Against All Odds … Airplane Raffle Winner Finally Gets His Wings

AAfter a lifetime of setbacks, Idaho Falls resident Kelly Howell finally got his plane – a 1965 Cessna 172. Howell was the lucky holder of the grand-prize-winning ticket in Wings of Hope’s September airplane raffle.

Howell, who has been buying tickets in the Wings of Hope airplane raffle for several years, has been waiting for this plane for more than 40 years. In the summer of 1976, when he was a college student, he was working on getting his pilot’s license at a flight school in Rexburg, Idaho.

“It was a Saturday. I was taking my last practice flight, and I had an appointment for my check ride the following Tuesday,” Howell recalled. “That’s the day, June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam broke. This 20-foot wall of water wiped out a whole bunch of Rexburg, including inundating the airport. So, obviously, I missed my check ride.”

By the time the airport was up and running again, the requirements for earning a pilot’s license had changed.

“There were quite a few requirements that I would have had to go back and do more hours,” Howell said. “I was a poor, broke college student and just could not afford to go back and get those extra hours to finish.”

The plane Howell had been planning on flying once he got his license also met its demise when it crashed during the summer of ’76.

“So the plane that I was going to fly was no longer available,” Howell said.

Then life happened.

“With marriage and family and kids, I guess I could never justify the cost of going back and finishing – but it’s always been a dream,” said Howell.

When Wings of Hope pilot Gary Davis delivered the plane to Howell at Blackfoot City Airport in February, Howell’s dream finally came true. With a plane of his own, Howell plans to finish flight school – four decades after his original plans were derailed.

“My wife and I love to travel. We’re road trippers but now we’ll be air trippers,” Howell said.

All 5,000 tickets to the September 2019 raffle sold out in a day – and generated $330,000 to support Wings of Hope.

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