By Joanna Bastian
“Tango November Three Niner Forty Four Whiskey,”
It sounded like a secret language that Monte Catlin was fluent in. He should be — Monte has spoken pilot-talk since he was 16.
Growing up around the Puget Sound area, Monte watched his older brother start flying planes and decided that folding his tall frame into a small metal tube and propelling himself through the air looked like fun. When the family moved to the Methow Valley in 1999, Monte continued flying as a means to efficiently commute to his job as a fireman in Seattle.
Over time, Monte added passengers to his commute and Catlin Flying Service was created as an option for people to fly into and out of the Methow Valley. “Tango November Three Niner Forty Four Whiskey,” translates as Taxi N3944W, the name of his plane.
Based at the Twisp airport, Catlin Flying Service connects people with airports all over the Northwest, including Spokane, Seattle, and many rural areas in between. As an aerial taxi service, Monte completes rigorous FAA testing every six months, which includes an oral exam, a written exam, a flight test and a thorough mechanical inspection of the plane. Prior to takeoff, Monte meticulously checks off each item of a two-page, four-column safety checklist. Although there is no dining car, compared to the train, Monte’s flight service is far quicker, more convenient, and the aerial views are phenomenal.
My handsome husband and I recently took the plane from Twisp to Seattle to connect with another flight. It worked out perfectly. We left the car at the Twisp airport, and hopped in Monte’s plane. The flight lasted only one hour and ground control at Boeing Field had a taxi ready to connect us with our flight out of the Sea-Tac Airport.
On our return flight home, Monte met us along with two other passengers at the Clay Lacy terminal at Boeing Field. Margaret Lesinki from Bainbridge Island was using the service to visit a friend in the Methow Valley, and Logan Price was returning home to visit family.
The flight was very smooth, with only a small bit of turbulence as the mountains below us abruptly dropped away to a flat valley floor. Monte explained the movement of the air was much like water flowing through a stream, the turbulence of the air similar to the rolling of water as it ripples over a rocky streambed.
Just below us, sun glinted off fjord-like lakes. Glaciers rippled from tenuous perches on elevated peaks. Familiar hiking trails and alpine lakes were appreciated from a different viewpoint. Just outside of Seattle, Mount Rainier crested a sea of clouds.
A rideshare calendar is posted on the website, www.catlinflyingservice.com. If a flight is scheduled, the rideshare fare per seat is $100. Since these flights are based on empty legs of already scheduled chartered flights, they are subject to change or cancellation.
The calendar is regularly updated as flights are added or changed. During the summer, Monte makes several flights a day, ferrying passengers from one side of the Cascades to the other. Flights can also be chartered for private service.