SPEARFISH — Aviation is a tried-and-true passion for pilots all over South Dakota and coming together once a year is a great way to nurture their interests.
The Spearfish Fly-in and South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame was held Saturday at Black Hills Aero located at the Black Hills Airport/Clyde Ice Field. For more than a decade, pilots from all over the state have made the trek to the Northern Black Hills to participate in a variety of seminars and flying events.
"We had really good attendance this year and I think people really enjoyed themselves," said Rich Krogstad of Spearfish. As one of the main organizers of the event itself, he said the weekend seemed to be a great success.
The Spearfish Fly-in kicked off with a breakfast and approximately 50 pilots flew in for the event. Later that morning, Norma Kraemer presented a seminar on the first homebuilt experimental aircraft in South Dakota, constructed by her husband Vern Kraemer. Other seminars were presented by representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Experimental Aircraft Association, a recreational aviation organization with a chapter in Spearfish.
After meeting for lunch, several flying events were held, including an opportunity for pilots to drop a tennis ball from their airplane into a wading pool.
Ted Miller, president of the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame said that organizing this event has become easier over the years. They begin planning for the event a year in advance, and spend a couple of months finalizing the plans and completing the nomination process for the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.
"We have quite a few people who are involved in the process," said Miller. "They conduct the interviews, review the nominees and make sure they meet the criteria."
This year's inductees included Earl Geide from Hartford and James L. Riggs, who was born in Pierre but lives in Texas today.
Geide, 92, has been a pilot for 67 years and to date has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time. After being discharged from the U.S. Army in 1945, he purchased a Taylorcraft and soloed on Nov. 27, 1945. He kept flying, and in 1950 he purchased 160 acres of land near Hartford and carved out a portion of an alfalfa field to create a runway, which he still uses today. He is an advocate and leader for South Dakota agricultural aviation, chartered the South Dakota Flying Farmers and Ranchers and leaves a legacy of support for agricultural aviation in South Dakota. Throughout his 67 years of flying, Geide has touched many lives as he's been a teacher, a mentor, a servant leader and an advocate.
Riggs, 75, has been flying for 59 years and to date has logged almost 22,000 hours of flight time. His first solo event was in October 1953 in a Cessna 140 when he was 16 years old. He grew up in Pierre and received his private license a year later and his commercial license when he was 18 years old. He was a flight instructor at South Dakota State College in Brookings, as well as an instructor for the ROTC program. At 21 years old, Riggs joined the military where he logged 3,392 hours of flight time in various military aircraft. During his career, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and 19 air medals. After retiring as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps, he started at Air West Airlines and in 1971 he flew for Remote Sensing in Brookings where he was involved with aerial photography and eventually retired in 1997.
This year's selection committee consisted of Bobbie Potts, of Gettysburg; Denny Martins, of Vermillion; Grove Rathbun, of Rapid City; Krogstad, of Spearfish; Ken McGirr, of Sturgis; Bruce Bowden, of Sturgis; Steve Hamilton, of Yankton; and Dwayne Lafave, of DeSmet.
In addition to Miller and Krogstand, the board of directors consists of Pearl S. Gulbranson as secretary, Tammy Schroeder and Bobbie Potts.