Helena resident Bob Davis has been flying airplanes for decades, even making a career out of it in the 1970s. Now, he has one of his own, and it was on display at this weekend’s Three Forks Fly-in.
More than forty years ago, Davis participated in Montana Civil Air Patrol and was responsible for piloting L-19 Bird Dogs in search and rescue operations.
“Back in the ‘70s, I was in the Civil Air Patrol in Montana, and we had those Bird Dogs stationed in Montana. This particular airplane happened to be stationed in Missoula, and we had one in Butte, that’s where I was located,” Davis said.
And once he’d flown a Bird Dog over the mountains of Montana, he fell in love with it, so much so that almost half a century later, he now owns one.
“Pretty much, I really liked them in the Civil Air Patrol and then when my son called me about this I said, ‘Oh boy,’ if we can do it, I’d sure like to have one again,” he said.
This model of the Bird Dog, built by the company Seneca in 1951, has 213 horsepower and can cruise at 105 miles per hour, ideal for search and rescue missions.
“In the Civil Air Patrol, of course in Western Montana, mountains, that’s the greatest mountain airplane that I’ve ever flown, and it will get you in and out of tight spots, it’s got the power to get you out of the ridges. They’re really great for search and rescue and that’s what we used them for, for downed airplanes or lost hikers, any of that stuff,” said Davis.
Davis used to take his four sons flying in the Bird Dog when he was with the Civil Air Patrol, and now that love of flying has transcended three generations; “I got four boys, three of them have pilot’s licenses, I’ve got a grandson who’s got a pilot’s license, and I’ve got a granddaughter who’s got her pilot’s license,” Davis said. “We’re airplane poor.”
Davis flies the plane regularly, and while it’s seen almost 70 years of flying and a few paint jobs, it never fails to remind him of what made him fall in love with Bird Dogs.
“Oh, [it reminds me] every time I go up, fly around the mountains, look at the animals,” he said. “They’re neat, sure are.”