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 Finley Taylor, an 18 year old commercial pilot and a good friend of the RAF.

My earliest memories of flying with the RAF are in the back of a Piper Super Cub, staring at the back of my dad’s t-shirt over the picturesque North China Wall in Montana. The thrill of the bouncy tundra tires meeting the soft summer grass on some backcountry strip amazed my young self. I understood at a young age that this hobby would quickly evolve to consume my entire life. I kept flying, graduating to the front seat, and adding more types to my ever-growing logbook. Thanks to the RAF, I logged my first official landing at the age of 13 in a Kodiak with Mark Brown, quickly followed by a Cessna Grand Caravan with Peter Burwell.

I continued to fly with my dad, Steve Taylor, at RAF events throughout my childhood. Idaho, Montana, Washington, Vermont, and Michigan are just a few of the states I have experienced incredible backcountry strips that I have had the opportunity to visit. The excitement of travelling to a new place and meeting new people still inspires me to continue my adventures alongside the RAF. From pulling the frozen jeans out of my sleeping bag at Smiley Creek (U87), to making memories with friends at Moose City (86MT).  But beyond the incredible places I have visited, I’ve made lifelong friends, learned valuable lessons that have aided me not only as an aviator but also as a person, and enjoyed talking endlessly about airplanes along the way.

I still remember my introduction to an RAF staple: The work party. We packed our sleeping bags and tent into the back of our Cessna 180 and flew to Sullivan Lake (09S) where we would camp for a weekend and work to improve the airport. This trip was a microcosm for the greater purpose of the RAF as people bonded over preserving a beautiful airport while enjoying good company, good food, and campfires. As we watched the sunset over the lake, I couldn’t help but to reflect on the sight of dozens of orange RAF hats scattered down the runway, shovels in hand and ready to work. After a long day digging and replacing equipment, we all sat down to a dinner hosted by the gracious Washington State Liaisons, the Whitelaw brothers. The joint work effort and camaraderie over a seemingly dull task opened my eyes to the spirit of the RAF. Flying to spectacular backcountry strips that would’ve otherwise been forgotten, working with other volunteers for the greater good of aviation and to preserve these magical places for generations to come, and to create memories with fellow aviators.

Earlier this summer, I found myself at Cavanaugh Bay (66S) surrounded by fellow aviators and RAF enthusiasts to celebrate 20 years of the organization. Again, I was struck by the community and sense of belonging with everyone. As a teenager, I notice my peers having trouble connecting with adults and viewing them as the “others.” I attribute my experiences with the RAF as part of the reason that I proudly call these people my friends as well. Sitting on folding lawn chairs watching airplanes takeoff and land, discussing stories, and sharing laughs with others reminds me why the RAF is so special. The special connection shared between people over a common interest is something that must be cherished. A bright orange RAF hat is a sure sign that you’re about to make a new friend. Later that trip, we flew to Ryan Field (2MT1) to continue our celebrations and admire the newly finished barn. Standing under the beautiful, exposed beams and seeing the care and craftsmanship behind the work reminded me of the hard work and dedication the RAF puts towards preserving and maintaining these beautiful backcountry strips. And yet, it’s the dedication of the volunteers that make these places so special and the RAF such a truly unique organization. 

Finley Taylor is an 18-year-old commercial pilot from Bellevue, Washington. He grew up in an aviation family, with both his dad and grandpa having long aviation careers. He holds a commercial pilot’s license with multi engine and instrument ratings. He has been passionate about aviation for as long as he can remember and is looking forward to a future career in aviation.

Submitted March 20, 2024.


  1. Jeanne MacPherson on March 26, 2024 at 3:50 pm

    Yippee, Finley! Already a commercial pilot and a supporter and volunteer

  2. Julie Boatman on April 1, 2024 at 9:43 am

    We are fortunate to count you as our friend too! See you this summer we hope.

  3. Gordon Rock on April 1, 2024 at 1:05 pm

    To be both, a remarkable aviator and grounded teenager, is a winning combination. With this impressive start, Finley is certainly one to admire and watch. The RAF is fortunate to have him in the fold.

  4. Bill McGlynn on April 1, 2024 at 2:51 pm

    We enjoy you as much as you enjoy flying Fin. You’re a good friend and it always lifts my heart to see you climb out of a nearby airplane. Reminds me of when I was taller than you. Thank you Fin for the wonderful words! You are a treasured friend to many and I’m lucky to count you as one of mine.

  5. Amy on April 2, 2024 at 8:46 am

    The future is in good hands with folks like Fin.

  6. Jeanne MacPherson on April 18, 2024 at 8:58 pm

    I am curious about what airplane you soloed in and got your private pilot certificate in?
    Thank you, I am instructing my Granddaughter and would like to do it in our Decathlon.

  7. Finley Taylor on April 20, 2024 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Jeanne,
    I soloed 4 airplanes on my 16th birthday, a Republic Seabee on water, a Piper J-3 cub on grass, an Aeronca 65-TL (predecessor to the champ) on grass, and lastly a Cessna 172. I got my private in a Cessna 150. If you have any further questions, feel free to email me at finthepilot@gmail.com

  8. Brian Thomas on May 12, 2024 at 9:24 am

    Finley congrats on your achievements! I couldn’t help but notice the Aeronca 65TL most likely converted to a Continetial and dressed up like an L-3 in your profile pic! Nice to see another fellow Aeronca guy on here. I also have a 65TC as well as two L-3B’s. I am the Connecticut State RAF Liasion.

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