A Day in the Life of America’s Airports Archive

Bittersweet mission

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Some folks have destinations all lined up for when they get their private pilot certificates (the beach! that great golf course! a fantastic ski resort!). Others are mission-minded: Angel Flight and animal rescue come to mind.

I have destinations. I also have missions. One is to fly my children to college visits. Daughter Maddie, a high-school junior, is busily checking out colleges. She did the Boston run in the fall with her dad. On Friday it was my turn to take her to Philadelphia.

We had a perfect flight Friday morning out of Frederick Municipal to Wings Field. (You can read a lot more about this historic airport–the birthplace of AOPA–in Julie Walker’s article in the May issue of AOPA Pilot.)

What would have taken three hours by car was compressed into about a one-hour flight. Hertz was only too glad to drop off a rental car at Wings. We stayed overnight so that we could enjoy the city. And on the way home Saturday, as the Archer bumped its way to 4,500 feet amid up- and downdrafts, my daughter said, “I had fun this weekend. ” Then she fell asleep. High praise indeed, coming from a teenager. I’ll take it, along with any opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter before she heads off to new adventures.





Juneau mountains’ majesty

Monday, June 30th, 2008

I can now cross “Flying in Alaska” off my bucket list.

Well, that’s not precisely true. I’ve never had a formal list of things to do before I depart for new horizons. But if I did, “Flying to Alaska” would be near the top, now with a big red check next to it.

Last week I flew a modified Cessna 150 (a Texas taildragger) out of Juneau International. My CFI and affable tour guide was Wallace Long of the Alaska Flight Center. Long provides flight instruction, tailwheel training, and flight reviews and such in the highly polished 150 as well as a Cessna 172. For 1.3 on the Hobbs and a mere $168–less than half of the cost of a floatplane sightseeing tour–I experienced some of the most beautiful sights and fun flying I’ve ever done. Aside from the astounding scenery–a tiny portion of which you see here–a highlight of the trip was a low pass over a backcountry airstrip, about 1,900 feet long.

I can’t wait to go back. If you have an Alaska flying story, please share it in the Comments section.

Splash and go

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Pop quiz. What school trains more seaplane (floatplane to those in Alaska) pilots than anyone else in the world?

It’s not in Russia, or even in the Netherlands where they have so much water. It’s Jack Brown’s in Winter Haven, Florida. Brown’s has trained more than 20,000 seaplane pilots since the late 60s. To put this in to perspective, that’s roughly 10 students a week, every week for the past 40 years. Oh, and they have an off season where only a few students show up at a time.

Brown’s does all this in an unlikely airplane, the Piper J-3 Cub. Although it’s not something you’d want to go fly the backcountry with, it’s a fantastic training airplane, as I found out yesterday when doing splash and gos around the local lakes with one of the school’s instructors. I was at Brown’s to work the latest installment in our series A Day in the Life of America’s Airports. But you can’t go to Brown’s without getting in an airplane, and instructor Erik and I bounced from lake to lake in a 20-knot wind. It was great fun.

Look for the full story in an upcoming issue of the magazine. But for a sneak peek, let’s just say the “office” is a house on a pier, there are lake bums (from the same clan as the airport bum), and everyone has a great story to tell.

Identifying with SUX

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Fresno is FAT. We’re invited to SUX.

Airport identifiers–some of them, well, SUX. Rather than fight it, Sioux City, Iowa, is leveraging the unusual identifier for Sioux Gateway Airport/Col. Bud Day Field.

Airport Operations Manager Elizabeth Smart, CM, ACE (not sure what those stand for–but at least it’s not SUX), reminded me in a letter this week that SUX is a great place and we may want to feature it in our next “A Day in the Life of America’s Airports” story. Could be. SUX has an Iowa Air National Guard unit on the field, air carrier service, and a full-service FBO, as well as corporate operations for companies such as Tyson Fresh Meats. You can see the details in AOPA’s Airport Directory Online. It looks like a nice airport.

Not flying near Sioux City anytime soon, but want the T-shirt? See all of the cool Fly Sux stuff online.

The people you meet

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Last year AOPA Pilot launched its series highlighting America’s airports, and I was one of the lucky people who got to contribute to the story. We chose 11 airports located all over the country, and by some kismet I got my first choice, Friday Harbor Airport in the San Juan Islands of Washington state.

This was a pretty big deal for me on many levels–I’m still a student pilot with 65 hours but no solo because I still can’t shake my lack of confidence; I’m a local Frederick girl who is not widely traveled; and for the past 20 years I have been raising my two sons pretty much on my own. So to travel across the country alone and then board a seaplane to the islands was stretching my boundaries.

There were four of us on the Kenmore seaplane, and we took off in Seattle’s normal weather–rain and fat, thick clouds. (more…)