By Erika Kar
Writing this weekly column is trickier than I had expected. It seems as though just as soon as I have one written and submitted, it is time for another. My hat is off to Ashley, Joanna and Sarah, as well as all those that came before. I am also thankful to those Mazamans, both part and full time, who send me bits of news.
June Fitzpatrick emailed last week to let me know about the Methow Valley chapter of Washington Pilots. According to June, there are at least 35 pilots living in our area. Who knew?
She went on to mention that on March 14, Methow Valley aviators met at the Mazama Store to discuss issues, concerns and events at the Winthrop and Twisp airports. The group decided to form a Methow Valley Chapter of Washington Pilots Association, which has 20 chapters with nearly 1,000 members throughout the state.
Newly elected officers are: President Rick LeDuc, Vice-president Mike Real, Treasurer Don Fitzpatrick, and Secretary June Fitzpatrick. The next meeting will be at the Riverside Grill in Winthrop at 6 p.m. on April 11. Everyone interested in aviation is invited to attend.
Since we’re talking about aviation, here’s a little fun fact that maybe isn’t widely known: Lost River Airport Association (LRAA) was formed to be a community of pilots. Pete Arnold developed the land along with partners Stan Harris and George Moate in 1973. The airstrip had already been in existence, and roads coming off of it were then made to be wide enough for an airplane to taxi along. While there are still a number of pilots that own small aircraft in LRAA, I don’t think it quite lived up to the original vision. Thank you to longtime LRAA part-time resident, Gail King for filling in some gaps in information.
Aviation is important to our remote area, and the runway does get a fair amount of use, particularly in the summer months.
Beyond use for locals and tourists, helicopters to support firefighting are occasionally staged at the runway. Then there was the time we all thought Armageddon had arrived. Who remembers the summer evening in 2013 when three Black Hawk helicopters whomp, whomp, whomped up the valley without lights? They landed at the LRAA Airstrip, attracting quite a few Mazamans, and creating quite a stir.
There have also been rumors about the runway being used for drug drops, as well as subsequent DEA landings. All the aviation activity is very exciting and all very surprising for the little runway in the middle of nowhere.
Rumors also abound about something far less-suspicious than drug trafficking. Yes, it is true. The Mazama Store is holding its famous “Guess How Many Pieces Of Candy Are In The Jar” contest, featuring two, yes two, jars for your guessing pleasure. And while all manner of scientific calculations are taking place, there is also quite a bit of sandbagging.
My money is on the wide-eyed little kid who wanders in and throws out a random number.