The Minam River Lodge (Minam Lodge sits deep inside the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.  Use at your discretion), airlift was an outstanding success, with 25-plus volunteers in 20-plus planes flying multiple sorties between Joseph, Oregon, and the lodge, on April 14th and 15th. The volunteer crews ferried new supplies in and roughly 50 years of accumulated debris out. The effort was a mutual gain: Pilots based out of Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California got a chance to visit the wilderness and help out the new owners and hands working to clean up the lodge and in exchange everyone will have cleaner and better facilities to enjoy for future recreational flying.

“This whole thing came about when RAF contacted the new owner, Barnes Ellis, last fall to request that the lodge and airstrip remain open to private pilots and at the same time asked if there was anything it could do to help,” said John McKenna, RAF president. “The concept of the airlift was born through the RAF, with the assistance of BackcountryPilots.org, Oregon Pilots Association and Idaho Aviation Association got word spread and pilots answered the call.”

Weather conditions were acceptable with winds increasing in the afternoon. Before operations ceased, the majority of trash had been removed and new mattresses, food and supplies delivered. “It was great to see so many pilots pulling together to keep access to places like Minam,” said Mike Hart, RAF Idaho liaison. “When you fall in love with a place like this, you do what you can to keep it open. RAF and other pilot groups are really about putting the spirit of cooperation to good use.”

The volunteer work crew spent the night and had a chance for a little rest and mostly to reflect on the days accomplishments.  New friends were made and great stories told.

RAF would like to extend a big thank you to Bill Ables for his tireless effort and incredible competence in organizing the event and keeping it safe. Thanks also goes to the lodge owners and ground crews, especially crew chief and load master Aaron Gilles. And last but not least, a big shout out to all of the pilots involved in the airlift and all of the organizations that helped get the word out. It was an incredible success.

Submitted on April 17, 2012. 

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