Over 120 RAF volunteers and noted speakers from across the country gathered in Bozeman for the RAF’s biennial Education Conference May 16-19. A dozen flew their own GA aircraft, lining BZN’s ramp with an impressive array. One stalwart volunteer, RAF Maine Liaison Andy Rowe, took honors for longest distance road trip in his electric SUV with its “RAF ORG” personalized license plate.

Two full-day learning sessions sizzled with fresh imagery of new innovations in aviation and mission fulfillment. Flight Aware’s Dan Baker said their goal isn’t just to display aircraft position, it’s to make aviation safer, and “get more people to their destinations on time.” Charlie Gregoire of Redbird Simulators said their mission is to keep pilots engaged in aviation long term. Redbird’s new curriculum includes backcountry training. Michael Leek demonstrated the impressive Simuvation mobile flight training studio with Redbird’s RAF-branded full-motion simulator and welcomed conference attendees to experience the sim.

Other presentations included the US Forest Service National Dispersed Recreation Program Manager Scott Haas, AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker, Idaho Aviation Association President Andrew George, and Aviat-Husky representatives.

In response to the increase in backcountry usage, the RAF has created the Backcountry Etiquette Team, (BET) and they announced upcoming multilateral messaging regarding respectful backcountry flying practices, similar to Tread Lightly!, a new RAF collaborator.

The crowd was awed by the reveal of the updated interactive Airfield Guide. “This group encompasses some very deep talent,” RUS Liaison Rick McCraw from Vermont observed.

“Sure, we build shelters,” RAF Chairman John McKenna said, adding, “but we build community. And there’s no fence around our community.”

Messages poured in afterwards, such as this from Scott and Barbara Heck: “We continue to be amazed at the volunteer efforts and dedication of RAF members, ambassadors, liaisons and board Members. Because of those volunteers, the RAF is able to “put to work” 84% of all donated dollars. Now that is a high bar!”

John Meade, RAF New Hampshire Liaison wrote, “This was a very well-prepared conference. Probably the best I have ever attended.”

Steve Thompson, RAF Oklahoma Liaison wrote, “I’m humbled by how many people give something to the organization. We gathered a lot of new information from the speakers.”

Lisa Ballantyne, who serves as an RAF VP of Appreciation wrote, “The RAF community is built on honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love.” John Whitelaw, Washington State volunteer added, “The RAF is truly blessed with the best!

See a video of conference highlights here.

The RAF wholeheartedly thanks these generous sponsors who made this educational conference event a success:
Aviat Husky
Beegles Aircraft
Burwell Industries
Capital Flight
Cirrus Aircraft
General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA)
Jet Aviation
McKenna Financial
Redbird Flight Simulations
The Cedar Table

Submitted June 14, 2024
By Carmine Mowbray

Photo by Jake Peterson

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