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
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
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
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
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.”
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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
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
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
[By CURT FOX]