HELENA — Abraham Fandrich took his final flight for the federal government Friday, flying from Boise Idaho to the regional airport in Helena. The Chief Pilot for the US Forest Service is retiring at the age of 63.
Fandrich made his grand entrance into the Helena Regional Airport by flying low with a stream of white smoke trailing behind him.
His wife Cathy and brother-in-law were waiting on the tarmac to greet him when he landed.
“It’s a little bit surreal. You know, I kinda would like it to continue forever but we all have to retire I guess some point in time,” says Fandrich.
Fandrich was born just south of Helena in Townsend and joined the National Guard in 1976 as a mechanic. He soon became a certified helicopter pilot in 1980, eventually transitioning to planes two and half decades later.
Fandrich’s career was varied, serving as a pilot trainer, test flight pilot, working air rescues to save people out of floods, fighting fires, and eventually becoming the chief pilot for the United States Forest service.
Fandrich says that it’s the right period in his life for him to retire in order to free up his schedule for more time with his grandchildren, to fly on his own time, and hunt and fish.
While Fandrich’s days of flying for the National Guard or Forest Service might be over, he still plans on flying for fun with his own personal plane.