Summit Aviation Cancer Camp


September 2, 2014 – Bozeman, Montana: After 20 years in aviation, Ben Walton is still having fun; and he’s not solo. Ben, Owner of Summit Aviation in Bozeman just finished hosting a week-long camp for young cancer survivors.

While most of us dreamt about what we wanted to be when we grew up, Cassie King, 23, Ashley Thostenson, 22, Jason Epp, 26, and Morgan Johnson, 18, wondered if they would even grow up. Diagnosed early in life with various forms of cancer, and now in remission, these tenacious adults are running forward into life without looking back. They are now facing the normal adult question- What do I want to do? One possibility is a pilot.

After years of envisioning a five-day-long cancer camp, Ben Walton turned his dream into a reality this past week. The Summit Aviation Cancer Camp took the four survivors from zero flight experience up to an unassisted take-off and landing while exploring navigation, cross-countries, maneuvers and basic ground school along the way.

Each pilot was paired with a volunteer Summit Aviation Flight Instructor and provided with ten hours of flight time, all paid for by generous donors. They arrived at 8am every morning and started with a briefing and then the aircraft preflight inspection. After a 2 hour flight which gave them a bird’s eye view of the valleys and mountain passes which Bozeman is known for, the group met back at Summit Aviation for a themed lunch. Finger Lickin’ Good, Bigotes y Sombreros, and Did You Ever Know That You’re My Gyro were a few of the menus, complete with costumes.

Tours of the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, and the Air Traffic Control Tower allowed the pilots to see other facets of aviation. Private aircraft owners opened their hangars and lowered their stairs to allow the four to explore the past in the form of a Stinson Reliant Aircraft to the present day Global Express business jet.

And if the local support wasn’t enough- the weather offered 5 perfect flying days over the most beautiful scenery of the United States.

No camp would be complete without a flight over Yellowstone National Park, and the Cancer Camp was no exception. Perfect blue skies, a light breeze, and a breathtaking view of the Grand Prismatic Spring got everyone excited. But Old Faithful would not be outdone, erupting in a glorious white plume just as the aircraft flew overhead.

The Tetons were the perfect backdrop for lunch in Driggs, Idaho at the Warbird Cafe where the four new aviators celebrated the pinnacles of their week long adventure, and mastering their takeoffs and landings.

High on hope, Ben Walton is already planning for the next camp. “If anyone deserves an experience like this, they do. I know they treasure each day more than we do, but they also fear each day the cancer might return. My hope is that this experience will give them new confidence; that it will help them overcome their fears, and that they all can become pilots someday soon.”

In 2001, Summit Aviation, Inc. began humbly: One very experienced mountain flying Pilot – Ben Walton, one aircraft, and one small hangar. Today, with a fleet of state-of-the-art Diamond Aircraft, an impeccable safety record, and a full staff of highly-qualified Instructors, Summit Aviation has evolved into the West’s Benchmark award-winning Flight School and exclusive training facility for the Montana State University Aviation Degree Program, and provider of private on-demand Aircraft Charter. For more information on upcoming Cancer Camps or to make a donation: 406-388-(UFLY).