Travels Archive

Land of the Relentless Fun (46U)

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Our travels in Wyoming took Dave Hirschman in the AOPA Sweepstakes Husky and me in my N24HU to Alpine, Wyoming.  There, the residents of the Alpine Airpark (46U) warmly welcomed us to their community which claims 14 Huskys on the field.  Located to the south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this majestic community sits at the southeast corner of the Palisades Reservoir. 

The Reservoir provided a beautiful backdrop one morning for some photography…and we had a great photographer with us:  George Kounis from Pilot Getaways

 During our visit, Dave and I were treated to some great meals and fantastic flying.  We learned first hand that this is one airpark community that is committed to what they call “relentless fun!”

One evening, we had perfect conditions for a flight right over the top of the Snake River.  We took two groups of four Huskys on about a 20-mile run down the river in a carefully briefed and perfectly coordinated flight.  It was flying as Huskys were meant to fly and we were rewarded with remarkable scenery as the sun was low in the sky behind us.

These folks also just go out for early morning runs to find a cup of coffee at neighboring fields.  Since we were enjoying our own coffee in a guest house just a few yards from the 5,850 foot runway, it was enjoyable to go out and watch our new friends departing.

While our purpose in traveling to this part of Wyoming was for a final round of service at Aviat Aircraft for the AOPA Sweepstakes Husky before the giveaway, this community sitting just north of Aviat’s home in Afton was a real find and a perfect way for Dave and me to conclude what has been a wonderful year of flying the two yellow Huskys together across the country.

With about 200 hours on the Sweepstakes Husky, the aircraft has been carefully broken in for a new lucky owner.  Dave has headed to what we in  Washington, D.C., call  an “undisclosed location” in the West to stage the aircraft for our October AOPA Aviation Summit.  I’ve headed on to fly back to Frederick. 

So, while the sun may be setting on this wonderful trip west, along the way we’ve made some great new friends and discovered a place to which we both agreed we must find a way to return.

We have also witnessed the pure enthusiasm of pilots of all ages for flying a type of aircraft that can take you to back country airports all across the country.  We appreciate the positive response to our 2012 Sweepstakes aircraft and I personally look forward to handing the keys to one of our lucky members in the next few months.

Huskies to Wyoming

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The Huskies arrived safely in Alpine, Wyoming.

On Monday, Dave Hirschman, flying the Tougher Than a Tornado Sweepstakes Husky, and I headed west en route to Wyoming. The scenery was spectacular. We flew along the Missouri River near Pierre, South Dakota, before stopping in Alpine, Wyoming.

This morning, we took the Sweeps Husky to the Afton, Wyoming, Aviat factory for its annual. Dave and I received a warm welcome as we brought the plane home one last time. The next stop for that beautiful aircraft will be AOPA’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, California, where we will give it away to one very lucky winner. I know it will be hard to part with, as every sweepstakes plane is. But this time the blow will be softened by knowing I have a Husky of my own waiting in the hangar.

 As for me and my Husky, we’ll be flying around this area for the next couple of days, enjoying the scenery and the company of other Husky enthusiasts.

A view of the Tougher Than a Tornado Husky as we fly along the Missouri River near Pierre, South Dakota.


Weather wins the day

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

They say it’s better to be on the ground, wishing you were in the air, than it is to be in the air and wishing you were on the ground. With that in mind, I landed the Husky and waited this one out.

No matter when or where you fly, you must obey the laws of nature. In light general aviation aircraft, that means watching the weather and knowing when it’s time to get on the ground.

The first part of my trip to Oshkosh in the Husky was beautiful, but a good look at the weather radar told me the last 150 miles would be considerably more challenging. I decided to hangar the Husky and get a good night’s sleep while I waited out the heavy rains and high wind.

This morning I was lucky enough to catch a window of pretty weather between storms.

I’ve just landed in Oshkosh and I’m looking forward to all this week holds.


A break in the weather this morning let me take off and resume my journey to Oshkosh for AirVenture.

Huskies South–Day 4

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Flying past Marathon as we followed the road toward Key West.

We had originally planned to stay in Key West tonight, but the weather forecast has prompted us to change our plans. That said, it is an absolutely beautiful day, so we decided to head south to make the most of the good weather and better scenery but cut our visit short so we could be safely in Lakeland before the forecast rain arrives.


If there’s one thing that general aviation flying teaches us, it’s how to be flexible. Conditions and circumstances change. Weather moves in and out. There are so many variables in flying that you can’t be too attached to any particular plan. But, with the right attitude, it doesn’t matter all that much–there’s always something to enjoy, even if its some extra hangar flying while you wait out weather. Flying safely and enjoying it are what count, and that’s just what we intend to do.

In the meantime, let me share a little more of the view…


Heading south on this beautiful morning.

We made it! On the ramp in Key West.



Huskies heading south

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Yesterday marked the second day of our Husky adventure to Sun ‘n Fun, and it was at least as enjoyable as the first. By late in the afternoon we had arrived in Cedar Cay, where we took some time for a photo and video shoot. To get the light just right, we circled the area as the sun set.

Flying over Cedar Cay.

If you haven’t tried your hand at aerial photography, you might be surprised to learn that the biggest challenge is often finding the right light to make the pictures look great. The photographers from the AOPA Pilot team are perfectionists—as I’m sure you’ve noticed when reading the magazine—so getting the right shot often means making many passes to be sure the light, the landscape, and the aircraft align perfectly. I haven’t seen the pictures from today’s shoot yet, but they can’t help but be beautiful.

Paul Harrop is our talented photographer and videographer on this journney, and he has been gathering great images of our journey as well as terrific interviews with people we’ve met along the way.

Huskies at Cedar Cay

We lined up the Huskies, ready to launch for our sunset photo shoot.

It was a special treat to meet some AOPA members who had spotted us flying around the area, then rode their bikes out to KCDK to say hello.

If you live in Florida and spot a couple of bright yellow Huskies overhead, it just might be us. If you do, come out and say “hi.” Meeting AOPA members is always the best part of any GA trip I take.


Abu Dhabi – A New Country Joins IAOPA

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Gulf News provided extensive coverage of the Expo, including this picture of me talking to a local businessman who is importing light sport aircraft from Italy.

When the invitation came months ago to attend the Abu Dhabi Air Expo as a guest of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company, which organized the event, and recognize the newly formed AOPA group for the Emirates, I accepted. This first-time exhibition has not disappointed a few thousand attendees over the three-day event held at the Al Bateen Executive Airport.

It has been great to experience the enthusiasm of aviators here in Abu Dhabi. The show provides attendees with a look at a full range of aircraft from light sport to a Boeing 737 and everything in between. The reported use of GA aircraft is growing in the region and firms are looking to establish themselves here. Local officials are saying that private aviation in the Middle East is expected to experience a 20 percent growth rate. 

Interesting conversations have been held with several individuals who talk about the need for pilots, and flight instruction seems to be a growing part of the aviation industry in the region. When we asked one very active flight instructor from the region about the use of flight simulators, he said that today they only have one Redbird flight simulator but others with motion have been ordered. 

This was just one of many conversations that remind me of how much the U.S. aviation community is respected around the world.

Presenting provisional IAOPA membership to UAE AOPA representative M. Yousif Al Hammadi.

While in Abu Dhabi, in my capacity as IAOPA president, I officially recognized M. Yousif Al Hammadi as the newest representative to the International Council of AOPAs, bringing the number of member countries to 70. The Council is growing fast, with Namibia joining just last year. I must say, finding people with a passion for general aviation around the world is a very rewarding experience.

Later today, Bruce Landsberg, president of the AOPA Foundation, will make a presentation to the attendees. Bruce and I, along with our colleagues, are grateful to have been invited to be guests at this important gathering. And, we all came away enthusiastic about finding yet another place where the belief in general aviation is very much alive and well.

Enjoying the freedom to fly

Friday, October 21st, 2011

I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of protecting our freedom to fly. Well, this weekend, I am doing more than talking—I am thoroughly enjoying the unique sense of limitless freedom that only pilots know.

With the Husky in Maine

A perfect day of flying in my Husky brought us to this peaceful backcountry strip in Maine.

When you work in Washington, D.C., as I do much of the time, you tend to spend your days buttoned up—literally confined to a suit and tie. So I was thrilled to be able to throw on a pair of jeans and climb into my Husky for a weekend of fun flying around the northeast.

I left Frederick in my plane, accompanied by our own Dave Hirschman flying the 2012 Tougher Than a Tornado Husky. We planned the trip with the help of John Nadeau, the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s representative in the northeast. He pointed us to enough great backcountry airstrips to keep us busy for a month. We only have the weekend for this trip, but all those other airports are calling, and I know I’ll be back.

Backcountry flying

Now this is a lifestyle I could get used to!

Our flight took us through New York. There’s nothing quite like flying over the Hudson River at 1,200 feet. Then we stopped in Hartford, Connecticut, to refuel with our friends at Atlantic Aviation—the FBO that did such a great job during AOPA’s Aviation Summit last month. Now we’ve arrived at 02ME in Maine.

With blue skies above, a tailwind behind, and all the colors of autumn below, it was just about a perfect day of flying. I hope you’ll take some time this weekend to really enjoy what it means to fly. Visit a new airport, go to a favorite airport restaurant, of just poke some holes in the sky. There really is nothing else quite like it.

Flying west

Flying west toward Sanford (KSFM).

CAF helps rally GA

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

I am in Midland, Texas, today for a Rally GA event that’s part of the Commemorative Air Force’s annual AIRSHO. This morning brought cloudy skies after a full night of rain—something that hadn’t happened in more than a year and was a welcome relief from the drought in this part of Texas. But the clouds did nothing to dampen enthusiasm for a day filled with airplanes and excitement.

A night of rain was welcome in Midland.

CAF President Steve Brown offered a warm welcome to me and all of the show participants, including Congressman  Sam Graves of Missouri—an avid pilot and staunch friend to GA.

For me, it was a chance to meet more AOPA members and share my thoughts about the future, as well as listen to their concerns. Having people like you come out and get engaged with GA has never been more important.

User fees are back on the table and we have a hotly contested election year ahead. At times like these, elected officials—both those already in office and those hoping to win their various races—are listening carefully to voters, so this is a great time to let them know that general aviation matters to you.

We’ll be holding more Rally GA events to bring pilots together and I hope you’ll come when we’re in your area. It’s a great way to stay in touch with what’s happening and let your voice be heard.

Joining Heaven’s Landing (GE99) for a 10th Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

During the past three years, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mike and Holly Ciochetti and learn about Heaven’s Landing. Mike’s vision along with Holly’s caring touch have created a unique and beautiful mountain estate airpark in Northeast Georgia. When I learned they were celebrating a 10th anniversary for the airpark, I decided to drop by for lunch in the AOPA Caravan.

N394GA, AOPA's Caravan touching down at Heaven's Landing

Taxing to the ramp with hangars and the club house.

Thanks to Heaven’s Landing own photographer, Jan Nash, the visit was captured in pictures unlike any I usually see. Jan sent a set of photographs and granted me the right to share her fine work. As I reviewed them I couldn’t help but think of how important it is to protect our freedom to fly! I hope you enjoy the collection.

Heaven’s Landing has unique two-story hangars available for residents. The Club House sits up on a hill with a great view of the whole airpark.

Mike and Holly show me the buffet line.

Visiting at lunch

Mike Ciochetti describes how he found this beautiful site when some of his cattle wandered onto the property….he discovered a location where he has developed homesites along with the airport. The Club House is about two years old.

View from the Club House

The hospitality was sensational…so was the Southern pulled pork and chicken!

We had a very relaxing afternoon. Following lunch I had a chance to address all of those in attendance.

The folks at this fine community not only appreciate the importance of protecting our freedom to fly, they live it every day!

After lunch and a tour, it was time to head back to Frederick. Temperature had turned cold and I wanted to return before the weather came through. As it turned out, Washington Center put me right into the icing altitude….thank goodness for TKS!

It was tough to leave….but, departing this beautiful place was also a wonderful experience as the hills surrounding Heaven’s Landing slipped beneath the Caravan.

The Caravan climbed to a comfortable 15,000 feet on the way home to stay above the weather. While climbing out over the Northeast Georgian hills, I promised myself I would return in the not too distant future.

If you want to learn more about Heaven’s Landing, you will find their site loaded with interesting information….just CLICK HERE.

Lifting off GE99

Heading home

TBMs as far as the eye can see

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Today I was in Colorado Springs for the eighth annual meeting of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association. More than 250 people, including more than 80 TBM owners, took part. The airport was a beautiful site, with more than 80 TBMs lining the ramp and Andrew Knott, executive director of TBMOPA, was a gracious host.

Talking to TBM owners at the annual TBMOPA convention.

This is a very astute and involved group of pilots, and they were deeply interested in the challenges that will continue to face general aviation through this fall’s budget debate and beyond. User fees, concerns over the future of air traffic control, and the need to grow the pilot population were top of mind. These pilots understand, as we all must, the importance of continued vigilance and innovation if we are going to protect our freedom to fly in the face of these challenges.

But there’s also a lot of enthusiasm and excitement among these owners—enthusiasm for the airplanes they love, excitement for the many ways aircraft ownership has enhanced their personal and professional lives, and, perhaps most important, hope for the future.

And perhaps that’s one of the most important things I take from every gathering of pilots I am fortunate enough to attend. Even as we struggle through the challenges that face the general aviation community, we shouldn’t forget that aviation is a joyful pursuit and we are fortunate to be a part of it.

TBMs as far as the eye can see.