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South Big Horn Airport, Greybull, WY, USA (KGEY) - September 2006

After the auction in August which saw most of the Hawkins and Powers inventory going under the hammer, I thought it would be prudent for me to visit the company's Greybull, Wyoming headquarters before most of the aircraft were scrapped, trucked out, or flown away.

I drove during the day from Colorado to arrive by late afternoon and seeing the aircraft lined up on the airfield I thought it might be nice to try to get some overall shots of the airfield. A quick look at the map showed that there should be a dirt road on the west side of the airfield - yes there is and it's elevated so I took a look-see.

After a while I eventually came to the end of where a normal 4x4 vehicle could go without getting stuck, and I was left with a short trip down and up one final hill to see the whole airfield laid out in front of me.

On the way back I got a bit cocky and drove a little too fast, thinking that the road was dry, until I sunk down in a rut and splattered the whole car with gooey mud - luckily I recovered and all was well.

I spoke to the owner of the motel I was staying in about the impact that Hawkins and Powers have had on the economy since the closure and she stated that luckily the town hadn't been hit too badly as a ethanol plant was starting up and was employing at least 66 people.

Greybull is a very small town and there are glimpses of old or failed businesses around, like the overgrown cattle market, a few factory buildings and now the demise of the H&P facility at the airport. H&P were definitely part of the community, even sponsoring the local school.

The next day I arrived at the airfield for my pre-arranged meeting with museum curator Ralph Rayner, at the small airport museum hut. The Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting was originally founded by Gary Harman, Duane Powers and Bob Hawkins back in 1987 which, and was then based in their front office.

The museum is now operated out of a little log hut, which was originally built in 1902 and was the post office for the town of Coburn around 2 miles to the north of Greybull - it was moved to it's present location in 1988.

Ralph runs the free museum with his wife Lorraine, and they are both keen to show any visitors the aircraft on the ramps and even allow people to go inside.

Ralph is 83 and is one of those people that you could listen to all day. He has flown so many aircraft you loose track, and he has certainly flown most of the flyable aircraft on the airfield - he also test flies the aircraft for Hawkins and Powers and more recently for Great American who took over H&P assets.

His favorite aircraft to fly is the C97, especially the one that still sits on the ramp - the only airworthy C97 on the field. This aircraft was been bought by Clay Lacy, and the plan is to cut out the retardant tanks and retrofit the belly from one of the many C97's sitting in the field. After this is completed the tanks will be fitted to the donor aircraft and presented to the museum.

Even while I was there on a very windy day (the photos were difficult to take because of the wind), there were a steady stream of visitors lured in by the aircraft parked on the field at the entrance to the airport. Even though this town is literally in the middle of nowhere, it's on a major traffic route to Yellowstone National Park, and there is a convenient rest-stop at the entrance to the airport itself.

In fact the museum has acquired the lease of the land at the back of the rest area from the airport authority, so the task of snagging visitors will eventually become even easier.

So, if anyone is visiting this neck of the woods, please drop in and say hello to Ralph and his wife, who will be only too pleased to show you around. (The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays and during the winter).

Ralph is very passionate about his aircraft and would like to see as many aircraft as possible escape the scrap merchants - lets hope is enthusiasm rubs off!

Since this visit some aircraft have been able to escape the scrappers by flying out under their own power:
The C-82 was flown to the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, MD.
The L-18 was flown to FL.
The C-119 and A-26 were flown together to Glendale Municipal, AZ to form part of a new museum called the Lauridsen Aviation Museum operated by Hans Lauridsen.
One of the C130s was flown to Coolidge, AZ to International Air Response.

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