My name is Charlie Steele and I am one of the river guides at Helfrich. I have been guiding for two years and absolutely love being on the river in the summers. During the rest of the year, I am a Certified Flight Instructor in Bozeman, MT. I teach all ages of students how to fly airplanes such as DA20s, DA40s, and, of course, Cessna’s. Even though I’m on payroll, it doesn’t feel like a job. 

When it comes time for us to fly all of our equipment into the Middle Fork, I become giddy. The operator we use consistently for fly-in’s, has a fleet of Cessna 206s. They are phenomenal airplanes that can carry as much gear as you can fit in them. I often try to get the pilots to let me fly the plane for some of the flight. 

Aviation is essential to many of the ranches on the Middle Fork where the only way in is by boat or airplane. There are airstrips riddled all along the river and one of my favorite sounds is hearing a 206 coming into land. Aviation on the Middle Fork started in the 1940’s as aerial mail routes and has evolved into being imperative for so many outfitters and ranches. 

Next time you come on the river with us, come and ask me about aviation in The Frank Church. You might be getting yourself into an hour long conversion, but I’d be happy to talk planes with someone.

See you in the next eddy,

Charlie Steele

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