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 from Joe Brown, the Chairman of Hartzell Propeller.

An RAF Flatlander Reflects on Good Fortune:

Eight years ago I was standing in a stranger’s crowded living room in Bozeman, Montana.

Members of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association were gathered with a large group of RAF members who were hosting us for a weekend in the backcountry. About half the folks in the room were meeting for the first time.

One of the RAF members greeted us and said something I haven’t forgotten: “We are a campfire sort of group. At the end of our time together, we hope you will leave us with your friendship.”

He meant it. That gathering led to some of my closest friendships.

But that night, this was all new to me. I was charged with a nervous energy about what was ahead. I had spent my life in the very flat part of Ohio. I had recently finished a factory-assisted build of a Glasair Sportsman and was fresh into a tail dragger endorsement.

In other words, I was a menace.

Looking out to the Bridger Mountains that evening, I thought to myself “don’t let anyone think you know anything and listen to those that do.”

That’s how I came to know the RAF. I’ve been in that living room many times since and in lots of others too. At first I thought it was about grass strips and airplanes, but that’s just a point of entry. 

Generous friendship is the bond that makes the RAF work and is the source of its rewards. The only credential you need to be a good member is neighborliness. And you have to like orange.

Is there another organization that gathers in homes all across the country? I’ve been welcomed into a dozen RAF member homes in the North West, the Mid West and the North East in the span of a few years.

Is there another organization whose members welcome you as if you were the oldest of friends as they help push your airplane into their hangar or hand you the keys to their car?

Is there another organization that takes you to the people and places that come to fill your photo files and memories? 

It’s easy to be sentimental about the RAF community.  I’m sitting at a desk in Piqua, Ohio but my walls are covered with photos from places farther away.  I see people in jeans and orange that have told me about their families, their favorite camping site, and where to get the best burger in Manhattan. Kansas, that is.  I’ve gotten hours of training and advice from those with more skill.

It was only later that I really got thinking about who these folks are outside of the RAF. They may have been camouflaged by RAF swag, but you probably passed the bread to an astronaut, or a mom who flies G650s, a combat pilot with a DFC, an airline CEO, a tech titan, a history teacher, a large-scale Pizza franchise operator and a guy that commanded the Thunderbirds.  I’m sure you know what I mean about the talent in the RAF hiding its light under a bushel.

I suspect all of us have had a similar experience coming into this membership. We have plenty to celebrate in our members and the energy they have for life. One of our younger members has racked time in more airplane models than anyone I know and earned his ASEL, AMEL and ASES by a week or so into his 17th year.  The chat room with updates and videos of his epic journey had about forty people cheering him on like he was our godchild.

As you get older, you tend to think about the people and activities that give meaning to your life. You think about the good fortune of family, friends and experiences with them. It’s humbling to be content.

Thank you, RAF friends, for your company and wisdom. Thank you for your helping hands in all that we do as an organization. May we always leave the backcountry and our friends glad for our visits.

Joe is Chairman of Hartzell Propeller and involved in the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. He is a member of EAA, RAF, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Submitted on March 28, 2023.


  1. Martin Rice on April 1, 2023 at 6:47 am

    So well said, Joe and thank you for all your support!

    • Thomas Lenox on April 1, 2023 at 7:04 am

      This is why I like this organization. Thanks Joe

  2. Eric Vaughn on April 1, 2023 at 6:53 am

    Great read Joe! Your analysis is spot on!

  3. Charlie Gregoire on April 1, 2023 at 7:01 am

    Well said! It’s a great honor to be a around such wonderful friends.

  4. Lou Furlong on April 1, 2023 at 7:27 am

    Inspiring words Joe. Thanks very much for your support.

  5. Tim Clifford on April 1, 2023 at 7:35 am

    Joe, this goes the other way as well. All of us who were in the Bozeman living room that night are sure glad you were there and that you have hung with us all these years.

  6. Lance Weaver on April 1, 2023 at 7:47 am

    Joe, I am fairly new to the RAF. Your statement “the RAF hiding its light under a bushel” says volumes about the uniqueness of aviation enthusiasts.

  7. Tom Willis on April 1, 2023 at 7:54 am

    Thanks, Joe, for telling it like it is.

  8. Nicolas on April 1, 2023 at 7:56 am

    Fantastic Joe. Always putting the right words. So wonderful to get to know you and your family. Safe flights

  9. Kevin Johnson on April 1, 2023 at 7:59 am

    I feel the same way. The destinations are great but the people are even better. Thanks for being part of the mission.

  10. Thomas Van Diepen on April 1, 2023 at 8:06 am

    Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  11. John Riordan on April 1, 2023 at 8:29 am

    Well said, Joe! Spot on.

    The RAF is the most warm and welcoming group I’ve come across, so much so that the term “group” hardly seems appropriate. It’s a family.

    And so true – the camouflage of orange and denim unifies us from all different backgrounds and skill sets (often quite impressive ones, to your point). The RAF uniquely promotes connections and new friendships with fellow aviators over a shared passion of backcountry aviation and conservation.

  12. Bill McGlynn on April 1, 2023 at 8:39 am

    Wonderful description of the real value of this organization and of our friend, Joe Brown!

  13. Nicolas Chabbert on April 1, 2023 at 9:27 am

    Fantastic Joe. Great piece as always with the right words. So wonderful to know you and your family. Fly safe

  14. Steve Taylor on April 1, 2023 at 10:31 am

    Thank you, Joe – you’ve managed to capture the real magic of all of our RAF friendships.

  15. Stef Goza on April 1, 2023 at 10:40 am

    Wonderfully written Joe! Perfect timing because I read this while en route to the Lake Hood Pilots Association, where I and my fellow Alaska State Liaisons will be speaking on The RAF mission today. Thank you and the Hartzell Team for your continued support!

  16. John Carroll on April 1, 2023 at 10:54 am

    Joe you hit the nail on the head! Well said my friend.

    JC Carroll

  17. Steve Maus on April 1, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    Very well said Joe. Your comments are sincere and appreciated by
    All of us..A great reminder to us all to extend a welcome hand to those new faces that quietly are watching us as we carry on with the RAF mission..

  18. Jeff Russell on April 1, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    I happened across the article on the website yesterday. What a great editorial from Joe. Not only does he believe in the organization as much as many of us, he has a fantastic ability to express himself. Very well done and also very flattering and humbling. Thank you, Joe!

  19. John McKenna on April 1, 2023 at 7:23 pm

    I. have had the privilege of getting to know Joe, his family and his company. These words reflect the true friendship that has grown out of our shared aviation passion. Thank You Joe!

  20. Steve Mason on April 2, 2023 at 11:20 am

    Thanks Joe for your spot on words! From the folks who fly a J3 to a G650 it’s a great group of people who appreciate a very special bond!

  21. Mark Burke on April 2, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    As I read your editorial, I was reminded of a very pleasant dinner I had with you and your lovey family at an RAF event in Jackson Wyoming many years ago. Your kindness then and your warm words in this editorial are akin to this organization; it is what draws me and others to the RAF.

  22. Mark Spencer on April 2, 2023 at 2:54 pm

    Spot on Joe! Makes me think about each time we get together in the backcountry, sitting around the campfire here at the Grapevine airstrip in Arizona. This has become such a unique place, but always better when a few other aviators show up for an evening potluck, and conversation around the campfire. Each time it seems we’ll meet someone new, from some far away place, even Main or Alaska, and each time I find myself thinking, it really doesn’t get any better than this! What really amazes me is the different cloths that folks are cut from, but you’d rarely know it. The common interest of aviation, camping, and volunteering seems to like a social glue, if you will. It goes even beyond this though; on my last campout here I was left with something I’ll not soon forget, something that made me think, yeah, this is all worth it. An older fellow from a nearby community, just showed up on Saturday, spent the evening at the campfire with us and I think slept in his car! The next morning when I awoke to take my dog out for his morning walk, I observed this fellow walking up and down the airstrip with his little pump sprayer taking care of the few weekends that have broken the surface of our newly sealed runway. I wandered over to ask if he was asked by someone to help out, he said, no, I’m just so thrilled to see what all you pilots have done here, I just want to be part of it in what little way I can, so I decided I’d spray for weeds today. I met another new friend that weekend.

    • Dave Warner on April 3, 2023 at 7:09 am

      I’m not one to partake in the social media world and almost never respond to chats, but Joe has clearly expressed the feelings I’ve had in my association with the RAF and the great folks who have made it what it is. I felt I had to let him know he’d hit the mark. My experiences with RAF folks have always been rewarding, both lessons learned and in friendships made. I’m currently camping at Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois, watching a curious 172 driver circle the abandoned airstrip, while I contemplate what it will take to get it reopened. I know it will be a challenge and I know it will be folks in the RAF that will help make it happen. It’s a joy to me to be a small part of it.

  23. Daniel Lilja on April 2, 2023 at 6:59 pm

    Thank-you Joe for reminding us of what really matters. Though we all enjoy flying the backcountry we soon realize that the folks we meet out there are the true gems. The RAF seems to have a special knack for drawing that out of us ordinary folks and helping us realize how special it all is.

    And thank-you too for your very generous $1000 discount to RAF members who purchase a Hartzell propeller. A few months ago I received an 83” Trailblazer for my next project.

  24. Carmine Mowbray on April 3, 2023 at 2:50 pm

    A great summation of what’s so good about the RAF!
    When we say, “the RAF is ten thousand of my closest friends,” we mean it!

  25. Joe Brown on April 4, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks all for jumping into this conversation. Great to hear your perspectives too. Appreciate the chance to support some of your projects and to share some wonderful times with many of you on this string.

    Last summer I had dinner with three RAF members at the end of AirVenture. They were there to teach skills in EAAs Pilot Proficiency Center—serving other aviators as RAF members do so well. Bill McGlynn, JC Carroll and John McKenna started telling stories and for a good stretch, we were all laughing so hard we were crying. RAF is something special.

    Spring is coming and I hope to see you out there!! You are always welcome in Piqua, Ohio and Middlebury, Vermont.

  26. Michael Todd on April 13, 2023 at 8:43 pm

    Joe, I’ve been asked many times “What is The RAF?” Your words here capture the spirit that is the answer to the question. As you said so well, “RAF is something special”. See you in the Backcountry.

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