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Local man’s dream of flying wasn’t working out, but a raffle prize 40 years later changed his life

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Kelly Howell and his wife, Cindy, get the keys to his new plane. | Kelly Howell

IDAHO FALLS — A local man’s lifelong dream started becoming a reality when he won his own airplane.

On Friday, Kelly Howell, of Idaho Falls, spent the day at the Blackfoot City Airport waiting to catch a glimpse of his plane coming in for a landing,

Howell has wanted to fly his entire life. In 1976, Howell was taking flying lessons while attending college back when Brigham Young University-Idaho was still Ricks College.

“Just as I was almost finished with my private pilot school … that’s when the Teton Dam broke and put the airport out of commission for a while,” Howell said.

He was never able to go back and get his pilot’s license — until now.

“Forty-some-odd years later, I’ve got an airplane, and I’ve got no excuses, so I’m ready to fly,” Howell said.

Every year, the St. Louis, Missouri based charity, Wings of Hope, raffles off a plane to raise money for a medical air transport program flying seriously ill children to lifesaving medical care throughout the Midwest.

Howell entered the raffle a number of times over the years and was about to give up when his wife convinced him to enter just one more time.

“I was about giving up that I’d ever really fulfill my dream,” Howell said.

At the end of September, after years of entering the raffle, Howell finally won.

“I got the phone call, and I mean, I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Howell took ground school classes online while he waited for the 1965 Cessna 172 to arrive. He also found a flight instructor in Blackfoot who agreed to teach him.

“Now that the plane’s here, we’ll be getting started right away,” Howell said.

The plane landed in Blackfoot early Friday afternoon. Howell said he can’t wait to get his license and start flying.

“The thing I really want to do is just explore, visit a lot of these really small airports all over Idaho and Utah, Montana and this area. I’d just love to fly into these small airports and just kind of do some exploring,” Howell said.

Kelly Howell’s plane | Kelly Howell
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