Ty Thoreson – The Next Generation of Back Country Pilots

I have lived in Montana my entire life, other than the year I spent in Iraq, and have wanted to learn to fly my since I was a little kid.

It all started when I was about 6 years old. Bill Meeks from Geraldine took me on a fishing trip in his Super Cub to the Missouri River just outside of Winifred. I can’t recall the strip we landed on. Actually, it might have been just a hay field on his property, but either way, it was amazing. We duct-taped the fishing poles to the struts and off we went.

I remember vividly being told not to touch the stick in the back seat. It was like he was reading my mind. That’s all I wanted to do the whole flight, but I refrained and we made it safely. Unfortunately, I don’t think the fishing was very good, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get back in his plane.

From that day on, all I have wanted to do is fly. So when Veterans Affairs sent me a letter stating that there was a new GI Bill available to post-9/11 veterans, I took advantage of it and in January 2010, I enrolled in Rocky Mountain College’s aviation program. Now, here I am a Private Pilot and almost done with my Instrument Rating.

When I first decided that I wanted to become a pilot, the best advice I was given was if you want to become a pilot, surround yourself with pilots. Sooner or later the right opportunity will come around to you. It was truly great advice. At the Aeronautical Convention in Helena this year, I met many pilots and made some wonderful contacts. One of them was John McKenna, chairman of the RAF. I approached John with the intent of acquiring an internship with RAF for the summer. He explained to me that they were intending on taking on an intern at RAF, but that he would have to contact me when he had a chance to talk it over with the rest of the board. He said that the RAF needed some help organizing maintenance of the airstrips in Montana and to come up with some ideas of my own and get back in touch with him a little later in the month.

Pictured from left to right: John McKenna, President RAF, Ty Thoreson, student and Brian Springer, Gallatin Field Airport Manager.

The next week John contacted me with some info on an internship, not with RAF but with the Bozeman Airport. At first I was sort of dumb founded. Why was this guy giving me info about another internship? To tell the truth I had no idea that the Bozeman Airport had an internship available, but sharing knowledge is the great thing about Montana’s. Anyhow, I took John’s advice, applied for the internship and went to Bozeman for an interview. It was the most exciting and scary interview I have ever been in, but I walked out confident that it went well and also glad that it was over. The next week, I received a call from the deputy airport director. I had the job if I wanted it and if so, when could I start? After a few deep breaths and a celebratory fist pump, I quickly replied, “As soon as I can. ”

The internship started just 10 days after the end of the semester. It all happened a lot faster than I thought it would, but that’s just the way I wanted it. I am extremely excited to be back in Bozeman, even more excited to be part of the Bozeman Airport, and really appreciate how John and Tricia McKenna went out of their way to help me get the internship.