PEOPLE OF LA SAL
Tim has lived in La Sal for 19 years, that’s not counting the generous amount of time spent living at Brown’s Hole just a few miles north of La Sal.
Almost 73 years ago, Tim was born on a kitchen table in an adobe house with a dirt floor three miles East of Moab. He lived in that house until he graduated from high school. Up until that time he and his family would spend their summers a few miles north of La Sal in a place called Brown’s Hole. After finishing high school he moved to Brown’s Hole year-round. There was no electricity, phone, or running water, but the ground had plenty of nutrients for crops. He and his wife have planted a very successful multi-acre garden there nearly every year.
There were a few years here and there that Tim lived elsewhere for various jobs or for his stint in the military. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that he moved to La Sal proper, but he continues to spend his summer days at Brown’s Hole tending to their massive garden.
Tim’s career started out in trucking. He drove a semi truck all over the Western United States for over twelve years. He then joined his nephew in a sheet-metal business. His nephew, Big John, was involved in a flying club and kept telling Tim that he needed to come take a flying lesson through the club. At age 37 Tim decided to take his first flying lesson. It would prove to take him to new heights.
“The first lesson was hard,” Tim recalls, “but it was exciting so I went back.” Tim took to flying like it was as natural as breathing. His instructor saw this in him and let him go solo after only five hours of training. When asked if he was nervous to do his first solo flight he’ll quickly shake his head no. He was born to fly. And fly he did.
Tim is well-known for flying aircraft through arches. He is called the Arch Flying Cowboy. He flew through his first arch in 1981, the same year he got his pilot’s license. The arch was Rainbow Bridge near Lake Powell. He was looking at the arch one day and thought, “If I turn the plane just so, I could probably fly through it.” He has flown through fourteen different arches since. He has flown through them so many times that he lost count of how many times he’s done it but says that it is anywhere between 600 to 1,000 times. The most being about 400 times through Corona Arch, and 100 times through Wilson Arch.
Tim has only crashed once in his life. It was while flying through Pritchet Arch. He says the approach is the worst of them all because you have to go into a steep dive to get in, and then go into a steep accent to get out. It’s tricky. When he crashed he broke his leg near the ankle and although it was painful he was able to walk many miles to a road, while carrying airplane parts. There were two friends on the ground videoing his flight and they helped carry parts out as well. They made many trips to get it all. Tim was able to make three trips in-and-out before he couldn’t walk on his broken leg anymore.
The year he got his private pilot’s license he also took some commercial lessons and soon started his own charter business. He flew private charters for five years before closing the business. He went back to truck driving and the sheet metal business, but still flew periodically for other companies. He was flying for one such company, Wilderness Quest, to do a food and medicine drop to a group in the wilderness. Larry Wells, owner of Wilderness Quest at that time, was flying with him and was the one to drop the medicine. Tim flew over the group once to get his bearings and saw a campfire. It was centrally located in the camp so he made it the target, figuring that the medicine would land close enough to the camp to be found. He circled around and told Larry to let go when he gave the signal. Tim calculated in speed, altitude, and what-not then gave the signal. The medicine landed smack dab in the middle of the fire. It was a perfect aim, although not intentional. (The medicine was immediately pulled out of the fire and was okay.) He is good, perhaps the best.
When asked if flying is his first true love Tim emphatically says, “No.” Surprised, I asked what his true love is then? He genuinely replies, “My family,” and then adds with a wink in his eye, “but flying comes in a close second!” A lot of his grandchildren have not flown with him yet but he hopes that one day each of them can say that they flew with their grandpa. I could see in his eyes that that would mean a lot to him. People mean a lot to him. Being able to give someone the experience of flight means more to him than making money from it. He believes in the magic of it all and loves to share it with others.
Tim was able to retire in 2000 from his other jobs but continues to fly whenever he can. He currently flies for Redtail Aviation doing scenic flight tours, and the San Juan County Sheriff doing Search-and-Rescue and prisoner transports. Tim is featured in a video called Wanted: Arch Enemy #1. See a youtube video clip here. Or order your copy at 435-686-2305 or TimMartinPhoto.com.
Tim took me and my husband flying the other day so I could do this interview and it was awesome! He is a great tour guide and pointed out hundreds of Indian ruins, flying very close to them so we could get a good look. He even flew us through an arch. Check it out below.
or at my youtube channel.