Splashing Around Northwest Montana

We took this Piper Super Cub PA-18 on a joy ride, but normally she’s quite the workhorse, training pilots all summer long.

by Yasmina Platt
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine June/July 2022 Digital Issue

My favorite time of the year is with us! Summer is here, the mountains are calling, and we must go… fly them!

2020 was the first time my husband, Jared, and I visited Montana (visit www.airtrails.weebly.com/montana for flying blogs from that trip) and now it’s (like) an addiction. After spending a little over a month in neighboring Idaho, we spent another 1.5 months in NW Montana in 2021.

The first year, we left wishing we had done some seaplane flying in the area, but the local seaplane company, Backcountry Flying Experience (www.backcountryflyingexperience.com), was all booked up. Last year, we made sure to secure a few flights months before.

NW Montana offers big lake water, mountain lakes, numerous rivers, and advanced mountain flying. But, unfortunately, low visibility from both smoke and weather made us cancel on a couple of occasions and, even on the day that we flew, the weather limited us (due to clouds and wind which also translated into pretty choppy water).

Regardless, I had a great time. I practiced some river flying and docking, we evaluated a lot of different areas for debris and other conditions, and we went aerial sightseeing over Flathead Lake. A “flying Yasmina” is a “happy Yasmina,” no matter what!

We took the school’s Piper Super Cub PA-18 on the joy ride, but normally she’s quite the workhorse. She spends all summers training pilots.

Backcountry operates from a nice lot on the banks of the Flathead River, just north of Bigfork. Bigfork is a cute town from the ground and from the air. It has been honored with flattering designations in many publications. It is a lovely, upscale, year-round resort village that is brimming with art galleries, fine restaurants, golf, high-end boutiques, and live theater.

I felt like the views from up above truly represented Montana and all of its beauty. The weather prevented us from seeing beyond the Flathead Valley, but the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Jewel Basin, Flathead National Forest, Flathead Lake, and all the little rivers and creeks around, were awesome to see.

Bigfork is a cute town from the ground and from the air. It is a lovely, upscale, year-round resort village that is brimming with art galleries, fine restaurants, golf courses, high-end boutiques, and live theater.

The homes on the lake were beautiful, but I’d prefer to have access to Lakeside Airport (MT03) given the choice. It appears to have a nice 3,376 x 60 ft paved runway in a beautiful setting. MT03 is a private airport with prior permission and training required. It is essentially a “one-way-in, same-way-out” kind of an airport due to significant runway slope and rising terrain on the south end of the runway. Landings should be done to the south (19) and departures to the north (01). A low pass prior to landing is recommended to clear the runway of any sort of animals or wildlife.

You know the drill… a good pilot is always looking for places to land should an emergency happen. A good seaplane pilot is always evaluating available water for obstacles, moving objects, and debris. There was a lot of debris (big tree logs) on the north side of Flathead Lake.

I’m excited about this summer up in Montana again… splash safe and splash often!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yasmina Platt’s full-time job has her planning the future of aviation infrastructure for Joby’s electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. She also writes an aviation travel blog called “Air Trails” (www.airtrails.weebly.com), in addition to articles on pilot destinations for Midwest Flyer Magazine. Pilots can locate articles Yasmina has written by going to www.MidwestFlyer.com and typing “Yasmina” in the search box, or by going to the “Archives” section, then “Columns,” then “Destinations.”

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