RAF isn’t just about flying the Rockies

Not every RAF success story is tied in with remote backcountry airstrips.  Sometimes it can be about partnering with more ‘traditional’ aviation groups for the betterment - and fun - of everyone.  One such example was the recent RAF Rodeo Weekend held in Arcadia, Florida.  A local airport support group blossomed at this orphaned municipal airport with the goal of making it both economically healthier and also a true recreational destination.  They saw what the RAF is about - not just protecting and supporting recreational airstrips but also enjoying them! - and asked if maybe we didn’t have a lot in common and should combine forces.

Now it might bust a stereotype or two, but Florida is cattle country.  In fact, it grazes more cattle than Texas.  It’s also part of the professional rodeo circuit.  And “little Arcadia” (Pop:  7,612) hosts the Grandaddy of Florida rodeos:  the 85-year young Florida Championship Rodeo.  “What if we hosted you folks for Rodeo Weekend, and you got us started with having weekend campouts under The Big Oak by our grass strip?” asked George Chase, the Friends of Arcadia Airport President.  And that’s just what we did.

Fun always seems to be part of the RAF agenda, but it’s a rare RAF event that doesn’t also have some higher purpose in the mix.  That was true in spades with this RAF Weekend.  Hard though it is to imagine, the City Council had never considered allowing an ‘aviation group’ to visit their airport before…let alone to camp out (gasp!)  But as Friends worked through each issue, the entire region ended up being part of the RAF’s Welcoming Committee.  The County Administrator drove the taxi van, the President of the Rodeo Association offered everyone special tickets, and the City Council welcomed the guests. 

While it was unique, this Friday-Sunday event was like many other RAF events:  new friends made, a fun activity involving everyone, and even an adventure or two like getting a borrowed 6-man tent set up in the dark.  But it was more than that, too.  Friends has demonstrated to its city government the potential their airport holds, Friends future is now on more solid footing, and there’s already planning afoot for Rodeo Weekend 2015.  Which the City Council won’t be gasping about.

Want to watch the weekend?  You’ll find a short Youtube video on it here.

Sun 'n Fun 2014

Its springtime and time once again for Sun ‘n Fun!.  The RAF will be there in Lakeland, FL again but don’t come looking for us at our old “on-the-pavement” location, we’ve moved to the woods, lakeside, under live oak trees draped with Spanish moss – that’s where we belong and that’s where you’ll find us; out by the campground at the RAF Fire Hub.

Map to the RAF Fire Hub

Each day our activities start at 6:30 AM; we’ll be fire side with piping hot coffee and what we promise are the best donuts you have ever tasted

Throughout the day, stop by and take a break in the shade.  You’ll meet RAF board members, state liaisons and other friends and members. It’s a great time to catch up on all that is going on; we’ve got recreational airstrip destinations opening up across the country, plenty of activities planned for your summer flying and lots of other exciting news to share.

For some fun we’ll be holding a tent pitching competition throughout the day, we’re calling the RAF Tent Rodeo.  As a couple, team or by yourself, pitch a tent you’ve never seen, in the fastest time and win one of the daily prizes. you’ll also be registered for the week’s-end grand prize drawing.

In the evening we’ll build the fire and provide the best place to relax and spend time with friends old and new.  Musicians, bring your instrument and we’ll play music and sing songs into the night.

The annual RAF member’s appreciation dinner is Thursday evening 6:30 PM at the RAF Fire Hub. This event always brings together aviation industry leaders and friends from around the world.  

This year we are doing a potato bake – we’re serving up baked potatoes with all the toppings to create your own culinary masterpiece.  Lemonade will be served, otherwise BYOB.

Be sure to stop by the RAF Fire Hub before Thursday evening and register for the event. Not a member? You can join on-line click here  or at the RAF Fire Hub during SnF. 

For your convenience, all during the week, we will be running a golf cart shuttle from the southwest end of the vendor display hangar “D” to and from the RAF Fire Hub.

We are looking forward to a great week; the weather is forecast to be perfect with cool days and chilly nights that will be just right for Fire Hub gatherings we can’t wait to see you there!

                                                                                  Fire hub picture courtesy of George Kounis - Pilot Getaways


Bob Kay passes suddenly

Words cannot describe the sense of loss we felt at the news of the sudden passing of RAF Washington State Liaison Bob Kay. Bob was known by many RAF supporters, and set a high bar for the position of Liaison. He regularly organized effective work parties, collaborated successfully with Washington State Dep’t of Transportation on airstrip projects, and shepherded legislation through the state capitol adding aviation to its Recreational Use Statute (RUS.) Bob’s career in aviation is full of remarkable military and civilian accomplishments, of which he spoke seldom. He preferred to focus on the RAF mission, usually with work gloves on, filling gopher holes at one of his favorite backcountry strips.

Rol Murrow, RAF Board member, reflects all our thoughts in this message, “Bob was a treasure and his contributions to all of us as friend, mentor, example, and major contributor to the future of recreational aviation will live on and forever enrich our lives and those to come.”

Bob’s wife and avid supporting partner Jo Schumacher stated Bob’s passion best with this message:

 I want you all to know that Bob LOVED the RAF and every last one of you. Flying and the outdoors were his passions. I want all of you to know that I and the family appreciate what each of you have given Bob.  I especially understand his depth of passion for flying and all it entails.


Bob leaves his beloved family – wife Jo, sister Maureen and brother-in-law Ray, son Kevin, daughter Tammy, and grandchildren Skyler, Lila, Kaitlyn and Megan and their families.

Jo concluded with this request, “I would love to hear your Bob stories,” and announced that a celebration of Bob’s life will be planned.  Please send cards and notes to Jo Schumacher at 17427 SE 288th St, Kent, WA 98042-9469

Ron Normandeau Wins Spark Plug Award

No Surprise

 At the recent Montana Pilots Association’s (MPA)30th annual gathering the RAF’s own Ron Normandeau was the recipient of the Spark Plug Award. This particular award is given to an individual who energizes the membership of the MPA. Ron was recognized for his behind the scenes efforts to lead the planning effort on numerous United States Forest Service plans in the state of MT. Ron is the acknowledged expert on government planning process. Who would have thought that the RAF would be fortunate enough to have the kind of talent that Ron brings to the team. We could not be more pleased that the MPA recognized Ron for what he does not only in MT but all across the country.

Pictured on the right: Scott Newpower, President MPA, Ron Normandeau and John McKenna, President RAF

RAF board meeting held in Denver

RAF board members take a popcorn break during their daylong meeting recently in Denver, Colorado.

Signature Flight Support hosted the meeting in their facility at Denver International Airport.  We would like to thank Signature for their support and generosity.

All board members were present including vice-president-elect Reade Genzlinger, secretary/treasurer Tim Clifford and board members Rol Murrow, Pete Bunce, Steve Johnson and Alan Metzler. Colorado liaison Patrick Romano attended as well.

In addition to covering regular meeting agenda items, Patrick Romano presented an exhaustive inventory of Colorado airstrips. He included strips that are open for use, private or haven’t been used for many years. Many pilots seem unaware that 30 plus backcountry recreational airstrips exist along the Front Range and on the Western Slope. It took a lot of work both in the air and on the ground to first identify their locations and then research ownership and access.  According to Patrick the strips range from open without needing permission to those that are currently closed and for sale. He now plans to work through the list to gain access everywhere possible.  We know that getting “aviation” added to the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (RUS) should facilitate access to many of these destinations.

Tim Clifford commented, “board members continue to be excited about the future of the RAF.  The RAF is driven by passion for aviation with a strong volunteer force and the future is looking very bright”.

2013 Year End

Surprised?  So am I.  Over ten years ago, six individuals sat around a campfire and concluded that something needed to be done to save recreational and backcountry airstrips as well as the unique opportunities they provide. This month marks our ten year anniversary since the RAF officially incorporated.  Our surprise comes from the fact that we never really dreamed so many of you would share our concern; it’s funny how that has worked out. That original group of six has multiplied 1000 times to nearly 6000 members. Thank you for the strong showing of interest, involvement and financial support over these last ten years.

Now we’re really going to work!  And, we’re asking you to help us with our building campaign. Don't worry, the RAF is not breaking ground on a headquarters or even expanding the infrastructure of the organization.  What we want is to build is a stronger community of supporters - people like you who have been willing to bring us this far. Quite frankly, we need money to do that.

Today the RAF has a voice that counts; one that congressional decision makers want to hear. A voice that is respected by public land managers in the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management as well as with state land managers and private airstrip owners from Maine to Florida, from Washington to California and all points in between. You and your organization have made a difference and you should be proud.

Whether it is our network of state liaisons or our science and environmental committee, the RAF is fortunate to have the best crew of volunteer folks that any organization could expect to have. We just need more like them doing more good and while these fine individuals donate their time and effort, it just takes real money to support their activities - dollars that come from you.

We know this time of year brings a lot of requests for your donation dollars.  We hope you will take a strong look at the RAF and ask yourself: Is this something I believe in?  Is this something that gives me good value for my donation? Are they getting things done?  Our website lists some of our recent successes.  I hope you will take the time to review them.  We think you will agree that things are getting done – recreational aviation opportunities are growing at an exciting pace.

So here is your RAF at the 10th year anniversary. We need you now more than ever.  You should know that we take your investment in the RAF serious. Should you have any questions, the names and phone numbers of your RAF directors are listed on this website, just click here. We always want to know how you feel, and what we need to do to continue earning both your financial assistance and your willingness to encourage your friends to join the RAF.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you out there soon.

RAF Christmas

Christmas Day is one that is filled with good memories for me. I grew up surrounded by family and friends who were more interested in giving than receiving. As a little guy I remember my uncle, who was the mechanical engineer of the family, staying up later than the rest. Not until many years later did I learn that it was his job to take care of those items that had some assembly required. Friends stopped by and visits to the neighbors down the road were part of the routine. That day of the year was seemingly about relationships and spending time with people that were important to our family.  

So goes it with the Recreational Aviation Foundation. We have grown to be quite a family and that is how I hope we are known to others. Our RAF family is special in that we truly appreciate the gift of flight that binds us together, and we are even more appreciative for the gift of flying to unique places that many have never experienced.

Many of you are just like that uncle of mine; you stay up late just to make sure that those things that need attention get taken care of. Often without mentioning your handiwork to others in the RAF family.

 The gift that our family is giving to aviation this year is one that we know will endure. It will not wear out, nor go out of style, but rather provide memories for future members of the  family to enjoy and pass down for years to come.

Thanks to Mike Todd for sharing this photo with us.

Merry Christmas to all,

John McKenna

President RAF

Just in case you missed it

RAF president, John McKenna was a guest on Al Watelroo’s radio talk show on Sunday evening.

They really had a great time and we want to share the link just in case you missed the show.  Al’s comments were, “What a great show! We had a fabulous time.  You can definitely tell that John is incredibly passionate about the RAF mission.  The RAF so cool”!

Click here to listen to the show.

Giving Tuesday

Now that the Thanksgiving weekend is in the rear view mirror the Recreational Aviation Foundation has a thought for you. Somehow this holiday seems to get mixed in with reasons to go buy something. Black Friday kicks things off on our about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which I have not fully figured out. If it really is Black Friday why does it all now start on Wednesday and last thru Saturday.

We get a day of rest and here comes Cyber Monday. In case you missed your opportunity to buy locally, now we get the chance to buy online. Interesting note, I searched the websites and found no half off deals on new backcountry planes. Maybe we ought to all get together and encourage that for 2014. Who knows it just might work?

Well not to be outdone the nonprofits of the world have now created Giving Tuesday. Thousands of individuals, corporations, non-profits, and institutions are joining in the 'giving spirit' and helping to support  their favorite causes from across the nation and around the world. We at the RAF believe that Giving Tuesday could be the best reason to get in the holiday mood. By now I suspect you have heard from one or more of your favorite charitable organizations about why you should send some funds to them in response to their Giving Tuesday plea. I hope you will take a moment and consider doing just that. It seems that we feel the best when we know we may have really helped someone out.

Here is the part that is likely different from the other requests that you will be getting from other charitable organizations on this occasion. The RAF recognizes how truly fortunate we are. None of us have to look far from our own front doors to get a look at many who are not as lucky as those of us who enjoy the freedoms that aviation has to offer, particularly backcountry flying.

I hope that you also feel reaching out to those that are in need is a good idea, whatever that may mean to each of you individually.  If, after you have done that, and you still have a few bucks left over the RAF would be happy to be a benefactor to that. 

In the meantime, the best to you for Giving Tuesday.  Click here if you would like to give to the RAF.

Oklahoma adds aviation; pilots show appreciation!

RAF and SuperCub.org member Mike Sisemore of Big Cabin, OK recently reported that his very popular “Tail-Dragger Fly-In” (OK18) will resume on Oklahoma soil again, thanks to the enactment of HB 1009 which amended the Recreational Use Statute, adding aviation activities to the statute.  “With the help of Forrest Woods from the Tenkiller Lake Airport we “made the right contact with Rep. Mike Brown. He quickly saw the benefit of this legislation,” Sisemore explained. “We then contacted Sen. Sean Burrage who was willing to carry the bill in the Senate, and that gave us the momentum we needed,” Sisemore added. “I want to thank the RAF, AOPA and especially Forrest Woods, Ed Fogle, Kirby Crowe RAF state liaisons, Steve Thompson, from Oklahoma and Dave Myrick of Arkansas for blazing the trail for us. This makes Oklahoma the twentieth to add aviation to its recreation law.” Sisemore points out additional language that – so far – is unique to Oklahoma: This bill provides attendees can contribute toward food and expenses without triggering “commercial use” status. This is significant, and will serve to encourage similar events that cost money to host.


Sisemore’s event is wildly popular, seeing 60 or more airplanes from as far away as California, New York, and many states in between. One look at the strip and you can see why it draws such a crowd. Sisemore added, “Because Arkansas had already passed their pro-aviation bill, we had to move the event across the state line to Gastons at Lakeview, AR. In celebration of our own recent success, we hosted the OK18 Fall Fly-In Nov. 1—3, 2013 here again.” 


Rep. Mike Brown concluded his official statement about the new legislation, stating that the bill “is a win for pilots, landowners, the public, and the economic development of Oklahoma.”


Sisemore will host the 2014 annual Tail-Dragger Fly-In (OK18) on Memorial Day weekend, and again it will feature a poker run to benefit the Recreational Aviation Foundation. Naturally, many of the friends he’s made on SuperCub.Org enjoy the OK18 “Tail-Dragger Fly-In, but Sisemore – currently the owner of a pair of C-182s – quickly points out that all makes are welcome to enjoy the event!

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