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Monday, December 9, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Huckleberries Online

Aviation museum continues to soar

Rachel Schwam gives a tour of the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center in Sagle, Idaho, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. She is carrying on the operation after the death last year of her mother and stepfather, who founded the collection of vintage aircraft and cars south of Sandpoint. Pamela Riddle Bird and two friends were killed in a small plane crash near Hope, Idaho, on Oct. 8, 2015. Just two months earlier, her husband, the renowned inventor Dr. Forrest Bird, died at the age of 94. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

SAGLE, Idaho – A photo of a premature baby girl on a respirator is displayed inside a glass case on the second floor of the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center, a treasury of artifacts and gadgets on a wooded ranch near Lake Pend Oreille.

“It’s actually yours truly, me,” said Rachel Schwam, pointing to the fragile newborn in the exhibit.

She is standing in a room dedicated to the achievements of Dr. Forrest Bird, renowned for inventing the modern respirator – a device credited with saving thousands of lives, including Schwam’s in 1983.

More than a decade after Schwam was on the Baby Bird respirator, she met its creator when Bird began courting her mother in Florida. Pamela married Forrest in 1999, and in 2007 they opened the museum near their home 17 miles from Sandpoint.

The institution quickly grew into a regional attraction, popular among aviation and history buffs, inventors and schoolchildren. Morley Safer from “60 Minutes” arrived for a story that aired as “The Birdman of Idaho.”

But tragedy struck last year when the museum’s co-founders died within 10 weeks of each other. Forrest Bird died Aug. 2, 2015, at age 94. On Oct. 8, Pamela Bird, 59, and two close friends were killed in a plane crash minutes after they took off from a runway on the ranch.

A group of schoolchildren was visiting the museum that Thursday morning when the staff learned the four-seat Cessna Skylane was missing. It had slammed into a steep ridge and burst into flames a few miles northeast of Hope, directly across the lake/Scott Maben, SR. More here.

D.F. Oliveria
D.F. (Dave) Oliveria joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently is a columnist and compiles the Huckleberries Online blog and writes about North Idaho in his Huckleberries column.

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