Our many RAF supporters have such vast and varied experience, and we’re capturing some of their words of wisdom to share with you. This month’s guest editorial is by Christine Mortine, a CFI and an RAF Liaison.

A Family of Independents, A Community of Joy:

If you hang a suet feeder for woodpeckers, use the type with an extender for their tails. Bluebirds and chickadees don’t need it, but the woodpeckers do. I love seeing a Downy swoop in, land, using three points of contact – two feet and a tail – mains and a tailwheel.

I connect with woodpeckers, as they are often solo, at the feeder or navigating through the forest. I enjoy flying solo too, especially cross country. A former flight student reached out and asked if he could join me flying from Ohio to Ryan Field, Montana. I didn’t reply right away, and he wisely sent another note saying, ‘What was I thinking! I know you covet alone time in your plane!” Thanks to his follow-up note, we did fly that cross country together. And it was great. Maybe I should do that more often.

I see my bird feeders stay unused for hours, then suddenly, like a dinner bell for birds’ ears only, they all come at once. Call me crazy, but I also relate to that as a pilot. We are scattered everywhere and when a fly-in gets organized, we converge all at once. Those are the times lifelong memories are made.

While at an RAF Fly-In at Bob and Judy Gillette’s Lakewood Lodge, I declined the gracious offer of a bed in a bedroom in favor of my tent, to their utter surprise. Sleep eluded me that night as I didn’t want to miss a thing in the delicious space away from a city. I was rewarded with a long, melancholy owl duet in the middle of the night, all under a bright full moon. What is it with me and birds?

Pilots, by the very nature of the job, are independent. To land in a backcountry field and have all you need for days requires that skill. Herding a bunch of independent types and creating one of the best darn organizations around is just what the RAF has managed to create.

I flew two RAF-interested pilots to North Fox Island, 6Y3. Before heading out I called Brad Frederick to check conditions and see if there was anything I could do while there.  He said everything was pretty good and to let him know how high the runway turf had gotten. Our trip day arrived, and while flying over the runway for a healthy look, we spied a parked aircraft. I’ll be darned if Brad hadn’t shown up that morning to mow the field for us. That’s the RAF Way.

When I needed a new C185 to replace the one that took care of me in an unplanned off-field landing, it didn’t take long for our RAF family to find an amazing replacement, from an amazing RAF member. So “Red Fox” stays in the family.  

When I was invited to write this piece, a part of me thought I should write about flight instruction and such, as I’m blessed to be serving in that profession. But I keep coming back to the RAF community. Yes, there’s significance in the places we save, news we spread, the safety we promote. But for this solo natured bird, the community is a highlight. A former concert soprano who showed up to rehearsals with no makeup and wearing hiking boots, I am a happy camper in this aviation world, and with the RAF family.

I love being a part of our honorable, kind, hard working flock. Unlike our backyard birds, we clean up our messes, leaving a place better than we found it, and with the joy of partnerships flying both near and far!

Josh and Christine celebrate after arriving at Ryan Field from Ohio.

Christine Mortine had a twenty-five year career as a classical musician before shifting from conducting instruments to flying by them. She is a full time flight instructor and FAA appointment designated pilot examiner. She was fortunate to grow up camping and backpacking for weeks at a time, and continues to this day. She volunteers as an RAF Ohio Liaison.


  1. Jeanne MacPherson on March 1, 2024 at 6:57 pm

    Beautifully written. Thank you Christine. Thank you RAF!

  2. Robyn Holdman. Dunlap on March 2, 2024 at 10:27 am

    Loved the article. I’m hoping our paths will cross again in the future at some back country airstrip. Oregon Robyn (yet another bird)

    • Christine on March 18, 2024 at 8:09 pm

      See you soon, I am sure !

  3. Perry Brown on March 2, 2024 at 8:11 pm

    Great write up Christine. Thank you. And thank you to our RAF family.

  4. Tom Scott on March 4, 2024 at 4:37 pm

    Very nice article Christine. I purchased 585PM from an RAF member and in turn sold Red Fox to a wonderful RAF member! How lucky are we to be part of such a fine group. Thank you RAF…

    • Christine on March 4, 2024 at 9:43 pm

      High Five, Tom, and thank you! She’s flying beautifully.

  5. Debbie on March 5, 2024 at 7:43 pm

    Such an incredible journey! Love it!!!

  6. Anita Miller on March 6, 2024 at 7:45 am

    Beautifully said. Thanks for the inspiration.

Leave a Comment