Tuesday, June 10, 2014
sponsored by

From far and further “70 Knotters” converge on Logan County Airport

Send a link to a friend  Share

[June 10, 2014]  LINCOLN - Who would want to be a member of a club that has no membership roster, no dues, no rules, and no officers and where decisions are made by the first person who asks a question about what they should do? Well, just such a group visited the Logan County Airport on Friday.

Called the “70 Knotters,” the gathering was composed mostly of pilots and passengers in six aircraft. They camped under the wing of their airplanes for the evening and renewed old friendships with fellow aviators that they had not seen in the last year.

The term 70 Knotters refers to the word knot, which is used to denote speed in aviation. Seventy knots in aircraft flight is very slow and that is just how this group likes to travel.

The 70 Knotters are a loosely, very loosely, formed group of pilots who meet once a year for a weeklong air camping vacation. They choose a route to visit airports with something interesting close by to visit, while spending the night camped under the wing of their airplanes.

This year the Knotters first stop was the Logan County Airport with a planned tour of the Heritage-in-Flight Museum.

Gene Rohlfs, chairman of the Logan County Board Airport Committee welcomed the group to town.

Early on Saturday morning, JoAnne Marlin opened the historic aviation museum located at the airport for a private tour.

Then it was a quick departure for the group in hopes to make their second destination.

After Lincoln, the plan was to fly to Sikeston, Missouri and visit Lambert’s Café, home of the famous “throwed rolls.” Pilots receive special treatment at the restaurant. Pilots and passengers are picked up at the Sikeston Airport in Lambert’s van and taken to a special entrance away from the crowds. Even when the wait to get in is more than an hour, they are seated immediately. That’s because the founder of the world famous eatery was a pilot.

After Sikeston, the 70 Knotters planned to be flying on to Little Rock.

Well, they may be flying on to Little Rock. Dan Johnston from Cambridge, Ohio laughed when he said, “Our route is always subject to change enroute. If the weather interferes or we learn of an interesting place to visit, we’ll just veer off in another direction.”

Phil and DeAnn Riter have been members for 32 years and have not missed a trip. “We add members wherever we go,” Phil said.

“Sometimes we won’t see someone for years, then all of the sudden they show up again. We have a wonderful time.”

Speaking of meeting new people, Nick Hirsch and Bob Rogers from Dubuque, Iowa and Merle Meises from Galena heard about the 70 Knotters and decided to check it out. They are on their first air trip with the group. They have an unusual story to tell. “This is our first trip’” said Rogers, “But our airplane has been on eight 70 Knotters trips. The former owner was a member who passed away, and we are taking up his tradition of these air camping trips.”

[to top of second column]

Over the years, the group has accumulated about 250 members. They come from all over. David and Pam Bruce landed about 3:00 p.m. after flying all day from Cayuga, Ontario. A big cheer went up from their waiting friends when they stepped out of their vintage Cessna 170. They have been coming on the 70 Knotters trips since 1983.

Another Canadian member was due to arrive later that evening on a motorcycle. Remember, this is a group with no rules. You don’t have to fly in, just show up and have fun.

When asked how this whole thing started, Dan Johnston said that two members of the Experimental Aircraft Association from Fort Wayne, Indiana went to Texas in 1978 to buy an airplane. They decided to take their time flying it home and camped at airports along the way. They thought that was fun and an annual tradition was started. They met some like minded people on that trip who decided to join them the next year, and the rest is history. Word of mouth adds new members and a mass email early in the year sends out the proposed route.

When asked to name their favorite trips, the gathering at the Logan County Airport shouted out places all over the U.S. and Canada: St. John’s, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Colorado Springs; Timmons, Ontario (home of country star Shania Twain); New Orleans; Savannah, Georgia; Grosse Pointe, Michigan; and southern Texas. Nick, Merle, and Bob said their favorite place so far was Lincoln, Illinois, because it is the first stop on their first 70 Knotters trip.

One year, there were 29 planes of the group going through customs into Canada. The hop from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island takes a leg over the ocean.

Where are they going next year? Well, whoever is the first person to ask that question is tasked with planning the trip. That may be the only rule they have. After each year’s trip, commemorative T-shirts are made up with the route emblazoned on the back. They have to make up the shirt after the trip, because as Phil Riter says. “Something always happens to the planned route. That’s why it’s so much fun. Our motto is, “We never pass up a shower or food.” Dan Johnston chimed in, “Or a beer” as evidenced by his Moose Head beer T-shirt picked up when they visited the brewery in New Brunswick, Canada.

The 70 Knotters are true believers in the old flying phrase, “A mile of highway gets you one mile, but a mile of runway gets you the world.” These friends are always looking forward to their next adventure.


< Top Stories index

Back to top