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The day dawned bright and fresh with a lively breeze, and lots of little "popcorn" clouds that would later turn into rough flying. Things got off to an inauspicious start; I had to make a trip back home for the forgotten insurance statement. But at last, after numerous photos of us standing in front of the plane (whose sides were bulging by now), the doors were shut and we were rolling by 10:45. The heat of the day built quickly and the accompanying thermals made travel uncomfortable for Cindy. I couldn't find a smooth level, and she was looking a bit pale by the time we landed for lunch in Bismarck.
Leaving behind the flat prairie country, late afternoon brought us to the big sky country of Montana. Mountains began to appear on either side, some on eye level with us. This is no place to wander off the airway!
We didn't reach the Great Falls area until late afternoon, flying into a very hazy sky with the setting sun directly in front of us. A friendly Great Falls controller asked if we had the airport in sight yet. Looking around, we spotted an airport at 2:00 and asked if this was the Great Falls airport. The controller indicated it was correct and then asked if for further confirmation we saw a red water tower to the right of the runway. Yes, the corroborating tower was visible, so we were directed on to a right base. I began hearing another controller calling for "28 alpha" but that wasn't me so I didn't answer. As we approached the threshold, a frantic voice said "Cherokee with a red tail: you are about to land at Malmstrom AFB!" That got our attention very quickly indeed! It turned out the Great Falls airport was at 10:00 at the time Malmstrom was at 2:00, and both of them have red water towers! Apparently it is a common mistake around the area but nonetheless we were all a bit embarrassed.
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Copyright © 2003 Linda Dowdy, last revision 030302