It’s hard to believe that Ron Normandeau’s aircraft started out as a box of airplane parts. Ron, of Polson, Montana built a beautiful 1947 Aeronca Chief and now enjoys flying his own plane. He began flying in 1962 between junior and senior high school years, and earned his license. Ron’s wife Kathi earned her private license shortly after high school, as well, learning from her father who was an instructor. They made an interesting couple, flying together in their early years together.
Their son Brett joined the Marine Corps on graduation from high school and was an airframe mechanic on the Harrier jump jet for his five-year tour. During college, Brett joined the Montana Army Air Guard. He earned his ATP and flew for Envoy Air (American Airlines’ largest regional) for a few years before flying Blackhawks full-time for the Guard. “I always supported Brett’s desire to participate in aviation,” Ron says. “Last summer he got his tailwheel endorsement in my Aeronca.”
Ron’s 32-year military career includes a year-and-a-half as combat engineer, Special Forces. He was assigned to the National Guard as an active duty advisor to Company C 19th Special Forces, reenlisted, and attended State OCS and was an A-team commander for two years. In the Reserves he spent 16 years evaluating guard and reserve units for readiness; and nine years as executive officer and commander of an Engineer Battalion.
A cup of coffee at Polson Airport led to Ron’s involvement in the RAF in 2004. He met RAF co-founder Chuck Jarecki, who took him along to RAF organizational meetings, work parties, and meetings with public agencies. In 2005 the RAF recruited Ron for its Montana State Liaison, one of the earliest to wear the signature orange shirt.
Ron brings vast skills to the RAF, having majored in Forest Engineering, specializing in Photogrammetry/Cartography. While in college he was a smokejumper, Forest Service Indian liaison officer and forestry technician. On graduation, he joined the US Geological Survey, doing field surveys. He spent two years in Washington, DC in top secret work; then transferred to Denver’s Cartography division where he participated in the transition from manual to digital mapping. He wrapped up his lengthy career with the US Forest Service as Cartography/Photogrammetry supervisor.
“Eventually, I found myself doing more consulting with other RAF Liaisons on public agency matters. I discussed this with RAF President Bill McGlynn and he suggested I become the RAF Public Agency Consultant. I handle calls for guidance almost every week,” Ron says. And other RAF Liaisons are grateful for his experience and help.
“I hope to participate in a new program the Forest Service has initiated called ‘Re-imagine Recreation.’ The object is to create a plan for recreation, addressing the great numbers of visitors to the National Forests, and the change in recreational emphasis,” he says. His pursuit of the RAF mission will be part of Ron’s approach.
Ron has another passion. Golf – but with a cartographer’s passion. “My one other consuming interest is golf course measurement,” Ron says, explaining his intent. “Establishing a difficulty rating for the golf course. In conjunction with an individual’s handicap, it would allow fair competition between players of different skill levels.”
Submitted on May 12, 2023.
Ron was a major worker at Ryan Field, helping to make the place what it is today.
Ron is a treasure trove of information, insight, and guidance. When he speaks, it is wise to listen carefully as there is always something to learn!
When we were building the Ryan Field Cabins a few years ago, Ron was my go to guy- afterwards, I sent him an email thanking him for all his help- His reply-
” Its the most fun I’ve had in years!
He’s a treasure for the RAF!!
Thanks to Ron for so willingly sharing his expertise with anyone who asks. He is indeed an asset to the RAF team!