temporary runway for two years while the main runway was under construction. Also included in this project was the installation of a new Instrument Landing System (ILS.) The overall project took four years to complete and the airport was fully operational throughout the construction period. Completion of this project ensures that current and future commercial aircraft will have a runway that meets all current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for safety areas. The new runway also has an increased weight bearing capacity, allowing larger aircraft to operate without waivers. Congratulations, Dickinson!

  • March 02, 2023 11:13 | Anonymous

    Generally, our weather decisions are based on experience, book knowledge, and a willingness to reduce whatever risk we find in the process. I believe all of us do what we can to stay legal; where we fall short in the process is recognizing the potential outcome, based on the weather data we find. Current and forecast weather conditions are just the first step towards your Go or No-Go decision. Enroute weather or what you see out the window affects our immediate decision making, but did we plan for unforecast conditions? Knowing your personal weather minimums and pre-planning is where risk levels change, for better or for worse.

    Setting personal weather thresholds is all about taking an honest examination of your experience level and setting boundaries on what your skill and experience affords you to safely operate. The key to effective thresholds is being honest with yourself, identifying what makes you uneasy, scares you, or maybe what weather you have just never had to consider. 

    Let’s take a look at a short inventory of weather related questions that you may need to consider for your day-to-day flying:

    Crosswinds (Of course, this IS North Dakota):

    Keeping in mind that the Maximum Demonstrated X-Wind component of your aircraft is NOT a limitation. A combination of aircraft aerodynamics and your ability to manage control are the limitations! Consider the following:

    When was the last time you operated in significant crosswinds? 

    How many crosswind landings have you accomplished in the last month, three months, or year?

    How confident were you when operating in those conditions? 

    Did you walk away from the airplane thinking, “That was a bit scary?”


    Are you comfortable flying above small temperature and dew point spreads at night? 

    How marginal of a ceiling is too marginal? (i.e. “The last time I flew with a 1500’ ceiling it was stressful”, or “I became so distracted trying to read what the clouds were telling me that I lost situational awareness.”)

    How marginal IS marginal visibility to you? (i.e. Light snow with 6SM visibility or you want nothing falling from the sky?)

    Icing (Assuming the aircraft is rated for icing conditions):

    How much icing is too much for you or the aircraft (i.e. light rime or moderate clear etc?)

    What icing types would you rather not deal with? Can you anticipate weather patterns that favor those types?

    When was the last time you flew in icing conditions?

    It’s been years since you encountered ice during a flight, AIRMETs along your route are forecasting moderate icing, no PIREPS are available. Are you going to alter your route or fly through the AIRMET?

    Are you comfortable flying across a warm front in winter?

    The answers to these questions can be discussed with your local Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or maybe it’s time to get back into the books and refresh your knowledge on these topics. Either way, considerations must be given before you go flying.

    Beyond the items listed above you may consider using a Flight Risk Analysis Tool (FRAT.) These tools are available through most industry providers and my favorite website:

    WINGS Proficiency Program needs you - Join today! Safety is a motivated action which requires attention, skill, and refreshment throughout time.

    Fly Safe!

    Jay M. Flowers, Safety Educator, Airline Transport Pilot, CFI, Fellow Aviator

  • March 02, 2023 11:08 | Anonymous

    Military aviation is an important part of our state’s aviation community. In this spotlight, we highlight some of our local military aviators, who represent North Dakota around the world, and share their stories with you. We thank them for their dedicated service to our country and community. Our spotlight this issue features Andy “Comma” Niemyer, a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy.

    Q: What is your hometown? 

    I am California-born, but have lived in North Dakota from 1990 to 2002 and from 2021 to present, both in Bismarck and Fargo.

    Q: What was your job title? What did your work include? 

    At the time we moved to North Dakota, I was a Commander in the Navy and was flying as a Bombardier-Navigator in the Grumman A-6 Intruder with a West Coast Navy Reserve squadron. I later served with two Joint USCG-USN units and then was a lecturer and instructor training various Navy Battle Group staff. I finally commanded a small unit based out of the Minneapolis International Airport.

    Q: What inspired you to join the military? 

    I grew up next to the original home of US Naval Aviation, Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, CA. Naval Aviation and the Navy was all around me. With the Vietnam War still going on and a possibility of being drafted after college graduation, I found out about opportunities to enlist in the Navy and then apply for officer training. That seemed like a great idea! 

    Q: How many years of service did you have? 

    I served for 31 years and six months, including an initial 18 months as an enlisted sailor and officer candidate at the end of the Vietnam War, from 1972 to 1973.

    Q: What was the most rewarding part of your time in the military? 

    The people, the places, the challenges and the chance to fly in Navy aircraft world-wide.

    Q: Are you involved in the North Dakota aviation community outside of the military? 

    Not too long after moving to Bismarck, I immediately began renting General Aviation (GA) aircraft; I attended my first Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium (UMAS), joined the former North Dakota Pilots Association (NDPA), and became involved in the North Dakota Aviation Council (NDAC). I helped with UMAS, NDPA annual presentations, and then became the Editor-in-Chief of the Quarterly. In the meantime, I flew and owned a couple of planes out of KBIS. I’m now based out of KFAR and still active in GA activities.

    Q: What advice do you have for anyone interested in military aviation? 

    You will never, ever have an opportunity like the one presented to you by applying for and being selected for military flight training. You will be presented unique challenges, unparalleled training, given the chance to fly in some of the world’s most advanced and unique aircraft and make friendships that will last a lifetime. As you do this, you will gain life skills and self-discipline that will serve you a lifetime, no matter what you end up doing with the rest of your life. And, should you succeed, you will join an incredibly small and unique cadre of peers with whom you will share a fantastic set of world-wide adventures and experiences, no matter how long you serve.

  • March 02, 2023 11:06 | Anonymous

    A national defense authorization bill passed by the U.S. House December 8 on a 350-80 vote includes language reflecting the advocacy work of AOPA that will eliminate an FAA policy change made in 2021 that requires pilots—and their flight instructors—to obtain a letter of deviation authority (LODA) to give or receive flight training in experimental aircraft.

    Disregarding decades of precedent, the FAA changed its tune on flight training and in July 2021 issued a directive requiring certain aircraft owners and flight instructors providing flight training in experimental aircraft to obtain a LODA in order to conduct flight training.

    The new policy and its requirements drew backlash and confusion from AOPA and other aviation associations who argued that the directive was nothing more than a paperwork exercise that did nothing to enhance safety—and in fact achieved quite the opposite. Following its release, nearly 40,000 pilots were grounded overnight. Even the FAA Administrator at that time, Steve Dickson, called the LODA a “four-letter word.”

    AOPA championed an effort to reverse the FAA directive. With the strong support from Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) and Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a provision to eliminate the LODA requirement was included in the final defense authorization bill.

    “The FAA legal office has turned the definition of flight training upside down and this provision is only the first step in getting us back to where we were and where we need to be. Flight training is a safety issue and we don’t need anything that impacts that in a negative way,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “AOPA appreciates the bipartisan effort of members of Congress and our allies in the GA community for addressing this issue. We will continue to work with our friends in Congress to take the next step and codify the definition of flight training that has been used for more than 60 years.”

    The bill is expected to pass the Senate soon and arrive on the president’s desk for signature.

  • March 02, 2023 11:03 | Anonymous

    I am excited to be joining the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) team as their new airport planner for Western North Dakota! I grew up in Pierre, SD, where I graduated from T.F. Riggs High School in 2015. I attended the University of North Dakota (UND), graduating in August of 2020 with a B.B.A. majoring in Aviation Management. I also have my Commercial Pilot’s License ASEL/AMEL, and have two years of experience as a line technician before finding my new home with the NDAC.

    My love for aviation was very prominent early in my life. I would beg for any toy, or Lego set, that had anything to do with planes. When we first moved to Pierre in 2007, my favorite part of our new house was the amazing view of the airport from our living room window. I first got a taste of flying on my 14th birthday, when my mom organized for a family friend to take me up on a scenic flight in a Cessna 172. I was absolutely terrified, but by the time we got back on the ground I was forever hooked. Thus began my addiction, and I knew I wanted to pursue aviation as a career. My next step was UND, where I had an amazing college experience from 2015-2020. Some of my favorite memories were made at UND: joining the hockey team in Tampa Bay and watching them become national champions in 2016; flying next to thunderstorms for my summer internship with Weather Mod; and the best, of course, was meeting my future wife, Michaela, on our first day of band camp during freshman year.

    When I’m not working or flying, I have plenty of hobbies to keep myself busy. Music is another passion of mine; I can’t have a road trip without losing my voice from screaming in the car. I love to stay active with my wife, rollerblading and swimming in the summer, and pretending we know how to play hockey in the winter. I’m also quite a gamer as well, including Xbox, PlayStation, and my own PC which I built myself a few years ago.

    I am extremely thankful for the NDAC team for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I am ready to get to know aviation from a whole new perspective, and I cannot wait to help our airports and aviation industry grow across our beautiful state of North Dakota!

    Blue skies and buttery landings, Grant Erwin

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