Holiday Volunteer Pilots Needed in Michigan

Have you ever wanted to play Santa Claus in your personal Cessna, Piper, or Beech sled? Well here’s your opportunity to spread Christmas cheer across the State of Michigan!

For more than 40 years, Operation Good Cheer has made a difference in the lives of foster care children living in all corners of Michigan.  “OGC” as it is referred to locally has brightened the holiday season for more than 5,200 children using 70 social service agencies, 290 sponsoring individuals, families, and companies, 20 trucking companies and 25 community airports. And — nearly 300 aircraft and hundred of general aviation pilots!

Website 1

If you happen to be one of the goodhearted pilots with an interest in serving the community on Saturday, December 5th — read on! Your help is needed for the “Spirit of Good Cheer” flight which brings the gifts from Oakland County International Airport to airports and deserving children across the State. Does your plane have a turbine? Maybe a propeller? Are you instrument rated? Or not?  Those are all minor details as all licensed pilots of any aircraft are welcome to join the team!  If you are interested, take a look here for information on the airport, the procedure, and to RSVP to give the team a heads up that you are coming:


I have participated in OGC several times and I can say its one of the best times I’ve had while flying.  The team, the pilots, and the children are all upbeat, happy, and helpful.  So, if you have some time considering donating some of your time — you won’t be disappointed!


Lake Hood Master Plan Alternatives Survey

The Lake Hood Seaplane Base is in the process of updating it’s Master Plan, the document which will guide development of the airport for the next ten to twenty years.  The process involves planning staff and stakeholders reviewing issues, current use and future projections for the airport, and developing alternatives for projects to maintain and/or expand the facility. At this stage, alternatives have been developed, and a user survey is underway to rate the alternatives developed by the planning team.  Options range from maintenance of existing facilities, to candidate projects that could significantly expand the capacity of the airport. For more information about the plan, which is about halfway through a two-year schedule, see the LHD Master Plan website.

Whether you are a local or transient user of Lake Hood, consider taking the online survey, designed to help set priorities for the proposed alternatives identified. The survey has links to color maps, showing the locations of different elements of the plan.  It contains about 50 questions, so you might grab a cup of coffee and prepare to devote a little time to working through the the options.  Click here to take the survey, which runs through December 7, 2015.

lake hood mp graphic

Lake Hood is is purported to be the world’s largest seaplane base, and is the home for some 800 aircraft.  With the water lanes and gravel runway, it serves both seaplane and wheel traffic, often topping 400 operations a day in the summer.  This general aviation airport (exclusive of neighboring Anchorage International Airport) is estimated to have an economic impact of $24 million to the Anchorage community. In addition to being home for private pilots, air taxi operators, maintenance and parts businesses, it has an aviation museum, several government aircraft bases and a Civil Air Patrol maintenance facility. It is also home to the Alaska Airmen’s Association.

If you care about this facility, take a few minutes and provide some feedback to help guide the future of this Alaskan crown jewel.

Heads Up: VIP NOTAM issued for Anchorage

Heads up for pilots flying in the Anchorage area this Sunday afternoon, November 22, 2015. A VIP NOTAM has been posted for the time interval from 2 to 5 pm, limiting flights within 30 nautical miles of JBER. Like the Presidential TFR from last August, there is an inner and outer ring, each with different restrictions.

Remember, the details and times may change, so be sure to check NOTAMs before you take off (and while enroute) for the latest information.

Graphic depiction of the VIP TFR NOTAM. Make sure and check for updates, in case it changes.

Graphic depiction of the VIP TFR NOTAM. Make sure and check for updates, in case it changes.

Book Review: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

If you have any interest in aviation history, pick up a copy of David McCullough’s latest book: The Wright Brothers, published earlier this year. Having read other books about this famous duo, it was with some apprehension that I opened this latest work.   It didn’t take more than a few pages to become captivated by the story, masterfully woven by McCullough. More so than the other books I am familiar with, this account made it feel like I knew Wilbur and Orville, as well as their sister, Katharine, another key member of the team. How these individuals from a seemingly “normal” middle class family in Dayton, Ohio managed to succeed over others better equipped and financed, is a fascinating tale that goes beyond the mechanics of aviation. This is why McCullough found it a worth story to research and share with the world.

coverThe first part of the book introduces the Wright family in some detail. Much of the foundation that set the course for the Wright Brothers is found there in the form of a rich home environment that provided a well-rounded education. Even though neither brother finished high school, there was “much encouragement to intellectual curiosity” that extended beyond the classroom. Their father, a bishop in his church who spent months at a time away from home, provided a role model that demonstrated both a strong work ethic, and that it was OK to be focused on a mission—even one that might not be popular. Conquering the problem of manned flight was not something that the brothers grew up with, as their interests and talents were quite broad including athletics, music, reading, even cooking.

An event that most likely did lead them to the “aviation question” was of a different nature. During his senior year in high school, Wilbur was struck in the face with a hockey stick, resulting in the loss of most of his upper teeth. This incident and the three-year convalescence that followed changed the direction of his life, causing him to drop plans of attending college. As largely a home-bound recluse, he began to read widely which brought Otto Lilienthal, the German glider enthusiast, to his attention. There are many twists and turns along the way, which McCullough does a masterful job of weaving into the story, making it hard to put down.

Wilbur Wright at the controls over Le Mans, France. This was the location of the first public demonstration of the Wright Flyer aircraft, which made the Wright Brothers famous overnight.

Wilbur Wright at the controls over Le Mans, France. This was the location of the first public demonstration of the Wright Flyer aircraft, which made the Wright brothers famous overnight.

The book fully describes the events leading to the famous 12 second flight in 1903 we celebrate as the “take off” of powered flight at Kitty Hawk. While a significant milestone, it was almost another five years of pain-staking trial and error development that followed before the real public roll-out of aviation. That occurred in Le Mans, France on August 8, 1908. On the track that was used for horse races, Wilbur made the first public demonstration of the Flyer. The French, at the time, were more active in aviation development than the United States, and considered themselves the leaders in this arena. Many believed that the Wright brothers were bluffing with regard to their accomplishments of “controlled flight.” Toward the end of that day, after long and careful preparations, Wilbur took off, flew a simple race-track pattern and landed almost exactly on the spot he had departed. It lasted only about two minutes, but the crowd went wild. Pilots in the audience, including Louis Bleriot, were stunned by the control that had been demonstrated. Overnight, Wilbur’s flight made worldwide headlines. Why this took place in France and not in the US is a fascinating part of the story, which I won’t risk spoiling.

Last week, I heard David McCullough speak about the Wright brothers, and some of the elements that most intrigued him about this story. He credited the home environment, created by their parents as providing the brothers an exposure to the world beyond their hometown. He pointed out that Dayton was the source of many patents at the time, including the invention of the cash register, which became a huge business there. McCullough noted that pre-1903 most of the population believed that manned flight was impossible. Consequently, people that pursued that goal were by definition suspect, if not outright wackos. He also observed that the brothers were able to learn from their failures, yet were not deterred from their quest.

The magnitude of their accomplishments went well beyond figuring out the design of an airplane. Wilbur and Orville taught themselves how to fly—a task that even today is no small undertaking. They realized that aviation was a potentially dangerous activity, which had killed earlier experimenters including German glider enthusiast Otto Lilienthal. Consequently, they implemented risk management practices. The brothers didn’t fly together, so that if a fatal crash occurred one would remain to continue the mission. It wasn’t until a celebration in 1910 that the two brothers flew together, for the first and only time, which McCullough cites as a recognition that they had accomplished their goal.

The Wright Brothers runs to over 250 pages, richly illustrated with photographs, diagrams and documents. It topped the New York Times Best Seller list for multiple months, which suggests that more than pilots are finding this piece of American history worth reading.  If you pick up a copy, be prepared to strap in and enjoy the ride!

 For a brief glimpse of Wilbur Wright flying in Le Mans, France in 1908, check out this short video.

Mat Su Floatplane Facility Survey Underway

Update: Survey deadline extended through November 15.

A user survey is being conducted to evaluate the magnitude of the demand for a new airport/floatplane facility in the Mat Su Borough. As part of a larger Regional Aviation System Plan, the survey is designed to obtain feedback from pilots and aviation business owners regarding the need for a new facility that would support both float and wheel aircraft operations. As follow on to an earlier study, the survey seeks input on three candidate locations under consideration in the southern part of the Mat Su Valley. Questions also ask aircraft owners to rank the importance of different factors to their selection of a place to base their aircraft or business.

The larger aviation system plan looks at other issues such as the economic impact of aviation at state operated airports, the relationship between public and private airports, compatible land use and airports needing master plans. An information sheet lists an overview of the project.

Pilots, aircraft owners and aviation business owners are asked to take the online survey by November 8th.

Fact Sheet 61440 Mat Su RASP – 10_22_2015 matsu rasp phase 2 graphic

KNIK CTAF Area Redesign

Pilots flying in the Knik Glacier/Lake George area have used a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) for many years, described in a Flight Advisory in the Alaska Supplement. As of October 15, the design of that CTAF area changed in ways that are expected to improve communications in this area. At the same time there are some small changes made to the existing CTAF boundaries around Palmer. This is a result of a continuing effort of a government/industry working group to improve communications and reduce the potential for mid-air collisions in the Mat Su Valley.

The Knik Glacier, northeast of Anchorage, is a popular area for the aviation community to take advantage of the mountains and glacier scenery for flight seeing–and the gravel bars to land on–providing access to this spectacular landscape. Surrounded by mountains, it lacks radar coverage from ATC, or other infrastructure making it like much of Alaska; pilots must look out the window to see other traffic. A number of years ago, FAA assigned 122.7 MHz as the CTAF frequency for pilots flying in the area. Now that the FAA has formally defined the use of CTAF frequencies to discrete areas (in Alaska only), as opposed to just individual airports and landing areas, it made sense to re-look at this popular area and define a specific boundary, especially given the other CTAF areas in use in the Mat Su Valley. A revised CTAF map for the Knik has replaced the old Flight Advisory area in the October 15, 2015 edition of the Alaska Supplement (see Notices section page 412).

Knik High Traffic Areas Defined
The working group also received input from Flight Service and seasoned pilots that fly in this area both for business and for pleasure to define a set of commonly used reporting points, to improve situational awareness for pilots using the CTAF frequency. A rich set of commonly used points was identified, and are incorporated in a joint industry/FAA color map, in addition to the notice in the Alaska Supplement.

The newly defined Knik CTAF Area is shown, along with a set of high traffic locations to help pilots communicate their location relative to this set of landmarks and popular locations.  This map is on the opposite side of the revised Mat Su CTAF map.

The newly defined Knik CTAF Area is shown, along with a set of high traffic locations to help pilots communicate their location relative to local landmarks and popular locations. This map is on the opposite side of the revised Mat Su CTAF map, circulated by FAA and aviation associations.

Other Refinements to the Mat-Su CTAF Areas
Based on feedback from pilots and airport owners, additional changes were made to CTAFs along the Matanuska River. The boundary of the Palmer CTAF Area, which uses 123.6 MHz, was expanded slightly to the north east, to incorporate the Crag Mountain airstrip (52AK). As they were not inside a defined CTAF area, the airports upstream from Crag Mountain were re-assigned to 122.9. A revised version of the Mat Su CTAF Area maps will also become effective on October 15, reflecting the Palmer boundary change.

This image map depicts the revised Mat Su CTAF Areas that went into effect on October 15. The boundaries of the newly defined Knik CTAF Area are also included.

This image map depicts the revised Mat Su CTAF Areas that went into effect on October 15. The boundaries of the newly defined Knik CTAF Area are also included, along with minor revisions northeast of Palmer.

Updated Maps
A revised version of the FAA/industry google earth map has been printed, in both 11 x 17 inch and 8 ½ x 11 inch sizes. One side shows the overall Mat Su CTAF boundaries, and the other side has a larger scale map of just the Knik Glacier area, and high traffic reporting points. Copies should be available from Flight Service, the FAA FAAST Team, Medallion Foundation and the Alaska Airmen’s Association. You may also download your own copy from . The Alaska Supplement has revised charts and descriptions in the Notices Section, and eventually we expect the Anchorage/Fairbanks Terminal Area Chart to be updated with these revisions.

Please pick up a copy of the new map, and help spread the word to your fellow aviators. In addition to these aids, fly with your lights on, and remember that “eyes out the window” is our primary tool to see-and-avoid other aircraft!

Alaska Supplement Notices:

knik supplement notice














Mat Su CTAF revised 2015 10 15


The 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour

What does 530, 145, 172, 9.8, 10, 10, 4, 35, 30, 800 mean?

How does…

  • flying about 530 nautical miles

  • which, in a 145 hp Cessna 172, equated to about 9.8 Hobbs hours to

  • 10 airports

  • in 10 different cities

  • around Kansas

  • in 4 consecutive days

  • in formation (at times) with 35 other pilots and 30 aircraft

  • all in a goldfish pattern while

  • learning more about general aviation in the state,

  • explaining to locals the value of their airport and

  • reaching out to over 800 potential future aviators

…sound? Yup, that’s what the 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour consisted of. 😉

What a busy but fun time for Jim Pinegar, AOPA’s Vice President of AOPA’s Insurance Services, and myself!

2015 Air Tour logo

Very appropriate!

Very appropriate!

This year’s Fly Kansas Air Tour started on Tuesday, September 29 and ended on Thursday October 1, 2015. As a bonus, a brunch at the historic 07S – Beaumont Hotel was added for Friday, October 2nd and EAA Chapter 88 scheduled their annual fly-in in KEWK – Newton on Saturday, October 3rd and a lot of Air Tour pilots attended it as well. Jim and I did not make it to Beaumont but Jim did attend the Newton fly-in with his wife and two kids.

2015 Fly Kansas Air Tour's goldfish route

2015 Fly Kansas Air Tour’s goldfish route

This year’s Air Tour started in Wellington (KEGT), as it did last year.

Sunset flight between Wichita and Wellington on Monday night

Sunset flight between Wichita and Wellington on Monday night

The City of Wellington puts a great deal of effort into the start-up with several of the elected officials (including the Mayor, an airport supporter herself), the High School band, lots of local kids, several sponsors, etc. An Air Bike, flying overhead with smoke on prior to landing, was the hit of the stop.



Air Bike

Air Bike

Start of the 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour at KEGT

Start of the 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour at KEGT

The City, after the request of and help from Patrick Hamlin (local instructor and KEGT’s airport manager), has started offering aviation/flying as an elective to their high school students this semester. We got a chance to meet all nine of the students and both Jim and I were really impressed with their knowledge, especially since they have only been in the program since mid-August. When we were showing Jim’s Cessna 172 to three of the girls, we were surprised with the great questions they asked: What class airspace is this airport? When you do the weight and balance, how do you measure the formula… weight x arm = moment? Is this the VSI (pointing at it!)? The plan is for them to take the private pilot written exam in December before the semester is over! :) We gave them all applications to AOPA’s free AV8RS program and followed up with them via e-mail regarding scholarships. Are you based in or near Wellington and want to take these kids flying? Better yet… are you going to a nearby fly-in and have room for one more? Send me an e-mail and I’ll put you in contact with Patrick!

Students from Wellington HS learning about Jim's C172

Students from Wellington HS learning about Jim’s C172

Formation flying with a Cessna 175

Formation flying with a Cessna 175

From Wellington, we were off to KPTT – Pratt (kind of cool for a Platt, ha!). Most of us were surprised and pleased to visit the All Veterans Memorial Complex and learn the history of the airfield as an Army B-29 base during World War II.

ALL Veterans Museum Complex

ALL Veterans Museum Complex

We connected and shared our passion for general aviation with hundreds of students of all ages in Dodge City (KDDC). While most of the older ones seemed only interested in the cost of aircraft at first (even though they had no concept of cost or money), we were able to instill in them more useful information than that as well.

Introduction of Air Tour to Dodge City students

Introduction of Air Tour to Dodge City students

Dodge City students learning about a Cessna 150

Dodge City students learning about a Cessna 150

We were passed by faster aircraft (Apache, Eagle, Navion…) time and time again but we did not care… that’s the more air time and fun we had, right? “Life is a journey, not a destination!” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

We were passed by faster aircraft (Apache, Navion, Eagle…) time and time again but we did not care… that’s the more air time and fun we had, right? “Life is a journey, not a destination!” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The final destination for Tuesday was Liberal (KLBL) where we visited the Mid-America Air Museum. We could have spent hours going through their rich aviation collection and we also visited the cool FedEx B727 they have turned into a classroom/conference room where they are going to be starting STEM-based aviation classes for kids.

Lots of cool aviation memorabilia and aircraft

Lots of cool aviation memorabilia and aircraft

Very neat vintage setup

Very neat vintage setup

What's wrong with this picture? Too big of a windshield wiper for such a small windshield? Counterproductive?

What’s wrong with this picture? Too big of a windshield wiper for such a small windshield? Counterproductive?

With John Smith, our AOPA ASN Volunteer for KLBL

With John Smith, our AOPA ASN Volunteer for KLBL, in the B727 classroom

How cool is this? 1965 AOPA wings

How cool is this? 1965 AOPA wings

While we were able to “get the heck out of Dodge,” we got stuck in Liberal on Wednesday. Low IMC that lasted until about 1:30 pm prevented us from visiting Garden City (KGCK) and Shalz Field in Colby (KCBK). Hopefully we can make it up to them by visiting them during the next air tour.

Weather report at KLBL

Weather report at KLBL

After circumnavigating Dodge City on the way from Liberal to Hays due to continued low (to minimums or even lower) ceilings, we made it to Hays (KHYS). We took advantage of the weather to give Jim a good actual IMC training flight. I always enjoy being on top and he seems to be a fan now too.

VFR on top

VFR on top

Once in Hays, we visited the RANS aircraft factory. We all enjoyed Randy’s (founder, entrepreneur, owner, President, and designer) tour. It’s impressive to go through a factory where you can see innovation and engineering in process. Randy has sold a combination of about 5,000 airplanes and airplane kits to all corners of the world and he is still working on a few more designs. Keep an eye out for a 4-seater in the near future! Jim and I were lucky to get to know Randy and his wife Shelly more during dinner. Did you know RANS started as a bike company? Does that sound familiar? Bikes and airplanes? Yup, the Wright Brothers started with a bike shop also. Randy says both have a lot to do with each other: aerodynamics, light weight  and durable materials, maximum performance, cutting edge technology…


A lucky builder will soon be getting this RANS 7 Courier in the mail :)


Kansas made!

Alan Core and Seth, a grandpa and grandson team from Iowa, flew the Air Tour and Seth wanted to leave with an airplane kit as a “good science project.” I say the young man will not only be a pilot but also an aircraft builder when he grows up and we need more of that!


With Nathan Marcucci, KHYS’ ASNV and airport manager

Dinner at Gellas Diner & Lb. Brewing Co.

Dinner at Gellas Diner & Lb. Brewing Co.

Thursday started pretty chilly but the 4th graders at Blosser Municipal Airport (KCNK) in Concordia warmed all of our hearts quickly. They were beyond excited the entire time we were there, from arrivals to departures and everything in between. Selfishly, I felt like we had just as much fun with the kids as the kids did with us.

Kids cheering the aircraft arrivals

Kids cheering the aircraft arrivals

Steve Richard, AOPA’s Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer for CNK, and I taught “principles of flight” to the kids before taking them out to the airplanes where they put their new knowledge to work. I went over the four forces of flight, parts of an airplane, etc. and then Steve pulled a couple of interactive ideas from AOPA’s Parents and Teachers Handbook (PATH) to demonstrate aerodynamics. The kids loved it! I was not quick enough to capture some of the kid’s reactions with my camera but I will not forget one of the girl’s face when Steve and two volunteer kids did the “toilet paper” experiment. Her mouth was wide open and her eyes denoted excitement and surprise. Funny enough, I think some of the pilots went home after the tour and practiced those experiments themselves, haha.

Teaching principles of flight

Teaching principles of flight


Demonstrating aerodynamics and building a human airplane

With Steve and Jim

With Steve and Jim

The kids were able to see, learn about, touch, and get in many different types of aircraft. Some even got to “fly” as Jaden Stapleton pushed down on his Eagle’s elevator simulating a takeoff for those at the controls.

Hard to tell who's having more fun: the kids or us!

Hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the pilots!

Fun selfie with our group of 4th graders after they all learned the aviation alphabet

Fun selfie with our group of 4th graders after they all learned the aviation alphabet

Jim and I were personally proud of Steve for organizing such a great stop for everybody. He really did a terrific job! One we may try to emulate in future years.

Concordia was very much K-State Country! The kids went crazy when they saw the K-State C172 taxi by for departure. “K-State, K-State, K-State” screamed the kids.

This link has a good time lapse video of our departures from Concordia.

It felt like “Helicopter Day!” at Freeman Field (3JC) in Junction City. The Fort Riley 1st Infantry Division Brigade brought several helicopters, from an Apache to a twin engine Chinook, and the local EMS operator had their air ambulance helicopter out on display as well. I personally enjoyed that stop since I intend to work on my helicopter add-on in the near future. I learned a bit more about helicopter flying and operations from the pilots and crew.


Trying out all the helicopters

Parking area at 3JC

Parking area at 3JC

I never want anybody to need these type of services when, they are needed, they are the best!

I never want anybody to need these type of services when, they are needed, they are the best!

And, the bitter sweet moment came… we made it to our last stop: Emporia (KEMP).

Left downwind for KEMP

Left downwind for KEMP

The “Cook Boys” (Greg Thomas and Jason Wojteczko from K50 – Cook Airfield) won the aviator golf (flour bombing) contest. I guess all those thousands of skydives came in handy for Jason. He understands exactly when and how to drop the bomb.

Then we were off to some real golf as a networking activity. No luck getting the ball from the tee box to the hole but laughs were flowing! Most of us were swinging for the first time so we were happy to make it outside the tee box.

On Friday, a few went to Beaumont and the rest went home.

Lady aviators of this year's Air Tour

Lady aviators of this year’s Air Tour – higher than normal statistic! (left to right) Yasmina Platt, Tiffany Brown, Vicki Hunt, Star Novak (below), Pat Hockett, Phyllis Blanton, and Kari Lee.

We hope you can join next time as the Air Tour provides us with a great opportunity for comradery among the pilots and passengers, increasing aviation activity around the state, showing the local community the importance and economic impact of their airport, introducing our youth and others to aviation as both a hobby and a career, all while showcasing and learning about different aviation entities at different airports and reaching out to our members and ASN Volunteers among other things.

The comments from the parents and teachers involved were great.

Sample comments found on Facebook

Sample comments found on Facebook

No official word on whether or not there will be an Air Tour in 2016 since it takes a lot of work and commitment from many people, but keep your eyes open and your ears tuned in case there is one. The rumor is there will be one in 2017 and every other year after that.

Until then, fly safe and fly often!

PIREPs: More Needed…

We need more Pilot Reports! Alaska has the lowest density of aviation weather stations in the country. It would take 2.4 times as many stations as we have today to equal the average density of AWOS and ASOS stations that cover the contiguous 48 states. While the FAA Weather Cameras help, they too are limited in some of the places we need information the most—at choke points on VFR routes. A Pilot Report (PIREP) is a tool in our kit to help fill the holes in our observation network. They only take a little of our time for a brief conversation with ATC or Flight Service as we go about our normal flying activities.

Why so scarce?
During the last two years, several people noticed the lack of PIREPs filed by pilots trying to get to the Valdez Fly In. This is probably the largest VFR fly-in in the state, and both years the weather was challenging. Yet on the Friday and Saturday leading up to the event the number of PIREPs filed was almost zero. I say almost zero, as I counted no reports displayed on the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit’s PIREP page, while Flight Service indicated that they had one in their system. This obviously raised other questions about how reports are distributed, and if filtering is taking place that might limit what a pilot receives, depending on how these reports are obtained. I am pleased to report that the Alaska Flight Service Program not only distributed a questionnaire on PIREPs, but has established a working group with the aviation community and weather forecasters to dig deeper into some of the technical questions surrounding this topic.

Why file a PIREP?
During pre-flight planning, we are trained to look at current weather reports, forecasts, weather cameras, radar and satellite data—where available. While I am instrument rated, my airplane is not equipped for serious IFR operations, so my planning is for a VFR flight. Can I make it through the mountain pass? Will an alternate low-terrain route be open, if I need it? There have been numerous times it came down to a single PIREP that either convinced me to take off—or to bag it. A big thank you to the pilots who filed those reports!

The PIREP you file helps in more than one way. The National Weather Service (NWS) uses them to validate their forecasts. They would like to see reports even if there is not a threatening condition. The lack of turbulence, unforecast precipitation, ceilings and tops reports are all things that would help refine their forecats, as they too are hampered by our sparse weather reporting network.

To learn more about PIREPs, I took the AOPA’s Air Safety Institute online course, SkySpotter: PIREPs made easy (go to: This is an updated version of their original program, which gave me a new set of expectations regarding filing a report. It is free to anyone, and qualifies for FAA Wings Program credits. Consequently the course requires logging into an AOPA account, if you are a member– or setting up a free account (name, address and email) on the Air Safety Institute site. The account allows you to get a transcript of this and other courses you might take in the future.

Historically we have obtained PIREPs during pre-flight briefings or inflight from FSS or ATC. Today they are also available in graphic form, which is handy for those of us not familiar with every airport code in the system. In Alaska, the NWS Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and the FAA Weather Camera website both have graphic displays of PIREPs that are convenient to see at a glance where you might get some additional weather information.

The National Weather Service Alaska Aviation Weather Unit website’s statewide display of PIREPs, which you may filter to cover different time periods.

The National Weather Service Alaska Aviation Weather Unit website’s statewide display of PIREPs, which you may filter to cover different time periods.

The FAA Weather Camera website now allows users to display PIREPs, in addition to camera location and other aviation information. PIREPs are depicted as yellow circles outlined in red.

The FAA Weather Camera website now allows users to display PIREPs, in addition to camera location and other aviation information. PIREPs are depicted as yellow circles outlined in red.

Please make it a habit to routinely file pilot reports as you fly. It is particularly helpful if you are the first person out along a popular route, or are experiencing a changing weather situation. But also consider filing when you are half way in between surface weather reporting stations. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the exact format—just tell FSS or ATC the weather elements most important to the situation. Those of us still on the ground, or following behind you, will appreciate your efforts!

Apache Fly-in/Camp-out/STOL competition in Rockdale, TX

This is the second backcountry fly-in I attend in two weeks. I warn you… it may be addicting… :)

However, this one was quite a bit different than the one at Mystic Bluffs, NM. Everybody was able to fly into this one: no elevation issues, no density altitude issues, no hills/mountains around, no runway length issues, not too remote… but still fun!

This is the first fly-in event at Apache Pass (4XA4) but they want to make it an annual event. All proceeds went to Rockdale Tiger Flight where a group of pilots teach High School students the skills necessary to build an airplane. Yeah!

After dodging a few rain showers on the flight from Houston, I arrived to 4XA4 on Friday afternoon with the idea of camping for the weekend. Since no one else camped Friday night, hubby did not come with me this time as he, too, had to work, it was still 80-90 degrees at night, and the ground was pretty hard for pitching a tent… I chickened out and took the motel route. Rainbow Courts was not a bad choice considering it is the oldest motel in Texas (and probably in the southwest) that is still in operation, according to Texas A&M University. I always enjoy unique places!


Apache Pass is a historic river crossing on the San Gabriel River in Downtown Texas (yes, now you know there is such a town!). Owner Kit Worley has developed the property within the past 10 or so years and has two restaurants, an RV park, an airpark with three runways, hot showers, the longest “Indiana Jones type” suspension bridge, and event space for weddings, concerts, and other things.

The normally three-runway airpark was turned into a two-runway airpark for this event. The longer 3,000′ Runway 19R was used for normal departures and arrivals (with a right pattern) while the shorter 2,800′ runway 19L (with a left pattern) was used for Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft. The middle runway was used for aircraft parking.

For your future reference: Some pilots had a little bit of trouble finding the field because their GPS showed the airpark some miles away from it. If you plan on flying in for next year’s event (or on another day with Kit’s permission), I suggest you type in the coordinates or verify that your GPS coordinates for the airstrip are correct. They are supposed to be N 30.41.02, W 97.08.34. You can also do a VOR radial off of the Centex VOR: CWK, 042-degree radial, 27.1 miles.


On a left base for rwy 19L at 4XA4

Even with the low ceilings both mornings, much needed scattered light rain on Saturday, high temperatures, and the Labor Day holiday, the event was successful. Over 70 airplanes, two helicopters and one gyrocopter flew in from all corners of the state.

This is a picture from Saturday morning. More airplanes arrived after this picture.

This is a picture from Saturday morning. More airplanes arrived after this picture was taken.

An MD-500 and this Brantly B-2 were the two helicopters who flew in.

An MD 369E and this Brantly B-2 were the two helicopters that flew in.

Hands down the cutest airplane on the field! :)

Hands down the cutest airplane on the field! I hear she is friends with Dusty ;)

While there, I had the wonderful opportunity of flying in two of the STOL aircraft :) I’m still smiling when I think about it. Scot Warren let me try his Carbon Cub and Phil Whittemore took me in the only SQ-2. Those were the shortest takeoffs and landings I’ve ever been involved in. Wow! Everything looks like a runway for those two.


Flying the Carbon Cub from 4XA4 to Cameron Municipal Airpark (T35) for some avgas


Scot and I in his Carbon Cub.

Almost hovering in Phil's SQ-2

Almost hovering in Phil’s SQ-2

The STOL competition was on Saturday afternoon and it got pretty competitive! Each pilot flew four times: two for a normal STOL takeoff and landing and two for a STOL takeoff and landing with an obstacle.

Of course pilots flying under the obstacle’s height or landing prior to the first barricades were automatically disqualified.

It was quite fun helping measure the distance between lift-off and the beginning of the runway and full stop and the beginning of the runway. It reminded me of my times at National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) competitions when we would compete in all kinds of flying and ground activities.


Shooter’s license plate, of


Ken coming in in his Piper Cub


Scot touching down after clearing the obstacle


Phil in his SQ-2 performing one of his short take-offs


But the landings are even more impressive with that super high angle of attack


Some of the STOL pilots and Jimmy Gist, the airboss (right)

Well, it was all fun times until it was time for me to go home. Everything seemed fine with the Archer I fly (pre-flight, run-up, etc) until immediately after take-off when the engine started sputtering and coughing. I immediately run my memorized emergency checklist (unfortunately, no time to actually read the checklist that low and slow and without help from another person!). Everything was where it was supposed to.

I thought maybe it was a little bit of water going through the fuel line (since we had had dew both mornings and the airplane was not parked completely level) and that it would clear and I could continue on my way but… on my turn crosswind to downwind (I wanted to gain some altitude immediately over the airfield before heading out home just in case…), the engine sputtered some more and I ended up with partial, intermittent power. It was time to set it back down. It’s funny how quickly all your continued training comes in and you remember “keep calm and fly the airplane!”

A visual inspection of the engine did not indicate any problems; however, another run-up did show that I was getting partial power (max 1900 RPM) with the throttle all the way to the firewall even though the magnetos and the carb heat were both fine and smooth. We eliminated all the “could be’s and could have’s” we knew to given the limited engine instrumentation this airplane has but we could not identify the issue.

Ground run-up

Ground run-up after the incident

I left the aircraft at 4XA4 and came back with my mechanic on Tuesday to evaluate and fix the situation. He determined that something, unidentified, got in cylinder 3 and caused damage to the piston head as well as its two spark splugs. The mechanic believes it was probably a short time event based on the very minor damage and I would concur as I had no indication of any problems until takeoff. Whatever it was must have entered the cylinder, bounced around a bit, and left through the exhaust.

Bad spark plugs

Damage caused to the spark plugs on cylinder 3

So, the mechanic fixed it all good, we have now all learned another lesson, and it’s back to flying condition. :)

You can find me (and the Archer) in Addison and Fort Worth this weekend! I’ll be there for the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Migration and the Fort Worth Alliance Airshow.

Interested in attending other similar events in Texas? Look for 1) the Texas STOL Roundup in Llano, 2) the Under-the-Wire Fly-in in Louise, 3) the Ranger’s Old School Fly-in/Camp-out in Ranger, 4) Critter’s Lodge, and 5) the Flying M Ranch Fly-in/Camp-out in Reklaw, TX.


Aviation Appreciation Month in Alaska

Recognizing the vital role aviation plays in Alaska, Governor Walker declared September as Aviation Appreciation Month. The State of Alaska plays a major part in that it operates about 250 airports that comprise the Rural Airport system. Along with a number of municipally operated airports, these provide the basic transportation network that connects Alaskan communities.

Not included in the 737 registered airports are many back-country airports and landing areas that allow Alaskans and visitors alike to access state and federal lands to recreate, explore, study, manage and enjoy the vast landscapes of the 49th state. Thank you, Governor Walker, for recognizing the importance of aviation!

gov walker press cover

Aviation Appreciation Month

Effective Date: Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

WHEREAS, aviation plays a critical role in everyday life of Alaska’s people and economy; citizens, businesses, industries, and government agencies depend on aviation, often as a primary mode of transportation for travel, medical services, shipment of goods, and tourism; and

WHEREAS, Alaska has more private planes per capita than any other state in the union and, on average, Alaskans fly more than eight times as often as residents of other states; and

WHEREAS, currently there are 737 registered airports and seaplane bases, housing 9,347 registered aircraft utilized by 8,032 active pilots; and

WHEREAS, the aviation industry generates $3.5 billion and over 47,000 Alaskan jobs annually, accounting for ten percent of the jobs in the state;

WHEREAS, the aviation industry in Anchorage generates over 15,000 jobs, or one in ten jobs annually, and over 1,900 jobs, or one in twenty jobs in Fairbanks, having a combined direct annual payroll of nearly $1 billion; and

WHEREAS, Alaska’s airports have over 4,681,000 passenger enplanements annually; and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is ranked number two in North America for landed weight of cargo; and

WHEREAS, Alaska has significant and vested interest in the continued vitality of aircraft operations, aircraft maintenance, flight training, community airports, and aviation organizations across our great state.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Bill Walker, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ALASKA, do hereby proclaim September 2015 as:

Aviation Appreciation Month

in Alaska, and encourage all Alaskans to celebrate aviation as an important aspect of our the Alaskan lifestyle and to recognize the achievements of those who make aviation possible in the Last Frontier..

Dated: August 18, 2015