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Caldwell kept at it, got his permit and then his pilot’s license and began taking recreational exploratory flights over the Cabinets and the David Thompson Chain of Lakes.

A forester, and forest manager by trade, Caldwell had seen much of the country working in the woods from a different angle and perspective. He said, “It seemed like there were tremendous opportunities for scenic flights over the Cabinets and from the air Loon Lake and the Chain of Lakes showed just beautiful Caribbean colors. We started Kootenai Aviation in 2007.”

Caldwell then stated the obvious by saying that safe flying is a priority and always has been with Kootenai Aviation. Regulations require major inspections of commercial aircraft at 100 hour intervals, and from tip to tail. K.A. emphasizes that the superior pilot uses superior judgement  to avoid the need for their superior skills.

Caldwell spoke a bit about how weather, terrain, and pilot human factors such as stress, illness, and fatigue can effect safety. He showed a good sense of humor, along with good common sense when he talked about advice an older, more experienced pilot once told him years ago. His fellow pilot said that if any aspect of safety was questionable, the best thing to do was to perform the Captain Kidd maneuver. Captain Kidd was the captain of an old time pirate ship, and when his enemies seemed to have him at a disadvantage, he would simply turn 180 degrees and head the other way.

K.A. performed services such as 60 minute scenic flights, and aerial survey work including location of blowdown, insect and disease infestations, forest road condition surveys, broad scale mapping of certain noxious weeds, and angler surveys. When asked what were some of the more interesting surveys that he enjoyed as both a pilot and an outdoor professional, Caldwell said, “The Lake Pend Oreille angler survey was interesting because we had to fly low, sometimes at 700 feet to distinguish between pleasure boats and fishers. That required considerable decisions regarding visibility and wind conditions. The deep water of that lake still harbors a submarine base, and we spotted a yellow submarine and got some photos of it.”

Caldwell’s long safety record is excellent. Trips require a strict radio flight plan with flight following. A pilot must stay in constant contact with  air to ground communications, and a spot tracker is used that gives off GPS, or Global Positioning Signals every five minutes. Caldwell  thanks his wife, Linda, for being there as a dependable communications link, and she tracks his route on Google maps. This is extremely important especially on trips over mountainous terrain as they require a somewhat weaving route that differs from more level terrain point to point flights. Linda will contact the necessary agencies in case of any Mayday calls. The word mayday comes from the French term m’aider, which means help me. Luckily, Bill Caldwell has an excellent history of safe flights which is a testament to his prowess as a pilot, and Linda’s communication and tracking skills.

Take a look at the Kootenai Aviation, Libby, Montana website to view some amazing photos. Bill and Linda Caldwell can be reached by email at, or by phone at 293-9320.

When asked about plans to continue flying after retirement, a big smile came across his face when Caldwell said, “Oh Yeah. Plus Linda and I are planning to take a flight on up to Alaska, and stay several weeks.” Smooth sailing Bill.


By Brian Baxter, The



Yaak Winter Festival
Feb. 14 through 16

The Yaak River Tavern’s seventh annual Winter Festival will begin with a spaghetti and meatball dinner at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14. The owners of the Yaak River Tavern and the Yaak Mercantile are Gwen Allen and her husband Dustin Sconyers. In talking with The Montanian, Allen said  “This year is a spaghetti cook off between Yaak residents Bob Zaccheo and Kenlynn Rijken.”

On Saturday the day begins with the snow sculpting competition, and then rolls into the Yaak-a-Loppet cross country and Nordic ski race at the Yaak Rod & Gun Club beginning at 11 a.m. Loppet is a Norwegian term for any long endurance race or athletic event which occurs across varied terrain. The Norwegian pronunciation is more like loupet.

The Winter Festival Queen Contest will begin at 7 p.m., and will be followed with live music at the tavern.

Sunday will be the infamous Outhouse Race event. Teams will compete in heats of two for the trophy toilet seat. Teams are comprised of one person inside the outhouse and two pushers. There are usually about eight teams. There is also a trophy toilet seat for best of show which is voted on by the audience. There will be an awards ceremony following the outhouse races. There will also be live music throughout the day on Sunday.

In chatting about the weather, Allen said, “We are already looking at a plan B if the weather doesn’t cooperate with more snow, but we have received a dusting lately, and with a week to go we feel pretty confident about having enough snow for our event.”

If folks want to check on conditions or want to inquire about any other information they can go to the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile Facebook page, or call 295-4706.

The Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile Store is located at 29238 Yaak River Road in the interesting and original community of Yaak, Montana. The mailing address is the same road and number but with a Troy, Mont. label and zip code of 59935. Support the Yaak community with a visit during the Winter Festival and enjoy some unique events with some fun loving folks.

By Brian Baxter, The Montanian


Grizzly Bear Council to meet in

The public is invited to the next meeting of the Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council in Libby on Feb. 26-27.

The advisory council will gather in the Ponderosa Room at City Hall, 952 E. Spruce, in Libby on both days. The meeting is scheduled to start at 8 a.m., Feb. 26, and 9 a.m., Feb. 27. The meetings are open to the public and opportunities for public engagement will be available.

On Feb. 26 from 5-6:30 p.m., the meeting will feature an extended opportunity for the public to share ideas and questions related to the council’s purpose and emerging ideas.

The public is also encouraged to provide input to council members online at

The focus throughout the two-day meeting will be for the council to further develop its emerging ideas and continue to build upon a shared knowledge and understanding of the issues the group is tasked with addressing. Among the topics to be discussed at the meeting in Libby, a panel presentation and discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities that recreation and tourism have on the recovery, conservation and management of grizzly bears. Other topics will include funding, connectivity and the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, a federally designated recovery zone for grizzly bears in northwest Montana.

The Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone is situated in northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho. The recovery zone stretches over more than 2,600 square miles of forested and mountainous habitat throughout the Yaak River drainage and the Cabinet Mountains. This ecosystem encompasses approximately 90 percent public lands. The grizzly bear population in this recovery zone extends into Canada throughout the Purcell Mountain Range.

In the 1980s, only a few grizzly bears remained in this area, estimated at fewer than 10 in the Cabinet Mountains portion alone. In 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a program in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to restore the population and boost genetic diversity. As part of this augmentation program, young grizzly bears without a prior conflict history are occasionally captured in the nearby Northern Continental Divide Recovery Zone and moved to remote areas with similar habitat conditions in the Cabinet-Yaak with the goal of the bears taking up residency.

In 2018, the 20th grizzly bear was moved to the ecosystem through this augmentation program. In 2019, two grizzly bears, a sub-adult female and sub-adult male, were captured in the Whitefish Range and moved to the Cabinet-Yaak.

Currently, there are an estimated 55 to 60 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone.

The meeting in Libby will be the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council’s fifth gathering.

Additional meetings will be held across the state to provide more people the opportunity to interact with the council before it submits its final recommendations this summer. More information about the council, including meeting summaries and presentation slides from the previous council meetings, can be found online at


Submitted by Dillion