U.S. Mountain States: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

(Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, Wyoming)

Frederick A. Johnsen’s (2010) video book Fire Bombers in Action presents a list of U.S. companies that operated fire bombers. These are listed under individual states.


U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Washington

Central Air Service, East Wenatchee (and Maricopa, AZ)
SLAFCO, Inc., Moses Lake
Wenairco, Wenatchee
William A. Dempsey, East Wenatchee

Others from Washington are Airway Inc. and Richardson Aviation, both based in Yakima, and Stewart Aviation of Moses Lake.

Airway Inc., Yakima, Washington
Richardson Aviation, Yakima, Washington

These two TBMs were sister aircraft, both operated out of Yakima Airport:

N7031C / 53484 / #111Airway Inc., Washington #111 1963-70 – Flew in New Brunswick from 1968 to 1970; crashed St. Martin New Brunswick, 21 June 1970

N7032C / 85460 / #112Richardson / Hillcrest / FPL C-GFPS #E32 / #3

The Richardson Avenger, with a grey colour scheme, flew in New Brunswick from 1969 to 1972. It was eventually sold to Hillcrest then to FPL in 1976.

Airway TBM #111 N7031C in 1968. [FPL files]
Richardson TBM #112 N7032C. [Richard W. Kamm  image, FPL files]

Yakima aviation pioneer celebrates 95th birthday

NBC Right Now, Posted: Oct 17, 2010

YAKIMA, Wash. – The McAllister Museum of Aviation hosted a celebration Sunday for Ralph Richardson, a local aviation pioneer, to mark his 95th birthday. “He and my mom, Gini Richardson, spent many years here devoting basically their whole life to aviation,” said Jill Brown, Richardson’s daughter.

Ralph Richardson ran a charter service and flew crop dusters for decades. He started in 1949 and few his last fight in 1992. His wife also ran a flight school and raced planes. She was recognized across the country for her participation in competitions.

Both are honored with their own permanent displays at the museum. Richardson Aviation was the only other business for years, along with the McAllister brothers, who opened the Yakima Air Terminal.

In Memory of Ralph Ray Richardson


Ralph Ray Richardson was born October 17, 1915 in Whitetail, Montana. After graduating high school Ralph perused flying lessons and soloed in a Cub aircraft in his home town of Plentywood in 1935. He applied and was accepted for civilian pilot training in Spokane, Washington in 1938 at the age of 23. In 1949, after two years of instructing, Ralph yearned to put his superior skills to better use and landed a job flying crop dusters for Bruce Combs at the Yakima Airport. For Combs he flew a Travel Air biplane converted to a sprayer as well as the old standard Stearman with the 220 Continental engine.

In 1950 Ralph married Gini [Stover] and they started Richardson’s Airway, which was a crop dusting business, and in 1951 they started Richardson Aviation, which was a flight school and FBO. They flew from the Yakima airport on the south side of the field. Ralph would fly the crop dusters and Gini would run the office and operate the flying school. Ralph bought surplus planes from the military in the early years after the war. He bought a fleet of TBM World War II bombers and converted them into spraying planes, which he flew as crop dusters in Washington, Maine, Canada, and even sprayed the entire crop of olive trees for the country of Greece. He also had a fleet of open cockpit Stearmans which were later exchanged for an Ag Wagon and later the Snow ….

Being a crop duster means getting up at 2-3AM to be flying at first light, when the winds are calm. … Ralph continued to crop dust in that airplane until he was 70. He had an incredible 36 years of crop dusting.

See here for information about the Yakima Air Terminal.

Stewart Aviation, Moses Lake, Washington

The Last Working US TBMs That Flew in Canada

A lack of available Canadian Avengers in the early 1980s meant that FPL had to bring some in from the United States. Stewart Aviation supplied four Avengers in 1981 and the same four plus one more in 1982 (various colour schemes). This was the last time that US Avengers were used by FPL; eventually there were sufficient Avengers in Canada to supply the needs of the spray program.

Walt Bumgarner of Moses Lake, Washington, owner of Stewart Aviation, sent me the following:

“In the mid 70s, my wife and I moved to Moses Lake from Bakersfield, California. I owned an aviation business for many years. I enjoyed crop dusting [and] aerial spraying and getting to know the people in the Columbia Basin.

“I formed and owned Stewart Aviation … Bakersfield, CA [in] 1979 … Bought 47C, 33Z and 26C from Buttonwillow Dusters/Craig Aero Service who I was working for. Moved the company from Bakersfield to Moses Lake, Washington, the next year. Bought 7075C from Reeder flying Service with my partner (Dwight Reimer [of Shafter, CA]) [in] 1981. Bought two TBM’s from Hillcrest in 1984 [27C and 97H].

“I ended up with 4,500 hours in TBM’s … I don’t know of anyone close to that. Sold my last one in 1990. Owned 5 and the engine on another one that I acquired for a friend from Charlie Reeder in Twin Falls, ID 1980. All are converted back to war birds now, all but one still flying. I was proud of my record on the spray project … flew 201 loads of 203 offered [in] 1980 … best availability of anyone Forest Protection ever used.”

Walt is now a real estate agent with Windermere Real Estate in Moses Lake.

These unnumbered Avengers were identified by the last three characters of their registrations on the FPL team/pilot lists (Warbird Registry):

N3967A / 53835 / “67A” — Nevadair, NV 1963-1969 / Charlie T. Jensen, NV 1972 / Maynard Lund, Washington 1978 / Stewart Aviation, Washington 1978-1984

N6447C / 53575 / “47C” — Sonora Aviation, Arizona 1963-69 / Capitol Aire, Nevada / Craig Aero, California / Stewart Aviation, Washington 1978-1985

N6827C / 91110 / “27C” — TBM Inc, California #E58 / Hillcrest, Idaho 1977-78 / Stewart Aviation, Washington 1978-1984

N8397H / 69459 / “97H” — Cisco, California 1963 / Aerial Applicators, Utah 1963-72 / Hillcrest, Idaho 1977 / Stewart Aviation, Washington 1984

N9433Z / 91586 / “33Z” — Sonora FS, California #C56 1963-64 / Sonora Aviation, Nevada 1966-69 / Capital Aire, Nevada 1970-72 / Craig Aero, California #56 1977 / Stewart Aviation, Washington 1977-84

Bumgarner’s sixth and seventh TBMs did not fly in New Brunswick:

N7075C 53785 “75C” #55 Marsh Aviation Co, Litchfield Park, Arizona, 1963-1964 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, Idaho, 1966-1977 / Dwight Reimer, Shafter California, 1979-1980

N7226C 85938    “26C” #E44    Sierra Aviation, Porterville, California, 1963 / Wen Inc, Portersville, California, 1963-1964 / Whirly Birds Inc, Portersville, California, 1966-1969 / Capitol Aire Inc, Carson City, Nevada, 1970-1972 / Craig Aero Service, Buttonwillow, California, 1977 / Stewart Aviation Inc, Moses Lake, Washington, 1984-1988.

N7226C (“26C”)

Read more about 26C in the article Fly-in marks 50 years of firefighting
under Sonora Flying Service in the California chapter. This Avenger has the distinction of being the last spraying TBM operated in the U.S. [From: Grumman/Eastern Aircraft TBM-3E “Avenger” BuNo 85938 (VT-86):

After being surplus from the US Navy at Litchfield Park, Arizona storage facility in 1958 it started civilian life as a Air Tanker fighting fires as tanker E44. After the government grounded all TBM single engine fire tankers, she was sold and converted to a agricultural aerial applicator (crop sprayer). This “Avenger” was the last spraying TBM operated in the U.S. by (Stewart Aviation, Inc.) Walt Bumgarner of Moses Lake, Washington. He retired her in 1989 and was sold to Danny Summers of Rexburg, Idaho.


U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Oregon

Aero Ag, Inc., Medford
Aero Enterprises, Troutdale
Butler Aircraft Inc., Redmond (Butler Farm Air)
Central Oregon Aircraft Company, Bend
Flick Aviation, La Grande
Klamath Aircraft Inc., Klamath Falls
Kreitzberg Aviation, Salem
Liston Aircraft, Klamath Falls
Rogue Flying Services, Medford
Rosenbalm Aviation, Medford

Also, Ball-Ralston Flying Service, Hillsboro.


N7922A / 48032 / #xx — Ball-Ralston / Skyway, B.C.; crashed 5 June 1966 near Chipman, New Brunswick

Some of the history of Ball-Ralston, this aircraft, and the connection with Skyway Air Services in British Columbia is extensively covered in a separate chapter, The First TBF/TBM Air Tanker?.


U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Idaho

Dennis G. Smilanich, Boise
Hillcrest Aviation, Boise
Idaho Air Tankers Inc., Boise (Idaho Aircraft)
Queen Bee, Rigby
Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls
Roberts Aircraft, Boise
Wilson Aviation Industries, Lewiston

Also, Gustin Aviation, Lewiston.

Hillcrest Aircraft, Lewiston, Idaho, with facilities at Clarkston, Washington

Hillcrest supplied four Avengers to the spray program from 1969 to 1971. However, Hillcrest appears to have owned a total of nine Avengers (details from the Warbird Registry), of which two survived to become FPL avengers. Five of them jumped around in ownership, being involved with the U.S. companies Hemet Valley Flying Service, Johnson Flying Service and Richardson Aviation, and with Canadian companies Miramichi Flying Service, Evergreen Flying Services and FPL.

Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport, Lewiston, Idaho, was founded in 1969, and is located 2 miles south of Lewiston, Idaho. Other tenants include AeroFlight Pilot Training, Gustin Aviation, Hillcrest Aircraft Co. and Stout Flying Service.

Nine avengers from two Idaho companies: Hillcrest Aircraft and Reeder Flying Service and their years flying in New Brunswick.

BuNo. U.S. Reg’n. Tail/Nose No. Years Active Fate
53078 N68683 #110 + #A25 1969-1970 [to Miramichi; became FBEF]
53200 N9010C #D6 1963-1966 [to Johnson, Evergreen, FPL: became GLEL]
53775a N4173A #A18 1963-1972 [to Miramichi; became FZTR]
53775b N7028C #D7 + A23 1963-1972 [to Miramichi; became FZTS]
69459 N8397H #? 1977 xxx
85733 N6824C #? 1963-1964 [to Johnson, Evergreen, FPL: became GLEK]
85787 N7000C #? 1963-1970 xxx
85886 N9586Z #A9 1969-1970 xxx
91110 N6827C #E58 1977-1978 xxx

Five Hemet Valley FS Avengers and one each from Richardson Aviation and Johnson Flying Service flew in NB with the spray program under those companies; these were eventually sold to Hillcrest and then in 1976 to FPL.

The following are communications (21 and 25 August and 18 November 2010) from Phil M. Schmidt, Valle Vista, CA (located adjacent to Hemet), describing his experience working with Hillcrest back in 1971. Phil is currently retired from Boeing-Rockedyne SSME Div., Canoga Park, California. Phil has provided much excellent information on Hillcrest and other related matters and is an active member on the Facebook sites Forest Protection Limited Alumni and TBM’s – Mil & Civ.

Phil Schmidt maintains an album on Facebook called “TBM Tankers – USA / New Brunswick – Clarkston Hangar 2017” that shows many of the images contributed to this site and images from a 2017 visit to the Clarkston hangar.

I was hired by owner Jerry Wilson of Hillcrest Aircraft for a summer job back in 1971 while a student at Eastern Washington University. I worked for Master Mechanic “Gunnar” Anderson at their Clarkston, Washington, overhaul facility about seven miles away [north] on the Snake River across from Lewiston, Idaho. [See image below.]

I posted this 1952 article a while back that gives an idea how Hillcrest got into the aircraft repair business. After the war Bert Zimmerly built his repair business and aircraft co. there at the Asotin County Airport in Clarkston, Washington. From the article, “Zimmerly maintains the largest aircraft repair shop in the area…” It lists the three mechanics there including “Gunnar” Anderson who took over the shop after Bert was in a fatal accident in 1949. At some point Bert Zimmerly’s widow likely merged with Hillcrest Aircraft owners Ivan Gustin and later Jerry Wilson in nearby Lewiston. It was mainly Stearman spraying operations then. As time passed and business grew they got into the engine overhaul, repair and tanking of TBM’s originally for fire bombing use.

Ivan Gustin [of Gustin Aviation] and Jerry Wilson worked very closely together as partners I think for years. Maybe their holdings were like two company divisions. I actually saw more of Gustin  around the Clarkston shop than Jerry. In that photo of A9 in New Brunswick  [below] that is Ivan on the left standing next to Gunnar in the middle. I remember Ivan saw me working in a Stearman cockpit as I was just finishing up changing a throttle lever assay. He went to Gunnar and told him I was not allowed to do that anymore because I was not A & E certified. Gunnar checked my work. Must have been after I helped one of the mechanics install a new engine in a water truck and Gunnar was encouraging me to learn more.

In 1971 when the budworm spraying business was heating up and creating a demand for TBM’s, the coolest word around the Clarkston shop was “Miramichi” [Air Service]. Some of us “had no idea” what it meant or who they were then. HaHa! It was a big deal when Andrew Retfalvy visited from that company. Also when owner Ivan Gustin and Anderson visited Dunphy, New Brunswick, after delivery of tanker #A9, it became an apparently successful partnership between the companies and FPL. (I [also] recall “Gunnar” leaving to take a trip to Canada for a few days then.) For the next several years the TBM aircraft from HVFS and other companies were overhauled and prepped for their new line of work in the budworm.

The day to day Hillcrest business was at the Lewiston Airport while the aircraft repair work continued down at Clarkston, including Stearmans, light fixed wing, helicopters, and TBMs. It seems Gustin & Wilson went into the business of buying TBM’s for repair and overhaul and reselling for a profitable venture.

Then in the early seventy’s the California Department of Forestry (CDF) decided to no longer allow TBM’s to be used for their fire bombing in the state. That is when Hemet Valley Flying Service and TBM, Inc. aircraft were sold to or purchased from and ferried to Hillcrest. I do not know who was contacted or how the deals were completed. My recent conversation with Bob Forbes may shed a little light on the subject.

One of the TBM, Inc.’s tanker’s (E58) was flown by Bob from Porterville, California, to Lewiston/Clarkston after TBM, Inc. sold it to Jerry Wilson at Hillcrest Aircraft for $10,000. As the story goes, the previous owner got to thinking he’d like to buy it back so he called Wilson. Jerry said, “Sure! But the price is now $20,000.” (after the overhaul and repairs) Response was then, “Ahh, just keep it!”. Well today that would sure be a bargain when a TBM turret goes for at least $50K and Helicopter engine overhaul goes for something like $500K.

My job as “roust-about” included parts chaser, doughnut and coffee runner, plane gas and washer, tank cleaner/painter, gravel landing strip tractor dragger, truck driver, and anything else the mechanics and pilots needed. Never had so much fun, especially hearing all the stories at break time from the “old-timers”. I learned a lot that helped me in later career years. A favorite was watching “gallon can” sized TBM pistons being prepped and critical parts such as crankshafts being magniflux inspected in the booth during the R-2600 engine overhauling. Even more exciting was to later observe the engine run-ups and test flights for the first time.

I witnessed several TBM flights that summer when they were flown back and forth between the Hillcrest Lewiston facility and the Snake River facility. I loved the sound of those engines starting, powering up and could hear them all the way over on that short flight!

#A9 / 85886 / N9586Z

Hillcrest TBM #A9 N9586Z, Merrill McBride, 1971
Hillcrest TBM #A9 N9586Z, in New Brunswick in 1971. [Merrill McBride]
“I witnessed #A9 leaving Clarkson/Lewiston for the trip to probably Dunphy, NB. I believe Reid was the pilot as shown in the Team/Pilot list. I think he was the ex-Vietnam pilot that “buzzed the tower” (hanger) while performing test flights in the days before. While we were out back one morning he performed an Avenger style stealth dive and full power pull out just as he cleared the roof right over our heads. I think we did more than “spill our coffee”. E’nuf said.

“In my #A9 photo [below] there does not appear to be any spray bars yet installed. So Conair saw the need and further developed the dual purpose tanking system. Great! I looked up Dunphy in your NB airport section and noted “The TBMs (total 44) were calibrated at Dunphy Airstrip then dispatched …”.

Hillcrest TBM #A9
Image taken by Phil Schmidt in summer of 1971 when he was employed as ground crew by Hillcrest.
TBM N9590Z_MMcBride_MM-08_crop
TBM N9590Z in New Brunswick. [Merrill McBride] “To my recent surprise I think that is [“Gunnar” Anderson] standing in the center with the green jacket/pants in your site photo in front of #A9, then in Dunphy, New Brunswick. Can’t see his face, but for sure that was his stance and haircut!. Ivan Gustin of Gustin Aviation is at left. [Phil Schmidt]

#A18 / 53775a / N4173A / (CF-ZTR )

Hillcrest TBM #A18, Clarkston ID, 1971 (Phil Schmidt)
Image taken by Phil Schmidt in summer of 1971 when he was employed as ground crew by Hillcrest.

“The photo of #A18 [above] is quite interesting. That is “Gunnar” standing in the center with the other two men, backs turned. We had visits from some of the TBM pilots and I seem to recall the names McBride and Reid.

“… this TBM was furthest from being finished. The wing flap appears to even be missing. I speculate that #A23 was held for delivery to Miramichi until #A18 was also completed. I am referring to the McBride photo of #A18 in flight while he was flying #A23 [below]. I doubt that it was as late as Feb 1972.

TBM #A18 FZTR, Merrill McBride, Feb 1972
TBM #A18 FZTR ferrying eastward, February 1972[?], probably after being purchased from Hillcrest by Miramichi. [Merrill McBride collection, taken as he was flying #A23 FZTS] However, Phil Schmidt says: “A clip from the Pilot/Team list … shows them all flying in 1971 with the Raccoon and Reindeer teams. You know how busy those pilots were, could Feb just be the film development date?”
“Also unique to #A18 was the straight or squared cutoff exhaust pipe on the port side of the engine. I remember them painting the #A18 numbers, and in this shot just “8” had been sprayed waiting to dry before continuing with “A1_”. A close look shows the tape and masking paper. [McBride’s image, below] taken after the crash [with Merrill McBride and family] clearly shows the squared off exhaust pipe. The other side had the usual tapered cut.”

McBride family and TBM #A18 FZTR_MMcBride_1972_MM-51_crop
McBride family and Miramichi TBM #A18 FZTR. Merrill McBride, 1972.

#A23 / 53775b / N7028C / (CF-ZTS)

“I wrote this footnote for the printed copy of #A23 in my file:

“I was standing next to the Lewiston Tribune photographer they sent out to take this photo [below] in 1971. Art [Robinson] was the guy I worked with on installing a new short block engine in a company water truck used for crop spraying. We did a valve job together on the cylinder head. Art jumped into the shot and afterward said to me, “This photo will be famous someday.” I thought he was joking at the time. The tall gentleman on the right [possibly Andrew Retfalvy – C. Adam ] was from New Brunswick, Miramichi Co. He was there to accept delivery of the aircraft. Merrill McBride then flew #A23 CF-ZTS to New Brunswick. Photo was taken at the Clarkston facility with the Lewiston Hills in the background across the Snake River looking north.

Miramichi TBM #A23 FZTS_Feb1972_MMcBride_MM-06_crop
Miramichi Air Service TBM #A23 N7028C/FZTS, February 1972. Merrill McBride, middle.

“About the delivery timing on #A23, hard to say exactly. The [above] photo … may have been[of]  an inspection visit only. I seem to recall Gunnar Anderson getting back from his #A9 delivery NB trip and saying McBride and a customer were coming soon. “Andrew” sounds right and at the time the last name was “one I’d never heard of before”.

“That August ’71 was a cool one in the mornings. I looked up the weather history and it shows down into the cool ’50s at night. On the days I had to drag the gravel airstrip I’d come in at 3:30 am to finish early before it would get hot by 11am. I remember freezing my butt while manually cranking the flywheel on that old John Deere. Tough to cold start it, but I digress.

“Also note the picture of McBride standing with #A23 was taken there at Clarkston (the Lewiston-Clarkston hills are across the Snake River in the background looking north). It must have been taken early in the morning because facing north the glint of sunshine off the Avenger nose cowling was from the east. Also shows in the men’s shadows. As for Art Robinson, he always wore that coat in the morning. Haha.”

#A25 / N68683 / 53078 (FBEF)

“#A25 may have been delivered by summer 1971. I don’t recall seeing it.”

Hillcrest-Clarkston airstrip
Hillcrest Locations: This is Phil Schmidt’s depiction from Google Earth of the location and layout of the Clarkston, Washington (west of the Snake River), location (see the small yellow square in the top left of the right-hand image). The Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport is further to the south on the Idaho (eastern) side of the river.

Hillcrest Today

“The founder’s son, Mr. Gale Wilson (whom I met in ’71), is now President of the company. The company now has a state of the art facility for helicopter maintenance and overhaul in Lewiston.

“Page 6 of this business profile has a great article about Kelly Bean, the Director of Maintenance, and of the Hillcrest facility. I had a nice chat on the phone with him. He took over from Gunnar Anderson when [Anderson] retired around 1994. It’s all about Bell Helicopters with them now, but he remembers and enjoyed hearing about the TBMs. If you check the current Hillcrest site you can see the new 28K sq ft overhaul and maintenance facility that is next to the Lewiston airport.”


Reeder Flying Service / Charles T. Reeder, Twin Falls, Idaho

Reeder supplied five Avengers (various colour schemes) to the spray program from 1969 to 1972. Two of these, N7075C and N7076C, were equipped with a large distinctive, curved tank. See under individual TBM pages in this Archive and the Warbird Registry for additional details.

Location: Joslin Field – Magic Valley Regional Airport, Twin Falls, Idaho

Charles T. Reeder: Jan. 10, 1913 – Mar. 28, 1997

By Randy Grubbs [From the Reeder Flying Service About Us page]

Charles T. Reeder was a major influence in the history and growth of the Twin Falls Airport. In 1941 Mr. Reeder … started Reeder Flying Service. The company offered flight training and aircraft rental and the city also hired Mr. Reeder as the airport manager.

At the end of World War II the GI bill gave veterans the opportunity to learn to fly and many of them earned commercial and instructor ratings. This was a big boom for Reeder Flying Service; Mr. Reeder continued to buy more airplanes and continued to work very hard to make the business a success. During this same period crop-dusting came to the valley. Mr. Reeder got involved in this part of aviation right away and the business continued to expand.

In 1957 a lot of people thought Mr. Reeder had lost his mind because he bought four old WWII Torpedo Bombers. People couldn’t imagine what he would do with them, but Mr. Reeder had an idea. He brought them home, mounted tanks in the bottom of them, and started large-scale spray operations for the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] and Department of Agriculture. Those first 4 aircraft soon grew to a fleet of 10, the largest fleet in the United States. The aircraft were used all over the United States and eastern Canada spraying rangeland and forests. A few years later Mr. Reeder started using the fleet to fight fires, replacing the spray tanks with interchangeable fire retardant tanks. The fleet fought fires all over the western US. Eventually Mr. Reeder found an even larger airplane suitable for fire fighting, the B-26 Bomber, and incorporated four of those aircraft into the fleet.

Tribute to John Reeder, son of Charles Reeder

John Reeder, president of Reeder Flying Service and an active member of the business community, died [March 2010] of a sudden illness … in Houston. He was 65. The husband and father of four children helped continue the aviation legacy his father, Charles Reeder, started in 1941. John Reeder and his brother, Charles Reeder, bought Reeder Flying Service from their father in 1976, adapting the fixed-base operation as the industry changed.

Reeder TBMs (5) that flew in New Brunswick Under Reeder Ownership

N4168A / 91565 / #D8 / 8 / 58  — Reeder Flying Service, Idaho #D8 later #8, 1963-72, crashed Maine, 29 May 1975

N4171A / 91521 / #D11 / 11 — Reeder Flying Service, Idaho, #11, 1963-72 / others

N7075C / 53785 / #55 — Marsh Aviation, Mesa, Arizona / Reeder Flying Service, Idaho, #55, 1966-77 / others

N7076C / 53726 / #56 — Marsh Aviation, Mesa, Arizona / Reeder Flying Service, Idaho, #56, 1966-84 / others

N9429Z / 91714 / #E51 / D12 / 57 — Reeder Flying Service, Idaho, #57, 1962-84

N7075C_Reeder TBM#55_Oct1977-MKyburz
Reeder TBM N7075C #55 parked with at least one other, October 1977. [Martin Kyburz, Swiss Mustangs]

 Other TBMs in the Reeder Fleet

N4169A / 47887 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1963-1981 #63 (later #58 and #9) / Gary M. Wolverton, Kimberly, ID, March 13, 1981-1998 / Open storage, unrestored, Twin Falls, ID, 1981-1993.

N4170A / 91453 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1963-1977 #D10 (later #10) / Gary M. Wolverton, Kimberly, ID, 1984.

N4173A / 53775a / A18    Hillcrest Aircraft Idaho #? 1963-71 / FZTR Miramichi Air Service, New Brunswick, 1971-72 crashed near Sevogle New Brunswick 16 June 1972 [1972 Annual Report says 12 June]

N7030C / 53454 / Tom White-Idaho Air Tankers Inc, Boise, ID, 1963-1964 #D13. / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1966-1984 #13 / Gary Wolverton, Twin Falls, ID, 1984.

N7075C / 53785 / Marsh Aviation Co, Litchfield Park, AZ, 1963-1964 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1966-1977 #55 / Dwight Reimer, Shafter CA, 1979-1980 (Flew as My Assam Dragon)

N7076C / 53726 / Marsh Aviation Co, Litchfield, AZ, 1963-1964 #24 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1966-1984 #56 / Gary Wolverton, Twin Falls, ID, 1984.

N73642 / 69329 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1963-1984 #D23 (later #23) / Open storage, derelict, Twin Falls, ID, 1980-1984 / Gary Wolverton, Twin Falls, ID, 1984.

N9429Z / 91714 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1962-1984 #E51 (later #D12, #57) / Charles T. Reeder, Twin Falls, ID, 1988-1991.

N9548Z / 91598 / Rector Air Service, Pacific Palisades, CA, 1962-1966 #E76 / Hemet Valley Flying Service, Hemet, CA, 1969-1970 #E76 / Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls, ID, 1971 – Crashed Columbia, CA, August 18, 1973 – Stored damaged, Stockton, CA, 1974.

It is likely that these are Reeder TBMs lined up at the Twinn Falls airport. Taken July 1977, source no known.
These are Reeder TBMs lined up at the Twin Falls airport. Taken July 1977, source not known. A discussion on TBM’s – Mil & Civ has now revealed the identities of these four TBMs. The image is by Martin Kyburz, Swiss Mustangs. The farthest two are N4171A and N7075C, which is which not determined. The second is probably N76342 or N9547Z #80, and front is N4169A.

Gustin Aviation, Lewiston, Idaho

N68683 / 53078 / #? — Ivan Gustin, Lewiston, Idaho, as N68683, 1966 / Hillcrest Aircraft Co., Lewiston, ID, #110 #A25 N68683 1969-1970 / Miramichi Air Service, Douglastown, NB, #A25 N68683 CF-BEF 1972-1975

N68684 / 86175  / #? — Richel Air, Quebec (as FJJB) / Ivan Guston, Lewiston, Idaho, 1966-67, crashed Greece 1967

[Posted 7 Sep 2012, to BackCountryPilot by kevbert.]

I tied down at LWS for a few years, and Gustin Aviation performed my annuals, a few repairs, etc. No complaints, in fact my experiences were always good. However, I was already on the field, and I was willing to let them work on my plane when it fit their schedule. Old man (Ron?) Gustin is now mostly retired, and his son Steve has taken over.

I remember that crop dusters from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana would all come in there to have their planes fixed up, and in the late winter through the early spring there might be a dozen or more of them lined up outside waiting to get into their hangar in preparation for the upcoming season. If a crop duster smacked a fence or a power line and came in for repairs, they would drop anything else to get him back in service ASAP.

Ivan Gustin [of Gustin Aviation] and Jerry Wilson [of Hillcrest Aviation] worked very closely together as partners I think for years. Maybe their holdings were like two company divisions. I actually saw more of Gustin  around the Clarkston shop than Jerry. In that photo of A9 in New Brunswick  [above, under Hillcrest] that is Ivan on the left standing next to Gunnar in the middle. [Phil Schmidt, 30 Jan 2015]

Idaho Aircraft company (IAC), Boise, Idaho

Records show (and here) that this company was incorporated on 12 February 1959 in Boise by Milton Smilanich. Records from people finder websites indicate that Milton Smilanich lives in Boise and is probably deceased. Dennis Smilanich died in 2008 at 90.

N9590C / 53784 / #D1 / 603 — Dennis G. Smilanich / Idaho Aircraft 1963-72 / FAGL — Conair Aviation British Columbia, #603, 1972 crashed at Lac des Loup Quebec 9 Jun 1972, destroyed, pilot killed.

Idaho Aircraft also owned three of the Ball-Ralston TBMs: N5635N, N7026C and N7922A. Ownership details as listed in some sites show the following pattern:

  • 1961-1962 Idaho Aircraft Inc.
  • 1962-1968 Dennis G. Smilanich

The image below of the Idaho Aircraft Company (IAC) TBM with other aircraft, Boise, Idaho, summer 1961, was found in Rudder Flutter, Official Publication of the Idaho State Department of Aeronautics, August 1961, Vol 17 (4): 1-6. One is lucky to have found such an early example of an Avenger being used commercially. Unfortunately, the aircraft must remain unidentified.

Idaho Aircraft TBM
The caption accompanying the image is reproduced here: Example of aircraft being used in borate and bentonite drops on fire. L to R: Jim Saad, Forest Service Air Traffic Manager on Boise Forest. Background center, borate crews and equipment for loading craft. Idaho Aircraft Company TBM and B-25’s fire-drop bombers. lAC holds one of initial attack contracts with Forest Service for TBM’s and B-25’s for BLM [Bureau of Land Management]. Each initial attack contract calls for a backup airplane. lAC is backing up TBM with a B-25 and BLM B-25 with another B-25. Judd Stevens is crew pilot in charge of lAC initial attack with TBM and B-25 for Forest Service – Milt Smilanich on initial attack with B-25’s for both BLM and Forest Service. Howard Knudsen is reserve pilot with Merl Armstrong and Milt Sparks as co-pilots. An interesting coincidence: Jim Saad and Merl Armstrong are normally grade school principals.


U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Montana

Bruce Kinney/Kinney Air Tankers, Richey
Custom Farm Service of Montana, Richey
Edgar L. Thorsrud, Missoula
Evergreen Air, Missoula
Johnson Flying Service, Missoula
Lynch Air Tankers/Lynch Flying Service, Billings
Neptune Aviation, Missoula

Johnson Flying Service, Missoula, Montana

Johnson supplied seven, and possibly nine, Avengers to the spray program from 1964 to 1966 and 1969 to 1972. Six were eventually sold to FPL in 1974; these, together with five from Sis-Q, were FPL’s first eleven TBMs.

Johnson colour scheme: N6824C, #A12 in 1972 (became FPL’s GLEK).

An interim report by FPL’s Barney Flieger, dated July 22, 1964, lists the aircraft supplied by contractors for the 1964 spray project. Besides 14 from Skyway, the other contractor was Wheeler Airlines, which supplied five of their own as well as “9 U.S. a/c owned by Johnson”. Could these be the nine TBMs listed (sorted by registration) below? However, the Warbird Registry lists N3969A as being owned by Edgar L. Thorsrud, Missoula, Montana, 1963-1972, but this one was probably included in the group, especially as it was later owned by Johnson.

Read about the early (up to 1975) history of Bob Johnson and his company at the Missoula International Airport history page and in the book Fly The Biggest Piece Back, by Steve Smith (1979; revised 1988), where the TBMs are called “slurry bombers” after the retardant they dropped on forest fires in the Northwest Region. The book is out of print, but used copies can still be found on the Internet. Look for the fourth printing, which has 30 new photos.

Neil Aird visited Johnson’s facilities in Missoula in 1968. See HERE for several black-and-white images of a wide range of Johnson’s fleet, including three TBMs, parked on the grass.

Fly_the_biggest_piece_backSmith reprinted a feature story that was written by Charles Hood and that appeared in the August 26, 1973, issue of The Missoulian. After the TBMs had become available for civilian purchase in the mid-1950s, Johnson, like many others at the time, bought three in 1954 from the Litchfield Boneyard in Arizona.

“They rigged them with homemade tanks and flew them … over fires in the late 50s.” Hood writes that, as of 1973, that Johnson had five TBMs, “two in Missoula, two in Grangeville, Idaho, and one in Helena.”

TBMs lined up_BlissvilleNB_May1976_A5-277c
Several Johnson TBMs lined up with others at Blissville airstrip, NB, May 1976.

N3249G / 91159 / #A14 — Johnson Flying Service Montana #A14 1963-69 / GLEN FPL 1974

N3251G / 91398 / #A15  — Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #A15, 1963-70, crashed Dunphy New Brunswick, May 1970

N3969A / 53787 – #A21 / E30 / 10 — Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #A21, 1963-72 / Hillcrest Aircraft, Idaho / GFPT FPL 1976

N6824C / 85733 / #A12 / 14 — other / Hillcrest / Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #A12, 1966-72 / GLEK FPL 1974

N7014C / 85836 / #A11 / 11 — Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #A11, 1963-72 / GLEP FPL 1974

N7015C / 85854 / #A7 — Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #A7, 1963-72 / GLEQ FPL 1974

N7016C / 85862 / #A? — Johnson – Not much is known about this aircraft, save that it was likely a part of the Johnson fleet in the 1960s.

N9010C / 53200 / #D6 / A13 / 13 — Hillcrest Aircraft, Idaho, #D6, 1963-66 / Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #A13, 1969-72 / GLEL FPL 1974

N9597C / 85499 / #D6 / A16 / A6 / 6 — Calvin J. Butler, Redmond, Oregon, 1963 / Johnson Flying Service, Montana, #D6, 1966-72 / GLEM FPL 1974

Evergreen International Airlines and Johnson FS

The “airline’s airline,” Evergreen International Airlines, Inc. is an air freight carrier that hauls cargo for a number of other passenger airlines and shipping companies. The Evergreen International Aviation group of companies was founded by Delford M. Smith.

By 1975, Smith had a fleet of 98 helicopters. He developed pioneering new uses for the rotorcraft, capitalizing on new opportunities as they arose. For example, Smith logged his own timber and flew it out of remote locations before lumber prices collapsed in the early 1980s. Also in 1975, Smith’s company bought Johnson Flying Service, a small airline in Missoula, Montana, that had a license to fly anywhere in the United States as a “supplemental carrier.” The growing company was relocated to McMinnville, Oregon, and renamed Evergreen International Airlines.

The history of Missoula International Airport is detailed here.

Two Johnson TBMs in South Dakota, 1959

N3249G + N7014C_SpearfishSD airport_12Sep1959c
Johnson FS TBMs N3249G and N7014C Spearfish, South Dakota, airport in 1959. Provided by Thomas Costello (the boy in the image), probably 12 September, 1959.

Here is an email from Thomas Costello, 29 January 1914:

I am the bare footed young man in both pictures. My age appears to be the same as other photos known to have been taken in the summer of 1959. I was allowed to let my hair grow all summer but had to be clean cut for school. In the pictures I have a school hair cut. School traditionally started the day after labor day which would have been Tuesday September 8 in 1959. This was the day I believe that the Deadwood fire began. I would have been in school until the week end. From the shadows it appears to me this is late morning. If this were Sunday we all would have been in Church at this time, probably praying for rain. Saturday September 12, 1959 is a reasonable best guess as to the date of these photos.

Both photos came into my possession  years ago in a box full of other loose photos when I saved them from my Mother’s trash can. They then survived a fire, a flood, and a mudslide simply because they had not been placed in albums and left in living areas. I was cleaning out some stuff last week and came across the box and found these photos on top. Thanks to your web site I quickly learned the fate of these two TBM’s.

Use the photos as you see fit. Publish them, crop them, whatever. They belong to the history of the TBM slurry bombers and all those who crewed them.

Donald A. Goodman, Montana

N7157C / 86020 / #63 / E22 / 22 — Donald A. Goodman, Missoula, Montana #63 1963-70 / GFPL FPL 1976

Rick Leavell of Seattle, Washington, writes on Martin Simpson’s Douglas A/B-26 Invader page (HERE):
“A book could be written about this man, and his abilities, and his struggle to make a paying career of flying. I first ran into him when I went to his plane to install an FS radio and give it a radio check. Here was a blond headed guy with a great smile, and covered with grease from working on the plane. Parked along side the plane was a 50’s Hudson, and in the back seat was a baby that Don was looking after. What should have been a 10 minute job turned into a couple hours, I was totally intrigued by the man.

Don Goodman … “had a TBM A22 (ACE DOUBLE DUCE).”

TBM #A22_Nov1966-DAGoodman
This is Don Goodman’s #A22 N7157C, probably at Missoula, Montana. This image was labelled November 1966.

“To make a long story short I ended up working with Don, on the TBM, he had a house and shop on Reserve St., not far from where I lived, and would tow the plane through town to work on it during the winter. One year the county said no more towing, so we just flew it out early one morning using Reserve St. as a runway.

“He purchased the first [B-]26, in ’69 I believe, and we spent the winter tanking it. It was flown by a pilot he hired, and ended up in the corn field in Idaho in 1973.

“About this time Don purchased another [B-]26, and tanked it for a BLM contract. He had finally reached a point where he was making money, all he wanted was one more good year, and after the headaches of hiring pilots, he was going to do the job himself. We had many discussions, and disagreements about Dons age (60) and it was not that he was not an exceptional pilot, the bottom line was that the plane was a young man’s airplane.

“We drifted apart as I was involved in a new job and I had not seen Don for a year or so. In 1976 he died doing what he loved best, dropping slurry on a fire in Colorado. I did not find out till I met Ing some months later in the store, as the services were held in Idaho.”

Patricia J. Goodman, May 31, 2011, writes:
My father was Donald A. Goodman. I did not know him very well as my parents divorced when I was 5 years old in 1963. I did not see my father again. My mother relocated us out of Missoula, Montana, to the Oregon area. There was very little communication after that.

At 16 years old I was notified that my father was killed in a plane crash in Parachute, Colorado on July 16, 1976. He was called to help with a forest fire on the mountain to drop fire retardant and somehow lost control of the plane. I went to his services in McCall, Idaho, and met some family on the Goodman side. I loved the area and the people there.”

Central Air Service Inc, Lewiston, Montana

N7017C / 53857 / #A27 / E21 / 21 — Central Air Service, Montana, #A27, 1963-72 / GFPM FPL 1976

Edgar L. Thorsrud, Missoula, Montana

From the Missoulian, March 30, 2007:

“Flying was Ed’s passion and his livelihood. He was a pioneer in the early days of mountain aviation, flying various planes, including Tri-Motors and DC3s for Johnson Flying Service into remote mountain airstrips. He delivered essential cargo to the backcountry and transported smoke jumpers and firefighters to fires throughout the west. There was no airstrip too short or rugged for Ed to handle.

“In the mid ’50s when the business of aerial fire fighting was in its infancy, he flew specially equipped Ford Tri-Motors on slurry missions for Johnson. This experience led him to invest in his own slurry planes, including a TBM and B25. He dropped retardant for years in Alaska, Montana and Idaho, taking him away from his family for long absences during the fire season.”


U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Wyoming

Aero-Flite/Aeroflite Inc., Cody
Avery Aviation, Greybull
Hawkins and Powers Aviation, Greybull
Kem Air Inc., Worland

Seeley Flying Service

Air Tankers Inc

Casper and Newcastle (on the west side of the Black Hills), Wyoming

Only one Air Tankers TBM operated in NB (in 1971); it was eventually sold to Norfolk Aerial Spraying as GOBJ. This company also sold two other TBMs to Norfolk.

Owner of Air Tankers Inc. Warren G. Voss obituary (scroll down):
“He and Doris had three children all born before they moved to Newcastle, Wyoming, in 1953, where he entered the oil business. He was the consummate entrepreneur with several business ventures which included … Air Tankers Inc. …”

N10361 / 53768 / #B18  — Seeley Flying Service, Wyoming, #B18, 1966-69 / GLDX Norfolk, New Brunswick, #B18, 1975-85 / sold to USA

N17930 / 69531 / #B19 — USFS, MD, N179Z  / Seeley Flying Service, Wyoming / Air Tankers, Wyoming / 1963-72 / GOBK, Norfolk, New Brunswick, #B19, 1974-78, crashed Minto, New Brunswick, 30 May 1978

N7002C / 85632 / #B15 — Plains Aero, Texas / Air Tankers, Wyoming, 1966-72 / GOBJ, Norfolk, New Brunswick, #B15, 1974-89, crashed & damaged Chatham New Brunswick, 4 June 1974

N9596C / 69361 / #E19 / B16 — P&B Aviation, Oroville, California / Aero Union Corp, Chico, California / Air Tankers, Wyoming, #E19, 1963-72 / GOEG, Norfolk, New Brunswick, #B16, 1975-84 / sold to Alberta

N9599C BuNo not known Plains Aero Service, Dalhart, TX, 1963-1964 before it went to Air Tankers of Wyoming. Air Tankers’ TBM #B14 N9599C was contracted to spray in NB but crashed in Iowa on 20 May 1971 before arriving.

Summarized NTSB narrative from report number MKC71FCD84: There was one fatality. Incident occurred at 15:30 hours. The airframe was destroyed. The flight departed from Casper, WY, with the destination New Brunswick, Can. Stalled and/or mushed while cruising. A fire broke out after impact. Report remarks include: Canopy was open. Pilots chute deployed from within cockpit, cause unk, draped over aft control surfaces. Incident occurred at or near Mapleton, IA. For a complete description of the event read the NTSB Report. This quote is from Aerial Visuals.

3 thoughts on “U.S. Mountain States: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

  1. My father, Walter Greenquist flew B-26 tankers out of Twin Falls Idaho for a man named Bill Dempsey in the late 70s early 80s.

  2. There was a TBM in Ontario, Oregon in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I think Casey Jones of Ontario Flight Service owned it. They used it for sage brush contracts and big projects. It was wrecked in Ironside, Oregon. Casey went out, grabbed a few good things off it and left it. It sat there for years I guess before someone hauled it off. My dad knows more about this and can give more detail if interested.

  3. My dad, Floyd E. “Ed” Lonnevik was a mechanic with Johnson Flying Service in Missoula for about five years in the early ’60’s and was one of the crew that maintained the TBM’s and the other Forest Service leased aircraft during Fire season. He worked as fire retardant mixer and loader as well as the engine and airframe mechanic. Subsequent to his stint with Johnson’s, he moved us to Boise, Idaho where he was head mechanic for Boise Aviation. He left the company shortly after it’s buyout by Intermountain Helicopter to begin a new career with the Federal Aviation Administration as an inspector, accident investigator, and emergency parachute rigger.

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