Glenn Highway Corridor focus of Working Group

Following the successful changes to Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies (CTAFs) in the Mat-Su Valley last May, the Glenn Highway corridor between Anchorage and Palmer is now the focus of the industry/government working group established to explore ways of reducing mid-air collisions. In previous working group meetings, issues were identified in the Glenn Highway corridor regarding the flow of VFR traffic, which is constrained by Restricted Areas and Class D airspace on the west, and mountainous terrain to the east. In addition, there are potential inconsistencies with altitudes and frequencies recommended by charts, the AIM, and the Alaska Supplement. The group is now undertaking an examination of flight routes, CTAF assignments and use patterns along the Glenn Highway, to see if changes might be recommended to improve aviation safety along this busy flight corridor.

Background
The Mat Su working group is comprised of pilots, flight instructors, Part 135 operators, and representatives from aviation organization and government agencies, including the FAA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the military. The working group was established on late 2011, following a number mid-air collisions that occurred that summer. After examining how airspace is used by civil as well as military users, learning what FAA services are provided, and considering a variety of alternatives, the ad hoc group made recommendations to government and industry groups encouraging use of anti-collision lighting, and changes to the distribution of CTAF frequencies. A major milestone was achieved last May with the re-allocation of individual airport CTAFs, and the creation of new CTAF Areas in the Mat Su Valley. The new CTAF areas in use are now documented in airport facility directories, diagrams in the Notices section of the Alaska Supplement, an insert on the Anchorage/Fairbanks Terminal Area Chart and through the creation of a color Google Earth based map that was widely distributed last spring and summer.

CTAF Area defined in the AIM
Another result from this initiative has been a change in definition for Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). Previously, a CTAF was only defined as a 10 mile radius around an airport or landing area, without an operating control tower. The definition has been modified to recognize, in Alaska only, that a CTAF Area may be designated for the purpose of carrying out advisory practices while operating in designated areas with a high volume of VFR traffic. Pilots are encouraged to use the appropriate common frequency throughout the area, if they are not in contact with Air Traffic Control. Alaska has had a number of CTAF areas created where concentrations of traffic exist in areas that otherwise lack ATC Services. In addition to the Anchorage area, CTAF areas are found in locations such as Juneau, in the White Mountains north of Fairbanks and in oil fields on the North Slope. See Section 4-1-9 and Table 4-1-1 in the AIM for a complete description of the new definitions.

Glenn Highway Corridor

The yellow arrow depicts the Glenn Highway corridor to be examined by the working group.

The yellow arrow depicts the Glenn Highway corridor to be examined by the working group.

The current focus of the working group is to examine the Glenn Highway corridor, between Palmer and the Anchorage airports, continuing down to Cook Inlet. Already the group has reviewed the existing CTAF frequencies in use in the area. They also heard presentations by Air Force and Army representatives describing typical flight routes and traffic patterns used during training missions, including use of unmanned aircraft and artillery practice. In future meetings, presentations by Air Traffic Control, civil flight training (fixed wing and helicopter), tour operators and other local users are planned. The group will also review the results of a 2012 pilot survey and other feedback before considering possible changes. If you would like more information on the activities of the working group, please contact me at tom.george@aopa.org.

Combining Flight Training with Tourism… a Trip to the Big Bend Area in Texas

Joey Colleran, AOPA’s Director of the Airport Support Network (ASN) program, and I recently embarked on a training flight to the Big Bend area in “Far West Texas.” Joey is a private pilot who was looking to get current and proficient while learning about mountain and instrument flying. I was her lucky flight instructor for the trip. The Big Bend area and forecasted weather provided us with all the characteristics we were looking for, it is a jewel of a place, and it’s hard to get to any other way. And, yes, it also allowed us to do some sightseeing by joining a river trip down the Rio Grande, separating the U.S. and Mexico.

I guess we can say that the Big Bend area spans from Presidio, north to Marfa and Alpine, and east to Marathon before heading south to the east edge of the national park that borders Mexico. The area is home to Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park, one of only two national parks in Texas (and one of only 15 Texas areas recognized by the NPS – National Park System). The area offers many exciting activities, from simple sightseeing to more adventurous activities like rafting or horseback riding.

The Brewster County Tourism Council says that getting to the area “can be half the fun” and I happen to agree 100% if you fly GA. =) The closest commercial airports are in Midland/Odessa (235 miles from the national park) and El Paso (330 miles away) and services (such as hospitals, full groceries stores, etc) are also considerably far so general aviation is the best way to get around. General Aviation has also been creating jobs and saving lives in this remote area. TxDOT-Aviation’s recent article explains what airport improvements to the Presidio Lely International Airport (KPRS) are doing for the region.

So, the day after Christmas, we departed Austin (where she currently resides) heading west, then southwest. A cold front was moving in from New Mexico which created strong headwinds for us, preventing us from seeing anything over 80 kts groundspeed and forcing us to stop at Kimble County Airport (KJCT) in Junction for fuel. However, that same weather did provide us with some good IFR/IMC training conditions for half the trip and great VFR and aerial sightseeing conditions for the last part of the route.

VFR on top during the first part of the trip, giving us the opportunity for an actual GPS approach into KJCT for fuel

VFR on top during the first part of the trip, giving us the opportunity for an actual GPS approach into KJCT for fuel

The clouds started to break around the Del Rio area, giving us great views of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains in Mexico

The clouds started to break around the Del Rio area, giving us great views of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains in Mexico

The U.S.-Mexico border, easily identified by the Rio Grande

The U.S.-Mexico border, easily identified by the Rio Grande

We then hugged the U.S-Mexico border before heading southwest, where we also lost contact with ATC controllers (Albuquerque Center), cancelled our IFR flight plan, and continued VFR. If you want to use navigation equipment in addition to piloting and good-ole dead reckoning to help you stay out of Mexican airspace, Terrell County Airport (6R6) is a good one to use.

Getting closer to the Big Bend area and starting to see pretty mountainous terrain, including the Chisos Mountains. At this point, we started to discuss the risks of mountain flying, high terrain, high density altitude, etc.

Getting closer to the Big Bend area and starting to see pretty mountainous terrain, including the Chisos Mountains. At this point, we started to discuss the risks of mountain flying, high terrain, high density altitude, etc.

We soon started to see those remote, private, backcountry strips we had identified on the sectional as potential emergency landing fields. Some of those were dirt, gravel, or a combination of things.

This one here is Stovall Ranch Nr 4 Airport (6TX9).

This is a picture of Persimmon Gap Ranch Airport (TA64) in the distance. Notice it is a bit uphill.

This is a picture of Persimmon Gap Ranch Airport (TA64) in the distance. Notice it is a bit uphill.

The picture above shows Terlingua Ranch Airport (1E2) although it is very far from the town of Terlingua itself. This looks like a fun and challenging place to fly in and out of.

The dirt strip C. Fulcher Ranch Airport (3TE8) is in the picture above.

The dirt strip C. Fulcher Ranch Airport (3TE8) is in the picture above.

Since we only stayed in the area one night given our busy schedules, we decided it was best for us to stay in Lajitas, located between the two parks. The Lajitas Golf and Spa Resort has its own private airport with fuel called Lajitas International Airport (89TE) and offers complementary transportation to and from the hotel and airport. They also have a few rental Jeeps for their customers.

Crossing over the town of Terlingua, just east of Lajitas

Crossing over the town of Terlingua, just east of Lajitas

Entering left downwind for 7 at 89TE

Entering left downwind for 7 at 89TE

Turning final for runway 7, which was shortened recently (we initially thought it was being lengthened)

Turning final for runway 7, which was shortened recently (we initially thought it was being lengthened)

We had a very pleasant experience at 89TE; Clayton Choate, the airport manager, was very nice and helpful. He can be reached at (432) 424-3544. However, if you enjoy camping, hiking, etc, Big Bend Ranch State Park Airport (3T9), which is less than 20 NM away, may be a better option for you. Joey and I love that kind of thing but this trip’s mission was more about flight training for us than tourism and adventure. The state owned airport also offers complementary transportation to and from their park and the airport but they do not have fuel onsite. Barrett Durst is the person in charge of 3T9 and he can be reached at (432) 358-4444, ext. 224.

Both of these airports are “private use only” so pilots are required to call ahead and receive permission to land from the respective airport managers. During that time, they will advise you of operational procedures, frequencies, airport notams, fuel availability, etc.

Our flight back was mostly overcast once we left the Big Bend area so we could not do too much aerial sightseeing.

Our flight back was mostly overcast once we left the Big Bend area so we could not do too much aerial sightseeing.

However, our scenery was still beautiful…

However, our scenery was still beautiful…

A lot of people, including native Texas and longtime Texas residents, have never been to Big Bend due to its remote location and inaccessibility and several pilots and AOPA members looking to do for some backcountry/mountain/recreational flying have asked me about this trip so I thought I’d write a blog about it. I encourage all of you to try it for yourself.

If you are looking for other places to visit in different parts of Texas or the Central Southwest Region, the “friendly airports” blog I wrote about a year ago may also be helpful to you.

Advocacy: The Road to Anywhere

Runway 5_23bWhat is Advocacy?  OxfordDictionaries.com defines Advocacy as: “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.” While accurate, I tend think of AOPA’s form of advocacy as more than that.  For those of us advocating for General Aviation specifically, it is a great deal more.  At AOPA effective advocacy starts with education, and requires patience, research, and support from you, our constituents.

Patience

Indulge me as I use an example from tutoring my nephew to make my point.

As my nephew quickly discovered at the start of his 7th grade school year when he turned to me for help with his math homework, I like math though I am by no means an expert.  I do, however, enjoy regular-old, every-day algebra and geometry!  Helping him with his homework not only gives me a chance to bond with him but allows me the opportunity to teach him something. This brings life full circle as I watch him make the same mental mistakes (ignoring the negative sign) that my father used to watch me make time and time again.

As for extracting life lessons, I’ve learned that teaching math teaches patience; a necessary trait for any passionate advocate!  Those of us who regularly work in policy be it state or federal knows it is rare that anything happens quickly.

Research

A lack of action is often the result of a difference of opinion, of which, in GA’s case is usually based in a lack of understanding.  Because of that, proper research becomes key for a successful lobbyist, not only to learn what makes a given legislator or gaggle of them—a term often reserved for Turkeys—tick, but also to find the right data to present to them regarding GA.

I believe the majority of our elected officials enter the legislative arena with the intention of improving the world around them.  Unfortunately our world spins so quickly these days there is simply too much information for our representatives to be familiar with to adequately act and respond independently on every issue, so this is where effective advocates come in with guidance and education.

Concise communication aided by statistical data serves as the only real catalyst for moving sensible legislation forward.  As for sensible, I am referring to a legislative policy that makes sense for a set of problems or issues affecting a state—call it the big picture.  As I discussed in my American East – Aviation – Division blog, a direct comparison of states becomes a conversation of apples and oranges.  For example, while one of AOPA’s core initiatives is to reduce the cost of flying, we do not insist on a one-size fits all policy for achieving it.  For example, we regularly support the Aviation Jobs Act which would provide for a targeted sales tax exemption on aircraft purchases in New York State.  Conversely, we opted to forgo doing so in neighboring Pennsylvania in 2014 when political tensions revolved around property tax reform leading to public scrutiny of long-standing tax exemptions—in other words, a bad time to highlight a new exemption!.  Therefore as a regional manager, I spend a great deal of time studying my region’s state economic conditions while working with industry to produce the all-important numerical data.

Support from constituents

Unfortunately, as one individual representing GA in 13 states, it is unrealistic to have all boards nailed down all of the time so we rely on an age old staple of politics—constituency; yes YOU!  How can you, a GA supporter, impact GA policy in your state?

First and foremost, maintain your membership in AOPAIf you don’t have one, get one because a membership in AOPA is a vote for GA and allows us to continue to do the work we do at the local level.  Second, know your elected officials.  Not just who they are, but get to know them.  As constituents, they are far more interested in what you have to say than any of the alphabet groups because you vote.  Third, know your local aviation factoids and the industry’s economic impact.  AOPA can help with this as can airport managers, state aviation associations, and/or your state’s department of transportation.  The Alliance for Aviation Across America is another great resource. Lastly, though it may seem silly, advocate from the heart.  Communication occurs with the successful transfer of information to your audience.  It will be much easier for strangers of aviation to receive the message once they recognize your love for aviation is genuine—remember no one likes a Krampus!

Think you’re the best? Visit the AOPA at the Great Lakes Aviation Conference and Test your Skill!

I’m really looking forward to the next iteration of the Great Lakes International Aviation Conference being held in Lansing, Michigan on January 23 and 24 because of a new addition to the AOPA booth this year!

AOPA will be hosting a spot landing content on a brand new AOPA Jay Simulator. It may end up being a bit too cold in Michigan to do too much flying, but in the warmth of the Lansing Convention Center you can test your chops against your fellow pilot! Stop by the booth, register for a time, and test your skill!

And, remember, AOPA members are offered a $10 admission discount this year! Visit the AOPA.org to find the discount form.

Talking GA in the Beehive State

Since joining AOPA as our Northwest Mountain Regional manager three years ago, I’ve had many opportunities to visit all seven of the beautiful states I cover.  But by virtue of few aviation issues to address, Utah has not been as frequent a destination for me as my other six states.  I was able to rectify that last week, however, as I at last had an opportunity to spend several days in the Salt Lake Valley, participating in a variety of productive aviation functions and meetings.

My first stop after arriving at KSLC was to visit with Pat Morley, a great friend of GA (and an AOPA member) who is the Director of the Utah Division of AeronauticsB4bHjJaCUAARVysI’ve known Pat for nearly 13 years, since my time as the airport manager in St. George, Utah.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder working, more dedicated aviation professional.  With minimal resources, Pat and his small staff do a fantastic job supporting the maintenance and improvement of Utah’s 47 public use airports.  Utah is a great example of effective application of GA revenues- 100% of GA fuel taxes and aircraft registration fees collected are allocated to the Aeronautics Division, where they are invested back into the state’s airport and aviation system.  The Aeronautics Division also operates the state’s general aviation aircraft, efficiently transporting state employees between the state’s far-flung communities that are often difficult to reached easily by road.  It was great seeing Pat again, and finally seeing his operation first hand.

The primary reason for my trip to SLC, however, was to represent AOPA and GA at the annual Runway Safety Summit, presented by the American Association of IMG_1063Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Salt Lake City Department of Airports.  This valuable two day event focused on how GA, airlines, airports, air traffic control, FAA and others are collaborating to improve runway safety, minimize runway incursions, and keep airports and their users safe.  I participated on a panel that addressed “Preventing GA Runway Incursions”, where I discussed GA cockpit technology evolution, as well as products and devices like Foreflight and IPads available to pilots to improve situational awareness and help minimize incursions.  I also briefed attendees on the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s excellent training resources for GA pilots on runway safety, which were developed in partnership with FAA.  If you haven’t seen them, have a look.  And don’t forget to have a look outside that cockpit and avoid those incursions!

What I was most excited about on this trip, however, was my evening visit on Tuesday December 9th to the South Valley Regional Airport in West Jordan, south of SLC.  Just a few short years ago, this GA reliever airport to KSLC was struggling, with little activity and lackluster aviation services.  All that changed three years ago when local pilots Don and Scott Weaver opened Leading Edge Aviation. In that short time, with the strong support of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, the Weavers have B4eArgNCQAAVeC_developed and fostered a thriving GA community, and the airport is vibrant and re-energized.  Each month, the Weaver’s host a monthly dinner and meeting for GA users on the airport, and I was fortunate to participate in December’s dinner while I was there.  We all enjoyed a fantastic meal prepared by the Weaver’s, and I updated the group on AOPA’s latest advocacy efforts, and our initiatives to grow GA.  This airport is a perfect example of the camaraderie, fun and engaging social community aspect of GA that AOPA President Mark Baker talks so much about.  If you want to see how successful a GA airport can be, drop in to U42 some time.

I finished up my trip with a visit to the Ogden-Hinckley Airport (KOGD), a very busy GA reliever about 30 miles north of SLC.  I met with our Airport Support Network Volunteer Bob Foxley to discuss a variety of airport topics that AOPA is engaged with, including challenges faced by GA tenants and users as a result of Allegiant Airlines’ two weekly flights, and TSA regulations and their impact on the rest of the airport.  We also B4h-9TcCAAAevPBdiscussed the airport’s rules and regulations and how AOPA can help airports like KOGD implement rules and regulations that are reasonable, fair and not overly burdensome.  And while at KOGD, I was treated to a rare sight of not one, but two airworthy Grumman Albatrosses.  Thanks to the gracious staff at CB Aviation I was able to check out the interior, and even get a chance to sit up front!

And with a few hours to kill before my flight home, and being the true avgeek that I’ve always been, I finally was able to visit the Hill Air Force Base Aerospace Museum, a B4mJem0CYAA3Plafantastic and comprehensive collection of military aircraft, including the world’s only C-model SR-71.  If you ever have free time in Salt Lake City, this is definitely a place not to miss.

Although I was in Utah for just three days, my time there was incredibly worthwhile, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with a variety of GA professionals and enthusiasts about AOPA and our advocacy, as well as our shared love of flying and all things aviation.  To keep tabs on all that AOPA is working on in Utah and at state and local levels across the country, be sure to check out our regional advocacy pages.  I look forward to seeing you in your state in 2015!

 

 

Cold Temperature Restricted Airports in Central SW Region

In temperatures below standard, an aircraft’s true altitude is below that is indicated. This is especially critical at high altitude airports where the error is exaggerated and a pilot flying the published altitudes on an instrument approach may be several hundred feet below the indicated altitude. Per AIM 7-2-3, pilots should apply temperature corrections to all altitudes while not in radar contact. An E6B or the ICAO Cold Temperature Error Table in AIM 7-2-3 can provide the pilot with the appropriate data.

In addition, the FAA has identified “cold temperature restricted airports.” A symbol will be placed on the approach plates for the restricted airports. The symbol indicates a cold temperature altitude correction is required on that particular approach when reported temperature is at or below the published temperature. Pilots are responsible for applying altitude corrections and advising ATC when these corrections have been made.

Note that temperatures for Cold Temperature Restricted Airports are completely separate from the temperatures published on RNAV approaches. Temperature restrictions on RNAV approaches must be followed, even if warmer than temperature is listed with the snowflake symbol.

The following airports in the Central Southwest Region are affected:

  • New Mexico: 2 airports. KAXX Angel Fire and KSKX Taos.
  • Texas: None.
  • Louisiana: None.
  • Oklahoma: None.
  • Arkansas: None.
  • Kansas: None.
  • Missouri: None.
  • Nebraska: 1 airport. KCDR Chadron.
  • Iowa: 8 airports. KALO Waterloo, KAMW Ames, KBRL Southeast Iowa, KCWI Clinton, KDBQ Dubuque, KIIB Independence, KIKV Ankeny, and KSPW Spencer.

Here is the entire list of airports affected with the temperature restrictions and segments of the approach to which the restrictions apply: http://aeronav.faa.gov/d-tpp/Cold_Temp_Restricted_Airports_List.pdf

For more information about this, take a look at the FAA’s FAASTeam Notice from December 12, 2014 or the FAA’s notice in the Notice to Airmen Publication (NTAP) from February 26, 2015.

Mat Su CTAF Areas on Terminal Area Chart

As of May 29, 2014 the FAA made a significant change to how Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies (CTAFs) were allocated in the Mat Su Valley, north of Anchorage. In addition to changing the CTAF assignments of almost 80 individual airports and assigning them to 36 airports that previously didn’t have one designated, they defined specific geographic areas along the bulk of the Matanuska and Susitna River valleys. Initially this information was officially released as a diagram in the Notices section of the Alaska Supplement. Recently, it got easier to see the areas assigned to specific radio frequencies.  In the November 13th edition of the Anchorage/Fairbanks Terminal Area Chart (TAC), an inset was added just below the IFR Traffic Flow map.

This inset if found under the IFR traffic flow diagram on the ANC/FAI Terminal Area Chart.

This inset is found under the IFR traffic flow diagram on the ANC/FAI Terminal Area Chart.

When not in contact with ATC, pilots are encouraged to use these frequencies to increase situational awareness in the areas depicted on this chart.  Pilots should use CTAF frequencies specifically to communicate aircraft location and intentions to other aircraft or to a Flight Service Station. Other air-to-air communications should be conducted on 122.75 or a company frequency to avoid congestion.
For more on the Mat Su CTAF Areas, see AOPA’s blog, with links to a Google Earth map and other information.

WE CAN MAKE 2015 A GOOD YEAR FOR GENERAL AVIATION

I first read Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING as a teenager, and I’ve read it a few more times since. Positive thinking works. I have tried to instill its principles in my children, grandchildren and friends.

For those of us living in the real world, there is certainly a lot to be concerned about and we can’t change much of that alone but brought down to our own, much smaller world, closer to home, there is a lot we can do with a positive attitude and a little bit of deliberate effort. It feels good to make a difference. I think it’s a responsibility!

So, if you will join me in the coming year, I have some suggestions about how we can make a difference in General Aviation in 2015:

There are already some signs of better times in the industry press, so lets put together a plan and follow through with it… starting with a positive attitude!

There is a very real possibility that the a Driver’s License Medical NPRM will surface during the first quarter. During the customary comment period, we need to put together some very good input for FAA. Watch the AOPA website for guidance and do all you can to help with that effort.

Familiarize yourself with AOPA’s “Rusty Pilots” initiative. There are lots of us who are rusty, including me, and we can get back in the air easier than you think. Learn about this and spread the word to your friends… take them with you when you go to the airport and just “hang out”. We need to resurrect some old “airport bums” and restore that great camaraderie at the airport. And… most impromptu invitations to “go flying” occur in the lobby at the airport.

Look for local airport events like breakfasts and fly-ins and go to them. These things aren’t expensive and you will have a great time. Don’t just go once and don’t just go to one!

In an earlier blog I pointed out the importance of making sure we are voting for people at the local, state and national level that support general aviation. With that in mind, we need to cultivate those relationships as well as those that may not yet be in our corner. Make sure your airport in “engaged” in your community. Get youngsters involved at your airport and promote aviation education. Be a catalyst for airport events that support local non-profit organizations, attend local government meetings, have an airport reception for your locally elected state officials and come up with other unique ideas to get everyone thinking positively about your airport and general aviation. Invite your friends expand their lives by learning to fly.

One more, really important thing… make it a personal goal to get a new or renewed AOPA member every month during the coming year! There’s strength in numbers.

If we each will do some of these things we will make a real difference and we will feel good about ourselves too. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Aviation Resources for Parents and Students

As I travel around and meet people interested in learning to fly, I always struggle to send them to one web page where they can get all the information they ask for to get started, tailored to their state/city, and without having to dig through several links within a website. I always start off with AOPA’s AV8RS membership (ages 13-18 years old) or the free 6-month membership to AOPA so they can start getting the wonderful AOPA Flight Training magazine right away. Then, I can send them to the AOPA website (www.aopa.org) where there is sooo much information that they can get lost or to the flighttraining.aopa.org but it does not have all the information they are usually looking for, such as scholarships. So, I decided to create a document with a list of links that would take them directly to the information they need (national, state, and local information as it relates to the Central Southwest Region). The document I have developed is focused mainly towards Middle School and High School students and their parents but it is also very helpful for adults. Some of the information applies regardless of age.

Resources for Parents and Students

Good luck with flight training and let me know if we can help you with anything. I always like to hear from student pilots… so please send me an e-mail with your progress and pictures: yasmina.platt@aopa.org or Twitter name @AOPACentralSW. Your enthusiasm and progress can be enough motivation for someone else to get started and become a pilot =)

The Magic of First GA Flights

If you’ve been reading our AOPA eBrief messages here in early November, you’ve no doubt seen our informal poll asking pilots if they’ve ever given someone their first flight in a general aviation aircraft.  As did about 96% of other respondents, I too was able to answer “yes”.  And as I did, I recalled with fondness both the first and latest GA flights I’ve shared with someone else.

Like many newly minted private pilots, my first passenger was a family member- in my case it was my dad, on the very same day I took my checkride.  To that day, he had never before flown in an aircraft without a flight attendant.  Yet bravely, he joined me, his low time, twenty year old son, in the right seat of a well-worn Cessna 172 that I had just been checked out in literally minutes before.  On that December day in 1988, my logbook shows a whopping total of 5.7 hours of flying on my first day as a private pilot- 1.5 for my private pilot checkride, 1.3 hours for a checkout in “Nancy Tango”, our flight school’s venerable Cessna 172, and 2.9 hours of flying with my dad.

IMG_0798Although I don’t recall much about that flight, we flew cross country from Erie/Tri-County Airport, northeast of Denver (then 48V, now KEIK) through what was then the Denver TCA to Pueblo, Colorado and back.  I remember how proud I was to finally be a pilot and ecstatic that my dad was with me on this first flight.  I remember how proud my dad was that he flew with me first, and how cool flying over downtown Denver in a GA aircraft was.  In new pilot cool, however, all I thought to note was “First flight after checkride- dad’s first flight”.  In today’s world,where even the most mundane daily events seem to be relentlessly documented and shared, it seems strange that I didn’t think to take at least a couple of pictures that momentous day.

Fast forward over 23 years.  This past May, I again was able to again relish the joy of giving someone their first flight in a GA aircraft-  in this case five year old Aidan from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Aidan’s dad works with my wife, and Aidan’s family was soon headed for Disney World via the airlines.  Aidan had never been on an airplane, and his parents wanted him to see one up close first, even if it wasn’t a brand new 737.

IMG_0803So on that beautiful Sunday morning last May, my wife and I headed from Felts Field (KSFF) in Spokane over to Coeur d’Alene (KCOE) in a Cessna 172 (ironcially of the exact same vintage as the one I flew my dad) to provide young Aidan and his family (right) with their first glimpse of general aviation, his family’s first flights in a general aviation aircraft, and Aidan’s first flight in an aircraft- ever.

IMG_0787First, I flew Aidan’s mom and his ten year old sister around the Coeur d’Alene area, enjoying views of Lake Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Lake, Mount Spokane and the beauty that is northern Idaho.  It was smooth and clear- a perfect spring day for flying in the northern Rockies.  Next up was Aidan and his dad.  As much as I wanted Aidan to be able to sit up front, the 172’s weight and balance (and comfort) dictated that his 6’4″ dad occupy the right seat.  With Aidan sitting up on his booster seat and buckled into the back, the incessant happy chatter over the intercom was

Aidan Opines on His First Airplane Ride Ever...
Aidan Opines on His First Airplane Ride Ever…

 

infectious.  He giggled and shrieked and pointed out everything he saw as we taxiied out and took off, finding his house and school in short order.  As we flew over Lake Coeur d’Alene, he marveled incessantly about the lake and the boats and the interstate and the bridges and the houses.  And then, for a few startling seconds, he abuptly became quiet.

IMG_0813

Aidan’s View of Lake Coeur d’Alene

Concerned that he was suddenly not enjoying himself, I started to turn around to look at him, when he stated quite enthusiastically, but in a somewhat deeper and reverent tone “I think I can see the future from up here!”

And that, from a five year old who had never been in an airplane before, is probably the most prophetic comment I’ve ever heard from anyone about the joys of general aviation.

So help spread that joy, and introduce someone to GA.  Take that person for their first flight so that they too can see the future from up here.