Ryan Conner is a 5th generation Montanan and along with his wife Robin founded R&R Conner, Inc. and R&R Conner Aviation, LLC.
The 1st generation of the Conner family arrived to the Bitterroot Valley in the 1880's and did various things including ranching, logging and operating a local sawmill. The next 4 generations of the Conner family followed in suit each being touched by the logging industry.
When Ryan Conner was 16 years old he purchased his first timber sale. Ryan wasn’t old enough to execute the Federal contract, so he had a third party listed as the purchaser on the contract; it was a post and pole sale. Ryan’s dad graciously let him lease the family’s ranch tractor and use the 1963 ½ ton Chevy pickup and bumper pull trailer as the log truck. Ryan’s brother Lance and a good high school friend put in their dues that summer earning their beer money! They logged the majority of the sale by pulling the small trees to the landing by hand. For some reason, must have been the good money for a kid so young, Ryan caught the logging bug and never strayed too far from it.
When Ryan was 19, he went to work for a local gypo logger bumping knots, unhooking chokers and working in the brush as a hooker under a small yarder. Eventually he worked his way into a sawyer position and decided that was where he would stay. Ryan traveled between various logging companies and began falling timber for some of the larger helicopter logging companies by the age of 21.
In 1994, when Ryan was 23, he quit sawing for the helicopters and decided to give it a try as a businessman. Ryan holds that term loosely – for those who knew Ryan in those days would laugh if they heard him refer to himself as a businessman! Ryan formed Seldom Logging and negotiated a contract with a private land owner to helicopter log their land. Being completely broke Ryan borrowed the quarter required to call a helicopter company making arrangements with them to fly the wood.
Ryan fell the timber himself for that sale, hired his brother Lance to load trucks and run the landing, and also hired a few more friends to hook and chase. Local trucks were plenty around Darby in those days, so getting the wood to the mill wasn’t a problem. During that first ‘real’ sale, Ryan learned the value of sorting logs based on species, size, quality, etc., and merchandising them to different saw mills, log home builders, veneer markets and such. This was not very common in those days where most loggers hauled all of the wood from a sale into the local mill regardless of the variety.
Ryan continued to grow Seldom Logging, purchasing his own equipment along the way. Ryan owned skidders, yarders, loaders and log trucks. He purchased timber sales here and there and contracted with local mills to log their wood in order to stay busy.
In 2000 it was time to make a change. At this time Ryan was working along side his wife Robin, her in the office and him in the field. Together they formed R&R Conner, Inc. and re-evaluated the direction the business should take. Remembering where Ryan’s initial success came from, they downsized operations, scaling back equipment, and became a merchandising/marketing company again. R&R Conner, Inc. purchased timber sales and now contracted out the logging to subcontractors. The wood would come into a sort yard where Ryan would sort logs for various markets.
For the next 5 years R&R Conner, Inc. targeted mostly helicopter salvage sales because the salvaged (burned) wood best fit the markets they had established. By 2005 it was becoming more difficult to hire helicopters because so many companies were phasing out of logging and going into fire fighting instead. R&R Conner, Inc. had a pile of wood under contract at that time and couldn’t find a helicopter who could commit to fly it. Once again, Robin and Ryan were reconsidering the direction they wanted to take their business. Due to the rapid deterioration of the salvage timber they were faced with the challenge of removing the logs in a timely manner. This is when R&R Conner, Inc. jumped head first into the aviation world!
In August 2005 R&R Conner Aviation, LLC was formed. The company purchased a 1963 UH-1 Super B helicopter, put a crew together and went logging. Since then they have been fortunate to keep busy logging their own sales, as well as, fly logs for other Montana companies.
After a ‘hard landing’ in December 2007 the UH-1 had some extensive body damage. Robin & Ryan made the decision to rebuild it, and after 10 months in the shop they had themselves a beautiful one-of-a-kind ship ready to begin logging – which is the red and silver UH-1 Super B they have today.