PLAINS – The Plains Airport recently received recognition from the Montana Pilots Association for contributions towards promoting aviation in Montana.
In recognition of the efforts by the Sanders County Pilots Association the Sanders County Hangar received the award as Hangar of the Year for 2015.
Last week members of the Sanders County Pilots Association, an organization that currently consists of 16 members, were on hand with the MPA award at Penn Stohr Field in Plains.
The award, molded in the shape of an aircraft’s propeller blade and decaled with the hangars from past years which received honors from the MPA, was recently on display in the post office and will next travel to Sanders County Courthouse in Thompson Falls where it will be displayed.
MPA presents awards every year to pilots associations, hangars, and individual pilots in recognition of their outstanding support, enthusiasm and contributions to the field of aviation in the state of Montana.
Specifically, the Hangar of the Year award goes to the hangar that did the most to promote general aviation.
The county’s pilots association holds an annual barbeque and raffles off plane rides with funds going to support a local scholarship for students interested in aviation and aviation related fields.
The association helps coordinate the planes who visit the annual Fly In Breakfast, helping to ensure visiting pilots come and go with ease during the busy day at the airport in the summer.
In addition, to the Plains Airport, the airports of Thompson Falls and Hot Springs are also part of the hangar and share in the recognition of the MPA award.
Nita Deardorff, whose husband Dallas is the current president of the county’s pilots association, noted the importance of the small airports located throughout Sanders County.
“I don’t think people realize how important these small airports are to the community,” N. Deardorff said.
Deardorff noted the county’s airports can be used in search and rescue, medical air transport and firefighting capacities, services made all the more critical considering the remote nature of the county and substantial distances from urban centers.
Both N. Deardorff and Karval Pickering noted the importance of bringing more youth pilots into the fold.
“If more people realize it is accessible and not that expensive I think there would be a lot of interest,” N. Deadorff said.
The local pilots association teams with the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle Program, where youths are given an introduction to the experience of piloting.
Members of the Pilots Association and their families also used their time at the Plains Airport last Thursday to help spruce up the place with a little spring-cleaning.
The airstrip in Plains boasts a facility where pilots can spend the night in the event they are grounded due to weather or other inclement flying conditions.
Additionally, a courtesy car is located at the airport for pilots to use in the event they spend the evening at the facility.
Both N. Deardorff and K. Pickering were busy cleaning the interior of the building and prepping it for another season of use.
D. Deardorff and other members of the pilots association were busy on the outside sprucing up the
landscape, cleaning up the parking lot and painting a wooden bench at the airport.
Walt Pickering, a past president of the pilots association and Dan Lilja, current vice president, placed cones around the runaway to help pilots distinguish various portions of the landing strip.
The Plains Airport is named after Penn Stohr, a noted aviator who flew in the mountains of Montana and Idaho in the early portion of the 20th century and was the first pilot in the Plains area.