Love of flying keeps pilot grounded

Mary Booher with her plane at the Montrose Airport.

Mary Booher isn’t the only female pilot in Montrose, but she’s the only one who gives flying lessons in a 1958 Cessna 182, known in flying circles as a “straight tail.”

That’s because the back edge of the plane’s tail is perfectly vertical, not swept back as it became after Cessna changed the model in the 1960s.

“They swept back the tail to make it look good, but they ruined the perfection of the plane,” she said.

“They made it lose its effectiveness, so it’s not as fast.”

Booher has owned three ’58 Cessna 182s, and she says it’s great for flying in the mountains and can carry heavier loads than comparable small airplanes.

Booher has flown for thousands of hours and taught hundreds of students. She got her license in her 20s and was a bush pilot for 10 years in Alaska, where she bought her first Cessna and got an old-time bush pilot, Herb Hubbard, 72, to teach her to fly it in the rugged terrain. She became a licensed instructor almost 20 years ago.

After moving from Grand Junction to Montrose, Booher recently started her own air service, Straight Tail Aviation, named in honor of her favorite aircraft.

Booher doesn’t book charter trips, but sometimes delivers planes. She mainly offers flying lessons and trips to view the scenery, aerial photography and sometimes horse and cattle roundup.

“A rancher can look for their cattle for days, and I can find them in 20 minutes,” she said.

Booher also works part-time at Black Canyon Jet Center, which caters to private planes and jets at its new building. She had already opened her business, and because she’s based at Black Canyon, the job was a perfect fit.

“I know how to talk to the pilots on the radio,” she said.

Radio is the only way pilots can communicate with the jet center or the airport, she said. Montrose doesn’t have a control tower, she said, but hinted the airport may have one in the future.

Booher is in her element as she swoops her Cessna 182 down over Black Canyon after descending from 10,000 feet in the warm noon air over Montrose.

As the plane is jostled by updrafts from Black Canyon a few hundred feet below, Booher points out landmarks and fall colors below, keeping a sharp eye out for other aircraft, because not all have radios.

“It’s a little bumpier when the air is hot, but I tell the kids it’s like being in a pickup truck on a dirt road,” she said.

The kids are children to whom Booher, along with other local pilots, provided free plane rides last month as part of the Young Eagles Program at Airport Appreciation Day at the Montrose airport.

Booher said she wants to encourage more kids, especially girls, to get interested in flying.

She has them sit up front, and with dual controls, she lets kids hold the yoke and “help” fly and land the plane.

“I tell them, ‘You’re a good pilot,’” she said. “You never know what will stick in their heads.”


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