MISSOULA — The restoration of "Miss Montana" this year not only thrilled thousands to see the historic plane in the sky, but it's also brought new attention to the Museum of Mountain Flying in Missoula.
"Miss Montana," a C-47 aircraft, returned to the skies last spring after a feat of restoration and had the opportunity to go airborne. During its final preparations the plane came close to not making the trip to the 70th anniversary of D-Day .
"The engines started great, but the generators weren't working,” said Bryan Douglass. "We spent the better part of two weeks with five to eight guys trying to figure out why aren't these things running.”
The problem was solved soon after and "Miss Montana" would go on to become one of the many planes flown during the ceremonies in Europe.
The flyover of the 70th anniversary of the Mann Gulch tragedy still moves them at the end of the year, flying the very aircraft where the smokejumpers rode on that fateful mission.
"To be able to refresh that memory for the next generation for what happened at Mann Gulch. This is real. You can look at that door they jumped out of so it's pretty powerful and I think valuable to be doing that for Montanans and people all over the world," Douglass said.
"I think we're finally able to live out their dream, bringing the whole community back together when they got the idea to start this museum," said Eric Komberec.
At the end of summer, "Miss Montana" also carried 10,000 meals per day to hurricane survivors stranded in the Bahamas , an unexpected and rewarding echo of the Berlin Airlift.
The pilots say the success of "Miss Montana" has brought new energy to the Museum, bringing in new sponsors, hanger upgrades, volunteers with a host of skills and plans to get more students involved in aircraft restoration in 2020.
"We've got some amazing pilots trained," said Komberec. "But we're always going to be faced with fuel bills, insurance and keeping this thing flying. So we welcome anybody to get involved that wants to get involved."
If you missed the "Miss Montana" update on our Face the State program over the weekend, you can watch the full program on this YouTube page.