By SUSAN SCHELL
Pilot Staff Writer
The back room of the Cal-Ore Life Flight building at Del Norte County Airport was buzzing with children last Sunday morning.
Students sponsored by various organizations awaited their turn to take a ride on a Cal-Ore airplane around the Smith River Rancheria, then out to the St. George Reef Lighthouse.
Brookings pilot Dan Brattain, president of Cal-Ore Life Flight, donated his time and the use of his eight-seat Cessna 421 to offer the students a ride for $25 a seat.
Brattain operates his air ambulance company out of Crescent City and is also a member of the Del Norte County Airport Advisory Committee.
The main reason for the event was to meet the 10,000 enplanement requirement for Del Norte County Airport set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The FAA requires that airports fulfill a certain quota each year for seats filled with passengers, based on the size of the airport.
Not meeting the requirement meant that the airport would miss out on $1 million worth of funding from the FAA for airport improvements.
"Around late October, early November, we started looking at our numbers. We were very concerned when we compared the number (of passengers) to last year," Brattain said.
"This is the first year we've had to worry about this."
Brattain contributed the drop in numbers to the amount of SkyWest flights that have been cancelled due to bad weather in San Francisco, where most of the planes land.
Since Brattain's Cessna qualifies as a commercial airplane, airport officials organized the trips to the lighthouse and invited local youth organizations to participate.
Several organizations and individual businesses donated the funds to sponsor the rides for the children, including Smith River Rancheria, Crescent City Car Club, Crescent City Rotary, Sunrise Rotary, Clayton Ward, Sam Rutledge, C.P.A., Tina McClendon, Donna Walsh, Jeanine Galatioto and Martha McClure.
Cal-Ore donated $5 from each fare to the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society.
The flight took the students out over Lake Earl, the Yontocket village south of the Smith River and
over Prince Island, owned by the Howonquet tribe.
The plane then headed out to sea and looped around the St. George Reef Lighthouse before heading back to the airport.
"It was great," said student Derek Goodlin. "I liked looking at the buffalos at the Smith River Rancheria.
De-sre Richards had never been on an airplane before the flight.
"It was cool," she said. "It looked like a tiny toy village."
"I liked the lighthouse," said Ame Fox. "I've flown over this area before, but never the lighthouse. It was gorgeous."
"It went very, very well," said Brattain. "We flew about 104 people out.
"We monitored the situation and knew an extra 100 or so people would put us over the top.
"We're feeling real good right now. We're grateful that people from both Brookings and Crescent City came to help us out."
Dan Harrison, manager of the airport, was more than pleased with the success of the event.
"It was so gratifying," he said.
"The important thing is, we have some breathing room now. We will get the entitlement grant and be able to make airport improvements to better serve the public.
"We enjoyed the community support. The seats were made available by group sponsors and individuals.
"Cal-Ore gave the biggest donation. They donated their time and equipment. It was a wonderful success in all aspects."