Twin Bridges Fly-In Car Show
Ruby Valley Aviation Welcome New EAA Young Eagles with a Ride in the Big Sky
The sun shone through the occasional cloud and the wind was calm at the Twin Bridges Airport’s Fly-In Car show June 15. The favorable flying conditions contributed to a good turnout at the biennial event.
Cars exposed their engines and flaunted their restored bodies beside the airport’s hangar for people to appreciate and ask the owners questions. The sound of propellers hummed ahead as planes took turns using the runway for landings and take-offs.
About 30 children became Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles as they soared the big sky with their EAA volunteer pilots. Grounded parents, some more anxious than others, waited on the tarmac for their children to land safely from a 10-minute loop in the Ruby Valley. Children, ages 8 through 17, saw a bird’s-eye view of the event and the Tobacco Root Mountain Range, as tower-commands crackled in their headphones.
EAA’s Young Eagles program has been introducing children to aviation with free introductory flights for 25 years. Their mission is to spark an aviation interest in children and inspire them in flight. According to their website, over two million children have flown with an EAA volunteer to become a Young Eagle.
“The average age of a pilot keeps going up and that’s something that worries us,” Twin Bridges Airport owner, Beau Bradley said. “Pilots have to get and keep kids interested.”
About 20 pilots volunteered for the event, which included games and competitions for everyone. The Montana Rotary Club held a fundraiser and cooked brunch for visitors to purchase. The host, Ruby Valley Aviation, provided Pit Stop BBQ at the potluck dinner for about 250 guests, and Ruby Valley Brewery created a special brew for the event called 100 Low Lead, which is the type of fuel used at the Twin Bridges Airport.
“What we want the community to know is that these are their airports and we want them involved and know what’s going on,” Bradley said.
Bradley was introduced to flying while serving in the army in the 70s. The army also introduced him to long-time friend and fourth generation Montanan, Bill Gulch. Gulch and his son Jack flew their helicopter from White Sulfur Springs to give veterans, and an impromptu reporter, a chance to experience the smooth ride. With the doors screwed off and passengers fastened, the Ruby Valley grew vast while its features grew smaller beneath the helicopter.
Gulch uses his helicopter for many things, including the assistance in a search and rescue mission that prompted his early departure. The call came shortly after the Ping Pong Drop, where Jack dumped a large box of ping-pong balls from the edge of the helicopter. Children scavenged the field below, collecting them for their chance to win one of the over 50 prizes awarded.
Pilots and co-pilots grabbed colorful sacks of flour and blowing balls fused with leather handles to compete in the pilot games. The dotted stream of planes rotating in a large airspace took turns swooping low and aiming for a 55-gallon barrel. Brightly-colored clouds exploded from their wrappings as they hit the ground.
Ken Flikkema from Bozeman won the flour bombing contest, and Rob McDowell won the airplane bowling contest. They were awarded 10 gallons of free fuel.
Cash prizes were awarded to the category winning cars and planes. Flikkema’s 1951 L-19 Bird Dog airplane won $500 for the people’s choice award. Jim Crump from Bozeman, with his 1940 Fairchild plane, won $300 for the oldest plane. Eric Nelson traveled from California in his 2001 Mooney Screaming Eagle, winning $200 for traveling the farthest.
The car show attracted an assortment of vehicles, from muscle to old luxury cars. The people chose Bob Bradley’s 1951 Ford Pickup, earning him a $500 cash prize. Judges awarded Garey Avis’ 1932 Ford Roadster with $300, and Ken Foran won $200 for the restoration on his 1956 VW Beetle.