National RAF Meeting
By Mark Spencer
Over 100 volunteers, including 20 state liaisons, met in Bentonville, Arkansas, from May 12th through the 14th for the RAF Razorback Rendezvous, as it was called. Thanks to generous support by the Walton Family Foundation, the group enjoyed Friday dinner at the soon-to-be open to the public Sugar Creek airstrip, just outside of Bentonville. Steuart Walton, an avid aviator and backcountry supporter, along with Chad Cox, joined the group as well, discussing plans to develop an Idaho-like environment for backcountry aviation in the Ozark Mountains area. This is very exciting since the area was absolutely breathtaking.
Also present at the conference were IMBA Vice President of Government Relations, Bruce Alt; along with IMBA President, Mike Abel; AOPA President, Mark Baker; GAMA VP of Government Affairs, Paul Feldman; USFS, Washington Dispersed Office Recreation, Crystal Merica; and USFS, Fire & Aviation Pilot and Smoke Jumper, Tim DeHass. Several of these folks shared with us insight from their perspective, giving everyone a more rounded picture of the pressures, challenges, and successes different groups have experienced with public and private lands and recreation.
Several Panel discussions and presentations were also held on subjects including Recreational Use Statute progress and strategies, what we’ve learned so far, and how to break the ice with local land managers.
Saturday dinner was held in Steuart’s hangar, and awards were presented to several RAF folks for their efforts in promoting recreational aviation across the country.
Being the diehard aviator, Tommy and his wife Linda, flew their 182 for the conference, where Tommy made good on a promise that the RAF made to get several guests up in the air.
The APA & RAF’s Dave Dunteman, along with the RAF’s Patrick Romano, held two days of Back to Basics training at the Bentonville Airport for local pilots and CFI’s.
See if you can find your APA President, Tommy Thomason, Webmaster & Treasurer, Stefanie Spencer, and yours truly in the photo below! Bonus points for finding RAF President John McKenna, he’s really incognito. ;-)