Upon hearing of the recent passing of Galen Hanselman, my thoughts immediately turned to the awe-inspiring flying trip I took in the Utah backcountry exactly one year ago. The current prohibitive travel restrictions make it an even more valuable experience today. The memories stirred by looking at the video and the pictures puts a smile on my face every time.

Pilots are generally a fiercely independent, individualistic, driven, type “A” group that are justifiably proud of accomplishing something many others would not attempt. However, if honest, we have to admit that much of what gives us pride is a result of the innovation and endeavour of others.

Let’s consider my trip, for example. I am a prairie boy, and the landscape where I have farmed all my life is as flat as a billiard table. Straight roads form a one mile grid as far as the eye can see. Obviously, my flying experience is not suited for the Utah back country. When we returned, many of my Manitoba friends and neighbours thought I had accomplished something amazing. Nevertheless, if the truth was known, it was Galen’s 2007 Fly Utah guidebook that allowed this flatlander to make that trip not only possible, but also safe and enjoyable as well. Truly, I was “standing on the shoulders of a giant,” able to see and experience Utah’s amazing vistas.

I expressed my appreciation to him earlier this spring, and received this gracious reply in return:

Aren’t you glad there are still places like this to explore? I loved producing this book. The world is slow to discover this magnificent part of the country but it’s coming around.

All my best,


The Utah Back Country Pilots Association not only takes care of the amazing back country airstrips, but actively lobbies to maintain access on behalf of the aviation community. Again, we are following in the footsteps of others who have gone before us. Do we express our thanks frequently enough and support them adequately financially?

Bob Barrows gave me the ability to travel 1000 miles each way quickly and efficiently while also having the capability to handle short, rough, high elevation strips by designing the Bearhawk line of aircraft. This is another example of how pilots have reaped the benefits of the skills and efforts others contributed. The technological advances and improved affordability of the experimental aircraft community cannot be overstated. My Patrol (released in 2010) is a prime example of how this trip was made possible by taking advantage of the work of others.

Speaking of technological advances, the significance of Steve Jobs’s 2010 release of the iPad to general aviation was so huge that it’s hard to believe that it’s only been around for 10 years! Jason Miller and Tyson Weihs developed something that we take for granted now, but just over a decade ago was only a dream. ForeFlight was a huge part of how I was able to flight plan and navigate this unfamiliar area. There are a number of excellent competitive product options now, but they were the first. A trip like mine would have been much more challenging with paper charts. We all (yes, me too) complain about the cost, but really, the iPad and the apps developed for it changed the way we fly.

We all know that much of the joy that travel adventures bring is in sharing them with others, whether it is the actual experience or the stories that are inevitably told later. Did you know that surfing and memories of Utah back country flying are connected? Nick Woodman invented an action camera in 2004 that would show off surfing moves, allowing him to “Go Pro.” The evolution of action cameras has allowed us to share our flying experiences with others like no generation before us could. Are the cameras free? Obviously not, but the memories are priceless.

The innovations listed above have transformed the general aviation experience. Safety, accessibility, speed, situational awareness, and the sharing of experiences have all changed by orders of magnitude hard to comprehend in a very short time. We can see and experience things never before possible because we are truly standing on the shoulders of giants. There has never been a better time in history to go flying!

Often our appreciation is expressed solely through the financial worth of a purchase transaction. While it is true that this shows we value what the innovator has done, perhaps during this time when we are confined it would be appropriate to call or email someone who has contributed to your aviation experience and let them know. Do it now, as none of us knows how long the opportunity to personally say thank you will be available! I know that I am glad I did!

My immediate plan is to climb back up onto the shoulders of these aviators and innovators to see the vistas and experience the adventures of a bucket list trip recommended by Galen himself as the premier backcountry flying destination. The Fly Idaho guide is being bookmarked while planning the route using ForeFlight on my iPad… and I’m upgrading my GoPro cameras so I can share the experience with others. 🙂

If you are interested in seeing the memories of our Utah back country trip that make me smile, you can check them out in this video.