A person doesn’t forget Rachel Thompson. Wife of RAF Oklahoma Liaison Steve Thompson, she steps out of his gleaming Cessna 180 in the middle of the backcountry, unloads all the fixin’s for a week’s worth of baking, and gets to work. Within an hour, the aroma of something wonderful baking is in the air. If the task is clearing brush, Rachel exchanges oven mitts for work gloves, and works as hard as everyone else.
Thompsons have a hangar home in Ardmore, OK, and they fly all over the country enjoying recreational flying and volunteering on RAF projects from Montana to Arkansas. “Ryan Field is one of our favorites,” Rachel says. “It has everything you want, especially the wood cookstove.” During one work party, she turned out chocolate, coconut, and banana cream pies, while Margie Prill added apple pies that motivated the barn-raising crew. Rachel pointed out that she and Steve met Ben and Butchie early on at a Ryan fly-in, a memory that Rachel cherishes.
Rachel was surrounded with airplanes from childhood. Her dad took her flying in his Cub and Rachel loved the maneuvers. Her brother is a rated pilot and often flew with his best friend Steve, leading to the couple eventually getting together. “I always had that love of flying, but with raising a family and work, I had a different life. I remember baking cookies for the fellas to take on flights into the mountains, while I stayed on the ground,” she said. Reflecting on her life’s path, she says, “Now I’m living my dream. It’s worked out magical.”
Her youngest son Jackson “is fixin’ to be 21,” and has his Private, bought a Cessna 150 and is gaining more ratings at Summit Aviation in Bentonville, and enjoys flying into Ozarks turf fields. With the growing number of pilots in the family, Rachel says, “We hope all three of our boys get to come and enjoy Ryan Field.”
“We get to see things others never dream of,” Rachel says. “Prisms over Yellowstone, herds of elk on mountaintops . . . and thanks to the RAF building and taking care of these airstrips, my son’s generation will get to enjoy them for the rest of their lives.” (And both Rachel and Steve have played a large part in many of those efforts. Steve can operate a huge excavator as skillfully as he flies his 180.)
“RAF people are genuine, lifelong friends,” she added, “and there’s nothin’ better.”
Submitted on August 15, 2022