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  • January 10, 2023 11:21 | Anonymous

    The 119th Wing, also known as the Happy Hooligans, recently completed a first of its kind exercise, partnering with the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Wing for Exercise Hawkeye Fury, Des Moines, Iowa Sept. 11 to 26, 2022. (National Guard story and photos by Senior Master Sgt. Michael Knodle, 119th Wing Public Affairs)

    The exercise focused on the ability for the Hooligans to set up two MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), ground control station (GCS) and personnel to a deployed location and for the 132nd Wing to effectively utilize the MQ-9 in support of state and local government emergency response efforts.

    The 132nd Wing, while operating an MQ-9 mission, has none of these aircraft at their National Guard base. This exercise was an opportunity to have this remotely piloted aircraft operate on their flightline and for Airmen to see them employed in person.

    Another aspect of this exercise is to further develop partnerships between the different units and to work jointly with other Department of Defense (DoD) partners to operate the aircraft locally and showcase the potential of the MQ-9 to assist with local domestic operations (DOMOPS).

    The Hooligan Airmen benefited from the opportunity to practice Agile Combat Employment (ACE) skills, packing up personnel and equipment, deploying to another base and providing launch and recovery for two MQ-9 aircraft each day.

    Partnerships like this make the Happy Hooligans a leader in providing training opportunities for the entire Air National Guard RPA enterprise.Photo 1: 119th Wing Launch and Recovery Element crew chiefs recover an MQ-9 Reaper after a mission in support of Exercise Hawkeye Fury at the Iowa National Guard base, Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 20, 2022.

    Article reprinted with permission from the NDNG.

  • January 10, 2023 11:10 | Anonymous

    Dakota Territory Air Museum’s Scholarship Program

    Since 2017, the Farstad Foundation and Jeff Farstad have donated $150,000 toward the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s (DTAM) scholarship program, to assist students in advancing their aviation careers. This past summer, the museum awarded 13 students’ scholarships to assist in their aviation endeavors.

    The Dakota Territory Air Museum’s 26th Annual Sweepstakes

    The annual sweepstakes is the DTAM’s largest fundraiser. This year, we gave away a 1945 Piper J-3 Cub. This year’s winner was Jeffrey Holowienko from Erie, PA. Over the course of the last 25 years, the annual sweepstakes has generated in-excess of $2.5 million gross, with approximately $750,000 in expenses. Revenue generated from our sweepstakes has come from all over the world, with the vast majority coming from the United States. For the 2023 27th Annual Sweepstakes, we are planning to give-away this beautiful 1941 Interstate Cadet. Tickets will go on-sale in March 2023.

    Dakota Territory Air Museum Hosts Events

    Over the course of the summer season, the DTAM has hosted several public events. In June, we held The Forgotten War: Korea in the Flying Legends Hangar. We welcomed twenty Korean War veterans from across North Dakota, as well as approximately 150 guests in attendance. The program for the afternoon commemorated American involvement in the Korean War with guest speaker Maj. (USMC Ret.) Trygve Hammer, and with assistance of the local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and American Legion. 

    In July, the museum partnered with the Dakota Cruisers Car Club for this year’s Wings and Wheels event. This year, we welcomed the International Cessna 180/185 Club for the event. The Cessna Club brought approximately 40 additional aircraft to the museum grounds and the Dakota Cruisers brought approximately 150 vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles. We had approximately 1,000 guests enjoy the displays, food trucks, and axe-throwing! 

     In August, the museum held Welcoming Home Our Vietnam Veterans in the Flying Legends Hangar, where we welcomed approximately seventy-five Vietnam Veterans from around North Dakota, as well as approximately 125 guests in attendance. The program for the afternoon commemorated American involvement in the Vietnam War and featured guest speaker Maj. (USMC Ret.) Trygve Hammer, the Minot Air Force Base Honor Guard, and assistance from the local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and American Legion. At the end of the August event, we held our 26th Annual Sweepstakes Grand Prize Drawing where we gave away a 1945 Piper J-3 Cub. 

    In September, the museum celebrated the contributions of women in aviation with Women, Wine, and Wings. Documentary producer Nick Spark was the guest speaker for this year’s event. His documentary, “Pancho Barnes and the Happy-Bottom Riding Club,” was screened and he hosted a Q&A after the screening. Approximately 50 guests were in attendance for Women, Wine, and Wings. 

    The museum’s final public event for 2022 was the Night at the Museum Hangar Dance and Silent Auction at the end of October.  Music, dancing, food, drinks, re-enactments, and a silent auction were on the program for the evening. The proceeds from the silent auction benefit museum operations throughout the year. 

    Please visit our website for more information on future events:

  • January 10, 2023 10:56 | Anonymous

    On September 24, 2022, the Harvey Airport hosted their Pancake Breakfast Fly-in. At the event, the airport also held a dedication to rename the terminal building in honor of North Dakota Aviation Hall of Famer, Al Sauter. 

    Al grew up in Harvey, learned to fly in Harvey, and started his career as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) in Harvey. Senator Hoeven and representatives from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) were also present at the event to congratulate Al and the community on the terminal dedication.


  • January 10, 2023 10:48 | Anonymous

    By Jamie L. Leonheart, Capt, USAF, Director & Design Lead, North Spark Defense Laboratory

    It all started with a pile of sticky notes and a dream. 

    “Oh, those are my ideas to change things around here.” Master Sergeant Jesse Gentile explained. “I’ve been trying to get leadership to buy into them, but none seem to want to take the risk.”

    “Let’s get them done, then.” Lieutenant Daniel Leonheart replied. With that, a friendship and North Spark began. 

    From Billy Mitchell, who fought to establish the asymmetric advantage of airpower within the U.S. Army, to Medal of Honor winner Jimmy Doolittle who pioneered instrument flight in World War II, the U.S. Air Force has been formed by rebels, rule breakers, and innovators—the kind of people who are not content to keep the status quo. It’s in the nature, the DNA, of every member of the Air and Space Forces, to always get better and never settle for good enough.

    The Chief of Staff of the Air Force is the highest-ranking uniform-wearing member of the Air Force. This office is currently filled by General C.Q. Brown. Gen. Brown has four action orders: A, B, C, and D. Action order B is focused on eliminating bureaucracy. As a Spark Cell, North Spark joined a network of similarly minded Airmen at bases around the world to disrupt the bureaucracy to solve local problems at the local level with innovative solutions. 

    In short order, Jesse and Dan established a Maker Space with 3D printers, virtual reality (VR) modeling, whiteboards, and drawing and drafting materials. Soon after, their tenacity brought about the establishment of the Zero Ground eSports Center, which was designed to attract and retain talented Airmen and civilians, increase connectedness, and strengthen resiliency at Grand Forks Air Force Base (AFB).

    North Spark quickly outgrew the framework of the Spark Cell, and in August 2021, the Air Force Research Laboratory granted Defense Innovation Laboratory status. Thus, North Spark Defense Laboratory was born. As the second Defense Innovation Laboratory in the Air Force, North Spark is authorized to enter into Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) with commercial industry, and Educational Partnership Agreements (EPA) with academic institutions. With more responsibility comes the need for more space, and in April 2022, North Spark held a grand opening at its new laboratory that transformed the old base golf course clubhouse into a sleek, modern, collaborative workspace.

  • December 22, 2022 12:44 | Anonymous

    We are thrilled to announce our newest education programs at the Fargo Air Museum: The Lil Flyers Club and the EAA Young Eagles Build Night- Pietenpol Workshop!

    The Fargo Air Museum (FAM) has officially launched our Lil Flyer Club, where our educators and volunteers take our education program on the road. We visit rural schools in the Fargo-Moorhead area to bring our STEAM and aviation curriculum to smaller schools, to expand the aviation passion and education in our great state. 

    Since our September launch, we have visited Kindred, Harwood, and Maple Valley Elementary schools with our aviation camps. serving over 125 fourth graders. We have had a very successful couple of months with amazing feedback from students, faculty and parents! We plan to continue building this amazing program and add additional schools throughout the year. 

    We have also partnered with the EAA Chapter 317 to offer specialized camps at the museum, where 10 to 17 year old students are building a full scale Pietonpol wooden aircraft! The kids have built jigs, assembled wing ribs, and are currently working on the tail assembly. Once the aircraft is complete, covering and all, we will have students sign the fuselage and hang it on display at the FAM for all to see!

    The next series in the EAA Camps will focus on aluminum construction, as we continue to dive deep into the various aircraft construction methods. Stay tuned for updates as we continue expanding our education program.

    We truly believe aviation is such an amazing industry, where anyone can become a part of our passion for flight. We need doctors, maintenance, pilots, technology, engineering, business, and marketing, and so much more. Pretty much any degree can be a fit for the aviation industry. As you can see, education is a large part of what we do at the FAM. From our basic free camps to our highly interactive Intro to Aviation courses, there is always something going on at the Museum to continue sharing our love and passion for aviation. 

    I am very thankful for all our sponsors, donors, friends, staff, our Board of Directors and the community. And a special thanks to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) for grant support, which allows us to continually expand our education programs!

    We could not have a special place like the Fargo Air Museum without your support! So on behalf of myself and staff at the FAM, thank you and include a stop at the Museum this fall.

    Ryan Thayer is the Executive Director/CEO of the Fargo Air Museum. He has been part of aviation since birth, received his solo license at 16, and his private pilot’s license at 18 from UND as well as an Entrepreneurship Degree. He has always been passionate about aviation and business and is thrilled to be able to pursue both of his passions at the Fargo Air Museum.

  • December 22, 2022 12:38 | Anonymous

    Exploring North Dakota Airports

    Looking for a new destination this fall? Plan a visit to Hillsboro Regional Airport, just four miles south of Hillsboro, ND! The North Dakota airport passport stamp can be found in the general aviation terminal.

    Here are a few local attractions to explore:

    Hillsboro Airport Flight Simulator

    Interested in getting some simulator time just for fun or to maintain your instrument currency? Hillsboro Airport is home to a new certified flight simulator. They have a free introductory flight, as well as basic and premier membership plans available.

    Visit for more information and contact information.

    The Clubhouse: Indoor Golf & Practice Facility

    The Clubhouse is an indoor golf simulator, practice facility and party rental space featuring a Full Swing golf simulator, putting green, TVs, theater chairs and kitchenette. The facility is located in the heart of downtown Hillsboro. 

    16 W Caledonia Ave Hillsboro, ND 58045

    Contact Ryan Opdahl at (218) 779-2658 to schedule a time, or visit their Facebook page for more information:

    If you work up an appetite while exploring Hillsboro, here are a few recommendations:

    The Hillsboro Cafe – a community-centered gathering spot where the focus has been on great food and friendly service in a “Welcome Home!” atmosphere.

      Hours: Tues-Fri, 7 am to 2 pm; Sat, 8 am to 2 pm

      Address: 3 N Main St Hillsboro, ND 58045

      For more information, visit

    Goose River Brewing – a new brewery and restaurant featuring delicious pub food and tasty brews.

      Address: 24 West Caledonia Ave Hillsboro, ND 58045

      Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3pm to 10pm; Sat-Sun, 12-6pm

      For more information, visit

    Please visit these locations’ websites or call to confirm hours and availability. 

    Do you have a favorite attraction to explore or a dining recommendation at your North Dakota airport to share with our readers? Submit your discoveries to  

  • December 22, 2022 12:25 | Anonymous

    On October 1, 2022, approximately 20 volunteers gathered at the Garrison Dam Recreational Airpark in Riverdale, ND, to give the airport a fresh look. The group was made up of North Dakota Aeronautics Commission staff, aviation enthusiasts, members from the Mandan EAA chapter, and the Recreational Aviation Foundation. 

    The project consisted of multiple improvements to the site:

    New cones were installed throughout the airport on the runway, apron, and segmented circle.

    Excessive tire tie-downs on the apron were removed.

    Multiple new information signs were installed.

    Excess trees and shrubs were removed from the perimeter to enhance safety and airport appeal.

    Thank-you to all of the volunteers who helped make the event a success!


  • December 22, 2022 12:15 | Anonymous

    The 54th Helicopter Squadron landed a UH-1N “Huey” at Glenburn Public School in Glenburn, North Dakota to allow students to tour the aircraft Sept. 27, 2022.

    The community event was brought to fruition from a simple conversation involving 1st Lt. Sarah Melton, a 54th HS pilot and a local girl in a café.

     “One of the little girls I met in the café asked me ‘Who are you, what do you do?’ and I said, ‘Well I fly helicopters up on base’,” said Melton. “And she said, ‘You fly helicopters!’ and I said, ‘Yeah do you want to see a picture?’ and her eyes just lit up.”

    Melton took the conversation to heart and decided she wanted to give the opportunity to all the kids in the Glenburn community a chance to see the helicopter up close and meet with the air crew.

    After months of coordinating with her squadron and the school, Melton was able to get all the required permissions to land a helicopter at the school’s softball field.

    Upon arriving at the school, the air crew was greeted by students ranging from kindergarten to seniors in high school.

    “It was cool to see them make the connection, to get to see them climb in and look at all the buttons and move the control sticks,” said Melton.

    Being able to contribute to the community youth was important to Melton, as she felt she could provide some inspiration for the kids who may one day want to join the armed forces.

    “If they don’t have any family members who work on base, they don’t really have a connection to it,” said Melton. “Especially, to see a lot of the little girls who had never thought about becoming pilots or military at all. It was cool to give them the option and opportunity to see they can do whatever they want.”

    Reprinted with permission from the 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

  • December 22, 2022 11:42 | Anonymous

    By Julie Theisen, Director of Business & Program Management, Northern Plains UAS Test Site

    The history of North Dakota aviation is impressive. The future of North Dakota aviation is even brighter, thanks to its leadership in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) infrastructure and technology.

    The Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), in partnership with Thales USA, a global technology leader and air traffic management provider, is in the process of creating Vantis, the statewide UAS system that will facilitate beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights across North Dakota. The program can be expanded into other states and regions, allowing commercial and innovative opportunities.

    James Cieplak, Vantis’ Program Director, recently spoke to an economic group in Minot, ND, and shared how the system will work and what commercial possibilities will be available as Vantis takes flight.

    The first point was how UAS is actually a misnomer, in terms of all of the people behind “unmanned” flying. 

    “It takes more men and women to fly an unmanned aircraft now, per FAA regulations and rules, than it does a manned aircraft,” said Cieplak, who has spent a long career in implementing advanced aviation-systems technology. 

    As the UAS industry grows, more and more people will be employed in it, both with direct piloting on the ground, as well as support industries. Vantis will make UAS (or drone) flights possible for longer distances, as well as safely integrated with traditionally piloted aircraft.

    Investing in the Future

    Thales USA is the system integrator for Vantis, deploying communications and surveillance infrastructure across the state, which enables operators to pilot UAS remotely and detect other aircraft in the airspace.

    When completed, Vantis will serve as a highway in the sky for UAS, opening up capabilities in a variety of industries including oil and gas or utility inspections, retail and medical deliveries, or agricultural enhancements.

    The state of North Dakota has made a multi-million-dollar investment through its legislature because it sees the economic possibilities, including uses not even envisioned yet. The state built on its decade-long history of UAS research, development, and commercialization at the NPUASTS to start the system now known as Vantis.

    “This is about commerce and economic development, not just putting up infrastructure,” Cieplak said.

    Scalable beyond North Dakota

    Positioning North Dakota as the leader within the UAS industry is the goal, and the economic benefits of being first to market in this particular space. In testing and facilitating repeatable and economically viable UAS flights, Vantis is developing an economic model that is scalable beyond the state. As Vantis expands beyond North Dakota, it will be able to generate revenue from service fees that go to the state’s general fund.

    “We are looking at additional revenue sources from Vantis. One is the ability to put this aviation infrastructure not just here in North Dakota,” Cieplak said. “All of that infrastructure can then be monitored from here, and we can actually have a fee for service for replicating this and putting it in other states.”

    Vantis utilizes North Dakota’s fiber optic infrastructure to connect test sites in Williston and Watford City to its newly opened Mission and Network Operations Center (MNOC) in Grand Forks. The MNOC just celebrated its grand opening in June 2022 and will serve as the system’s heart, as it expands across the state to Bismarck or Minot, and eventually beyond its borders.

    The system has already had real-world applications, as its groundwork helped North Dakota assess and prioritize utility repairs this spring following a blizzard. By utilizing drones to inspect damage in remote and inaccessible areas, utility companies were able to restore power more quickly to residents. 

    In the future, what is learned and perfected with Vantis can be applied to other fields of autonomy, not just in the air. The system can be used to help public transportation, snow removal, or any number of ideas. Cieplak said the program is looking at how it could be applied to agriculture and roads, as well. 

    For now, every BVLOS flight stakes North Dakota’s reputation as an aviation leader even further.

  • December 01, 2022 11:18 | Anonymous

    Where did you grow up? If not in North Dakota, how long have you lived here?

    I am originally from Washington, IL, which is mid-state, just across the Illinois River from Peoria. It’s a small farming community of about 6,000, but has grown over the years to 16,000 now. The main crops there are corn and soybeans, instead of all varieties of wheat and sunflowers. So, just a different look to the fields here, but the small town atmosphere is the same. We have been here 32 and a half years. We were stationed at Minot Air Force Base (AFB) in 1990 and decided to make North Dakota our home, after we both retired from the U.S. Air Force.

    My husband was in Vehicle Maintenance Control and Analysis, which did all the scheduling for maintenance for the entire vehicle fleet at the base, as well as handling accidents and such. We met in Sacramento at Mather AFB and married there.  We love the openness of North Dakota, it is truly a beautiful state, and we raise Deutsch Kurzhaars (true German Shorthair Pointers) and my husband loves the bird hunting here. Those are the main reasons we stayed.

    When did you first become interested in aviation?

    Growing up back home, Dad and Mom would take my sister and I to the airport on a Sunday afternoon, when you could park close to the airport just to watch the planes come and go. It was cheap entertainment for kids. I always loved watching them but never really seriously wanted to fly. My great-uncle was a B-17 waist gunner in WWII, killed in action over Holland almost at the war’s end, so aviation was there in my blood as well. When I was in junior college, just before I joined the Air Force, I got a tour of Peoria Tower and that’s when I really got hooked on air traffic control. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. 

    Where did you train for your ATC career? 

    I received my training in the Air Force at Keesler AFB, in Biloxi, MS. At the time, it was a five-month course, probably a lot more intense than it is now. The washout rate was extremely high then, at 87%.

    How many towers have you worked at?

    My first base was at Williams AFB, AZ, which is now Mesa Gateway Airport. I worked in radar there in the Ground Controlled Approach (GCA), which mainly did Precision Approach Radar (PAR) finals. It was extremely busy, as it was an undergraduate pilot training base, the busiest in the Air Force at the time. I then went to Mather AFB, CA, worked in the GCA there until it closed. Then I moved up the tower. It was the 10th busiest tower in the Air Force, as it was the navigator training base. They had a Strategic Air Command (SAC) wing of B-52’s and KC-135’s, as well as EC-135’s that could launch the Minuteman III missiles. It was very congested airspace with three airports within seven miles of each other, all trying to stay out of the other’s way. It was absolutely the best place to learn to work tower traffic. As I said, I met my husband there and from there, I went to Incirlik AB, Turkey, for a year, while he went to Korea. From there, we both returned to Ellsworth AFB, SD, for four years, then we went to RAF Alconbury, UK, for three years, ending up at Minot AFB. I was TDY several times while at Alconbury and went TDY to Bosnia while at Minot. So I’ve worked in about eight different towers, including Magic City Tower.

    Who has inspired you in your journey as a Controller?

    It would have to be my chief controller at Ellsworth AFB. He not only taught me how to be more organized, but also taught me how to treat people who worked under you and was great at working traffic. I’ll always be thankful to him. 

    When did you become Tower Manager?

    I started July 7, 1997. I retired from the Air Force on Friday the 5th and started at Minot on Monday, the 7. I was glad I was able to start right away, as I wouldn’t be rusty from not working for a while and then coming back. I had worked in both the tower and the Radar Approach Control (RAPCON), so I was familiar with the airspace and General Aviation traffic already. I just had to learn how to work it in the tower. I became the manager in May 2006, when the air traffic manager decided to retire, and remained the manager until I retired. So I had two full ATC careers, 22 years in the Air Force and 25 years as a contract controller with Midwest ATC.

    What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

    That one’s tough, but I’d have to say it’s the controllers I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve worked with some truly outstanding people, who have helped me grow as a controller and become the best I could. But it’s also getting people safely to and from places they need to go, and definitely helping the Minot community during the flood of 2011. The tower conducted over 1,300 helicopter operations alone, most of them in the valley where we couldn’t see them, just giving traffic advisories of who was in the valley, all without a single incident. Anything we could do to help the community, we were glad to do, including keeping sightseeing tourists out of the airspace. There were too many important recovery flights going on, not to mention the loss of people’s homes that didn’t need to be seen.

    Do you have a favorite story from your time in ATC?

    Again, that’s kind of tough, but there’s one that always sticks in my mind. It was here at Minot and a student was returning from the southwest practice area to the traffic pattern. Since the tower does not have radar, we always ask for position reports and rely heavily on their accuracy. He had initially said he was seven miles east, so I told him to report a two mile right base Runway 31. I had other traffic arriving from the north, so I asked his position and he said five miles east. I kept looking and looking but couldn’t see anything, so I asked him his position, and again he said five miles east, over the trestle bridge. I immediately turned around, looked to the southwest and sure enough there he was, over the trestle bridge. I told him if he was over the trestle, it was physically impossible to be five miles east, unless the bridge moved. He then corrected his position rather sheepishly and came in to land. Still makes me laugh to this day, only time I had to point out that a bridge couldn’t move.

    What are your plans for retirement? 

    Right now, I’m mostly just going to enjoy life, spending more time with my husband and furkids, visiting my sister and her family in Minneapolis, MN, and just watching the snow go by this winter and not having to worry about getting out in it. Next summer, I hope to have a larger garden, be more involved in dog training, and do lots of walking to get ready for the Susan G. Komen 3Day Walk for the Cure in San Diego next November. My husband and I hope to do some traveling, once he decides to retire. I’ll keep in touch with the controllers and airport staff, but that will probably be it as far as aviation is concerned. After being a controller for 47 years, it’s time for a change. 

    What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an Air Traffic Controller?

    If you decide to become a controller, look at your options on how to become one. The military is a great experience, especially the Air Force, as that’s all you do in the Air Force as opposed to the other branches. The FAA Academy is a good way to start and they do have periods where they hire off the street to go to the academy in Oklahoma City. There are a few private ATC schools but they are pretty expensive. Probably 75% of the FAA is made up of prior military controllers. If you can get a tour of your local tower, set one up with the manager, they are usually happy to accommodate. High school students can request a job shadow, especially here in Minot. Talk with the controllers, as they can give you a lot of good insight into the job. It is an absolutely great career where every day, every hour, is never the same.

    A sincere thank you to Jan for the lasting impact you have made on North Dakota aviation during your career, and congratulations on your retirement!

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