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 Roy Evans II, the President of Utah Back Country Pilots Association.
Throughout my journey in aviation, I’ve been guided by many mentors. In my adolescence, I found myself taxiing across a spacious apron following the tire tracks of countless flight students like me. Immediately my instructor slammed the brakes, turned towards me in the tight confines of that Cessna 152 and asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I quickly replied, “I want to be a professional pilot.” Twice as fast as I had replied, my instructor said, “Then start right now and get on the yellow line.”
The benefits of an active, engaging mentor/mentee relationship are often overlooked. Our modern, connected lives rarely find time for the peace and solace many of us find while flying and enjoying the backcountry.
In the state of Utah, we are the benefactors of the exemplary stewardship of recreational aviators who enjoy our historic, unparalleled backcountry. When two members of the Utah Back Country Pilots Association were out enjoying a fair weather day and landed at an airstrip they were met by park rangers. When questioned about pilots’ rights in landing at this airstrip, their true professionalism shone. What transpired over those tense moments for these two became the foundation that our organization has been striving for. Their innate stewardship for aviation’s access to our public lands made the impossible happen. Utah’s first airstrip located in a state park, Temple Mountain, once on the chopping block of existence, now thrives as an airstrip with access to Goblin Valley State Park.
Etiquette and customs traverse generations — not in books or signs — but in actions. Each time we roll our tires in the backcountry, our impacts on the future of recreational aviation are felt across the world. Learning more about how we can turn our errant marks into positive impressions lies in our individual efforts to engage with those who’ve made this all possible, and the organizations that perpetuate those impressions to the impressionable. Whether it be your membership dues, your participation in work parties and public comment periods, many times a simple email or phone call can bridge the gaps our adversaries exploit in restricting or removing one of America’s greatest freedoms.
While we all will find ourselves straying from the yellow lines from time to time, it’s important to surround ourselves with those with the passion to help us steer back on course. Organizations such as the UBCP, Idaho Aviation Association, Montana Pilots Association, and RAF are chock full of mentors looking for ways to help preserve and protect backcountry flying, and I know they would love an extra set of hands. During this winter season, while many of us wait for the snow and the skies to clear, let’s take this time to engage with our local aviation community. Find a mentor who will empower you to continue to make better aeronautical decisions; and prepare ourselves to serve in a similar role. Start making better decisions today that will provide even more opportunities for recreational aviation in the future, and find joy in keeping the dreams of backcountry flying alive.
When his chores are done, he’s likely flying around in his Cub Special with one of his children in the back teaching them how to read a sectional while navigating them to the nearest huckleberry milkshake.
Submitted December 21, 2023.