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From Salt Lake City newspaper -- courtesy American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

The spectacular and anxious search for Pilot Henry G, Boonstra, lost since Friday morning when he left Salt Lake with the air mall for Rock Springs, WY, ended this morning when a telephone message from Boonstra himself from Dennlng ranch, announced that he was safe and well.

He left his plane after a forced landing on Porcupine ridge, 20 miles east of Coalville, Friday morning and in a blinding snow storm ,wandered until late Saturday night when he saw a light and stumbled into an isolated cabin which is owned and occupied by a rancher named Freedom Rigby. After repeated attempts the pilot and

Rigby arrived at Dennlng's ranch at 9 o'clock this morning and telephoned to Coalville and then to Salt Lake.

Lost in Snow Storm

The pilot explained that he became lost in the mountains at the head of the Weber watershed in a snow storm that prevented any view of the ground. After keeping the motor running until his gas was about gone, he came down low, hoping to see some familiar object only to find himself in Chalk Creek Canyon below the summits of either side and in a fork with no outlet that he could see. There was no room to gain altitude to go over the summit so he was forced to land on the ridge now covered with from 15 to 20 feet of snow.

After making a successful landing, he discarded his flying suit and started off down the hill, as on former flights he had seen cabins in the neighborhood. His progress was slow and it was 36 hour before he saw the cabin light at Rigby’s ranch which is four miles south and a little east of Porcupine ridge.

Denning’s ranch is another five miles toward Coalville from Rigby’s ranch and this is the nearest phone.

Will Arrive Tonight

Pilot Boonstra is now in Coalville and will come to Salt Lake by train, arriving about 6:25 tonight.

The mail will be taken from the plane on the ridge by men on snow shoes and carried to the bottom where it will be loaded on bobsled and brought to the station at Coalville, according to Claron Nelson, superintendent of the division. The plane will be left on the ridge by necessity "as a monument to western aviation," Mr. Nelson said.

Since the finding of the plane Monday by pilot Lester F. Bishop, rescue of Boonstra has been momentarily expected and searching parties were stimulated to greater effort, fearful that the evidence of the abandoned plane indicated greater cause for alarm for the safety of the pilot.

His discovery this morning by the rancher ended one of the most sensational searches in this part of the country in which a fleet of airplanes hovered over the route to Rock Springs from early morning until night, and cooperation was lent by scores of volunteers with bob sleds.

Boonstra declared himself to be in good condition despite the fact that for two days and one night he had been without food and had been exposed to the sharp cold. He further reported that he had seen the searching planes circling above him, but having no way of attracting their attention he was forced to content himself with seeing them disappear.

Headed by pilot P.P. Scott several planes left this afternoon for Coalville and vicinity carrying streamers as a signal that Boonstra had been found and indicating that the search parties could abandon their hunt. A pilot also departed for Boonstra’s plane on Porcupine ridge to salvage the mail which was reported to be in good condition. This mail will be taken to Coalville and placed on trains.

The first advices of Boonstra’s safety was received by Supt. Nelson from Depot Master Kidd at Coalville, who had been informed by Deming’s ranch.

partial excerpt - AOPA Pilot, August 1970

While you're in Salt Lake City, if you're lucky, you can drive to a rose-covered cottage within sight of the airport and spend an hour invading the privacy of a gentleman with pilot's license No.99.

At 80 years of age, Henry Boonstra is just as sharp as they come. A pilot for the Signal Corps in World War I, Boonstra went directly from the Army to the Post Office Department, ferrying surplus aircraft to the repair depot in the infield of the Indianapolis Speedway. He made one of the early night flights while returning from the Dempsey-Willard fight in Toledo, 0hio., with Indianapolis Star reporter Mary Bostwick in the fast seat. He circled the racetrack till enough cars lined up with their lights on for an eventful landing.

New Wright airplane.  Taken in the Motsinger pasture

Boonstra was also. instrumental in the May 1968 delivery of DH-4 "Old 249" to the Smithsonian Institution. "I flew 249 out of here late in December 1922," he commented. "The weather was bad, but I went east along the Uinta range of mountains that parallels the course into Rock Springs. The carburetor iced up, and I landed on Porcupine Ridge on top of a mountain above the timberline.

"It was about 8 a.m. and the snow was up to my waist. I walked down all that day, that night, and all the next day. I could see a ranch about five miles away, but it took me all day to get there."

As soon as Boonstra reached "civilization," a mule team was sent out to bring back the mail. Later, the Liberty engine was hauled down the hill by a pair of mules, but the airplane remained more-or-less intact. Contrary to the policy of burning aircraft downed in isolated country , "Old 249" sat for 43 years too far out in the backwoods for people to strip it.

When John W. (Bill) Hackbarth (AOPA 212378), air mail mechanic and later pilot from Santa Paula, Calif., decided to rebuild a DH-4 to deliver over the old transcontinental route on the golden anniversary of the start of the air mail service, he chose "Old 249." He discussed the project with Boonstra and then "trucked down about 600 pounds of junk" to start his rebuilding project.

Even Art Johnson had a hand in rebuilding "Old 249." His home is within an hour's drive of Santa Paula, and Art spent spare time helping with bits and pieces of the old bird. He built the wing struts by hand in his workshop.

Left, Henry G. Boonstra and unidentified man

Boonstra flew the same route for 15 years in DH-4s, Boeing 40-H-2s and 4s,the Boeing 247, and the 80-H Boeing Trimotor, after the Post Office Department turned the run over to Boeing Air Transport in 1927.

"We were just getting the DC-3s when I quit," he commented quietly. "I considered the Salt Lake-Rock Springs segment to be the roughest run in the country, but that Reno-SFO airway had a tough little segment."

Boonstra Family Photo Album

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