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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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The Arch Flying Cowboy
of Canyonlands, Utah

By Michelle Martin Walker and Gerrit Paulsen
Photos by Michelle Martin Walker

Tim Martin has three great loves: his family, bush flying, and the spectacular "color country" of southeastern Utah.

Tim was born in Moab, Utah in 1940, on his family's kitchen table. They didn't have much when he was growing up, but their family loved each other and they had many friends. Tim had the great opportunity of growing up in the beautiful Canyonlands area. Maybe he's lucky that his family didn't have much. It left him and his brothers and sisters with lots of time for roaming around and really getting to know the country, including many summers spent camping at the base of the LaSal Mountains, near present-day Canyonlands National Park. No one could love this country more than Tim does, and probably not many people know it as intimately.

Tim always loved the "bush-pilot" sort of flying. He would have loved to make a career out of being a bush pilot, but there wasn’t much call for that around Moab, and he loved the area too much to leave. Instead, he bought the lease on the Canyonlands Field FBO, and went to school to become a commercial pilot.

Tim’s children have some great memories related to that time. There was the day he picked them up from the school bus stop in the airplane. Boy, were their schoolmates impressed! And the time he landed the airplane in the field behind the house on a winter evening and a storm came up. There weren't any tie-downs, so the whole family was out in the field at midnight digging in the frozen ground to bury tires for tie-down anchors. Then there was the day Tim made a precautionary landing for weather, causing the children on board to miss a day of school. The school secretary told him they probably couldn't call being "weathered in" an excused absence. Tim asked her if it would have been excused if they had continued on in the bad weather and been killed in a plane crash. She excused the absence. Tim never was one to take chances.

Tim always liked to fly a bit close to the ground in order to see the scenery better. He loved to fly the deck down through the canyons, around the sandstone towers, and along the contorted meanders of the Green and Colorado Rivers of southern Utah. On many of these flights, Tim took along a camcorder, and had members of his family or friends videotape the flight from the plane or on the ground. The cover photo of Tim flying through Corona Arch (the first arch he ever flew through) was taken from the ground by Linda Powell, and was shot fairly early in his arch flying career. It is import to point out that all of Tim’s incredible low-level flights were made in the 1980s before the advent of current restrictions imposed by federal agencies, and that Tim has long since given up low-level and arch flying to honor his family’s wishes.

When it came to the arch flying, people either didn't like it at all, or they loved it. Some people didn't think it was respectful of the arches. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tim always thought it was a wonderful way to enjoy these beautiful natural phenomena without leaving a single trace that he had been there. Consider for a moment the impact of hundreds of miles of paved road built to accommodate ground-based visitors to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, or the trash and waste hikers deposit in the landscape along the trails through these parks. By comparison, arch flying hardly seems disruptive.

Some people have been offended by the title of the commercial video that Tim has made featuring his arch flying adventures, "Wanted: Arch Enemy #1." Actually, Tim didn't pick the name, it was the marketing brainchild of the professional videographers that compiled and digitally enhanced Tim’s home videos for sale.

Many people are sure that arch flying was a dangerous and irresponsible thing to do. True, for the average person, or even the average pilot, that would be the case. What those people don't realize is that Tim is not average. There are some things a person can learn with a lot of practice or with a good instructor, or even by accident. There are other things that a person can only get from God. The outstanding perception and the ability to be one with a machine, and to make something happen just because you see how it should happen, is something you cannot just learn. Tim also hastens to point out that the arches he’s flow through are about as wide as the runway width at his home airport, and he says, "I haven’t missed the runway yet!"

Order the Video

To experience the rush of flying through some of the world’s most magnificent natural arches, down the Colorado River, over Canyonlands, and under the historic Dewey Bridge, purchase Tim Martin’s amazing 28-minute video, "Wanted: Arch Enemy #1, Exploits of the Arch Flying Cowboy of Canyonlands." Send $20 (which includes postage and handling) to SW Aviator Magazine • 3909 Central NE • Albuquerque, NM 87108.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
SW Aviator Magazine • 3909 Central NE • Albuquerque, NM 87108
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©2001 Southwest Regional Publishing, Inc.