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 =)

Our General Aviation Experience in Central Switzerland and Northern Italy

My husband Jared and I recently came back from a trip to Switzerland (CH for easier reference) and Northern Italy and, of course, we carved out some time to learn a bit about their general aviation (GA) system and activity and do some flying around such beautiful scenery.

Prior to our trip, I did some research and made some contacts along our proposed route to identify interesting flying activities and airports to visit. I have found that the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and Google Earth are my biggest allies when doing this sort of thing.

Disclosure: This, like all other international trips my husband and I have taken and blogged about, are not paid for or organized by AOPA.

Our first stop was to the Militärflugplatz airport (LSMA) in Alpnach after some canyoning (or canyoneering). This was our second time crossing an active runway by car. The first time was at the Gibraltar International Airport although the experiences were quite different. The road crossing the Alpnach airport was not nearly as busy as the one in Gibraltar.

Google’s satellite image of the Militärflugplatz Alpnach airport

Google’s satellite image of the Militärflugplatz Alpnach airport

(In case you were wondering since it shows up on the Google image… RUAG Aviation is a Swiss company that handles maintenance, repair, overhaul, modifications/upgrades, manufacturing and integration of subsystems on aircraft. They also do a lot of the maintenance on airports and produce the Dornier 228 Next Generation turboprop in Germany.)

The Alpnach Airport as viewed from the mountain west of the field

The Alpnach Airport as viewed from the mountain west of the field

Car crossing across the runway in Alpnach

Car crossing across the runway in Alpnach

Sign explaining airport operations and the procedures for crossing the runway

Sign explaining airport operations and the procedures for crossing the runway

Notice the mountains all around the area, probably making the approaches into the Alpnach airport quite interesting and fun.

Alpnach airport and runway looking north

Alpnach airport and runway looking north

Alpnach airport and runway looking south

Alpnach airport and runway looking south

If there is one thing we have learned as we travel around different countries… it’s that it does not matter where people are born, where they live, how old they are, what they look like, what their background is or what they do for a living… most of us are amazed at the beauty of flight and we have a tendency to stop and look for aircraft when we hear them flying overhead (or call it ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, when it comes to aircraft flying). Below is one example in Alpnach. This gentleman was watching a Pilatus PC-7 doing aerobatics over the airport.

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On Wednesday, we went to the Buochs AG airport (LSZC) in Stans where Airport Manager Thomas Bienz and Operations Manager Jan Spycher (who also serves as AOPA Switzerland‘s Airport Liaison – our form of an Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer) gave us a wonderful tour of their facilities prior to taking a tour of the home-based Pilatus Aircraft factory.

Google’s satellite image of the Buochs airport

Google’s satellite image of the Buochs airport

Thomas, Yasmina and Jan by the ATC tower and airport management offices

Thomas, Yasmina and Jan by the ATC tower and airport management offices. I should mention that Jan was only wearing a military uniform because he was serving his annual military duty, not because his airport job requires it :)

They had some interesting things at their airport… a closed runway where two groups were test driving cars (one group was driving Porsches, the others were driving high-end cars of different brands), bunkers inside the mountain where the Swiss military used to store military jets (they used to line them up and use a lift to bring the aircraft they needed forward), not very often seen hangars with exhaust escapes so pilots could start their engines inside the hangar prior to taxiing out while keeping the aircraft warm and away from the weather, city roads running across taxiways, and, of course, lots of Pilatus aircraft flying around doing training, intro flights, and practicing aerobatics, etc.

Closed runway being used by car enthusiasts

Closed runway being used by car enthusiasts

One of the aircraft bunkers

One of the aircraft bunkers

One of the hangars with an exhaust escape (airplane should have been turned around to use it)

One of the hangars with an exhaust escape (airplane should have been turned around to use it)

Buochs’ active runway

Buochs’ active runway

A Pilatus Porter PC-6 departing the Buochs airport

A Pilatus Porter PC-6 departing the Buochs airport

Prior to visiting Buochs, I had never heard of the AC4 Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) manufactured by Lightwing Aircraft, also headquartered in Stans. It’s too bad because I would have loved to visit with them and learned more about the aircraft. Oh well! It’s now on the list for a future trip to the area… and at least we had a chance to see their prototype flying.

“Ops vehicle 1, hold short of taxiway, give way to AC4”

“Ops vehicle 1, hold short of taxiway, give way to AC4”

Thomas is also a proud AOPA member and Diamond aircraft owner and displays so in his car. It always put a smile on my face when I see this as a member and staffer myself.

Thomas' car w stickers

Following the airport tour, we visited the Pilatus Aircraft factory with Jan and Jörg Ruckstuhl, Sales Manager for the PC-12. Pilatus has over 1,700 employees in Stans, making it one of Central Switzerland’s largest employers.

Jorg, Yasmina and Jan in front of the first PC-12 prototype from 1991

Jorg, Yasmina and Jan in front of the first PC-12 prototype from 1991

The name of the aircraft manufacturer comes from nearby Mount Pilatus (picture shown later). Legend has it that this almost 7,000 feet peak was named after “Pontius Pilate,” whose corpse was thrown into a lake on its summit and whose restless ghost has haunted its height ever since. However, I also read that “Pileatus” is the Latin word for “cloud covered” as the mountain frequently is. Take your pick!

Pilatus is staying pretty busy building a combination of business (PC-6 and PC-12) and military aircraft (PC-7, PC-9 and PC-21) as well as designing their upcoming PC-24 – their first jet, also designed for short, unprepared runways. It was interesting to learn that most of their military aircraft are currently heading over to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We could not take pictures of those aircraft (although I can tell you that they were beautiful and looked like a lot of fun to fly!) but we were able to take some of the PC-12s in their final stages of completion. We learned that aircraft coming here to the United States are finished to customer specifications (interior and exterior) at the Colorado factory. The remainder of the aircraft are normally completely finished in Stans and flown to the customers with Swiss temporary registration numbers (HB).

This PC-12 was going to Poland (SP) the next day with a temporary HB registration.

This PC-12 was going to Poland (SP) the next day with a temporary HB registration. Notice the two registration numbers.

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Pilatus works with Albuquerque’s Bendix King for onboard weather radars

Pilatus works with Albuquerque’s Bendix King for onboard weather radars

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We were pretty impressed with the work done in the factory and happily surprised with the amount of construction they had: a recently built parking deck for employees and a new logistics hangar going up. We were especially impressed with the metal machines and skills, possibly because we had never seen that before. It is interesting to see the blocks of metals they receive, how they make most pieces of the aircraft and then compress and resale the excess metal they can no longer use.

Blocks of metals Pilatus receives

Blocks of metals Pilatus receives

Sample of an airplane metal part – this one of the belly of the PC-12

Sample of an airplane metal part – this one of the belly of the PC-12

Container full of compacted metal pieces ready to be sold

Container full of compacted metal pieces ready to be sold

While there, we learned that the Pilatus plant was used for the movie Goldfinger where James Bond crashed an Aston Martin DB5 and was captured. I also realized that AOPA and Pilatus had at least one thing in common… they were both founded in 1939 and, therefore, both are celebrating 75 years this year. Big accomplishment for both organizations!

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And, after both of those awesome tours and a flat tire on the rental car, we were able to squeeze in the flight of a lifetime for both Jared and I. We had arranged a flight around the area with Stephan Willi in HB-PHG, a 1981 Piper Archer II, from Kägiswil airfield (LSPG), located north of Sarnen and just a few miles south of Alpnach.

Google’s satellite image of the Kägiswil airfield

Google’s satellite image of the Kägiswil airfield

The aircraft and flight instructor belong to a local flying club. The combination of having Stephan as our flight instructor (a great and very knowledgeable person who explained to us how GA works in CH) with a great flying aircraft and a beautiful area… made our one hour flight one to remember forever. I flew the circular route that took us around Alpnach, Mount Pilatus, Luzern, Buochs, Mount Titlis, Interlaken and the Swiss Alps but Stephan was PIC because he was the one who handled all the radio calls (in English, I must add, since other European countries use their own native language) and kept us away from airspace, noise sensitive areas, etc. The elevation at the airport was around 1,500’ MSL so we climbed to 10,000’ to stay above most of the peaks in the area.

Sectional of the area showing tricky airspace between restricted areas, towered airports and high elevation terrain

Sectional of the area showing tricky airspace between restricted areas, towered airports and high elevation terrain

Daily airspace bulletin for Switzerland… like our TFR map with airspace notams

Daily airspace bulletin for Switzerland… like our TFR map with airspace notams. They are currently in a test/trial program so they are not currently charging for these but they may in the future.

Sectional legend explaining their (and other European country’s) airspace classifications

Sectional legend explaining their (and other European country’s) airspace classifications

Wow! So fun! Writing this blog is making me want to go back now… I will show you some pictures but they don’t do the scenery justice.

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The runway was almost wider than long, haha, and somewhat uneven for what we are used to in the U.S.

The runway was almost wider than long, haha, and somewhat uneven for what we are used to in the U.S.

Mount Pilatus out of the left window

Mount Pilatus out of the left window

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Downtown Luzern and its famous Church Bridge, Water Tower, and the Musegg Wall with some of its nine towers

The lake by Luzern

The lake by Luzern

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Yours truly, happy as can be, with the Swiss Alps in the background

Yours truly, happy as can be, with the Swiss Alps in the background

The treeline around the Swiss Alps is about 7,200 feet, which means trees (and other vegetation) can no longer grow and live.

The treeline around the Swiss Alps is about 7,200 feet, which means trees (and other vegetation) can no longer grow and live.

Most high peaks in the area had clouds attached to it.

Most high peaks in the area had clouds attached to it.

Glaciers were also very common in the Swiss Alps.

Glaciers were also very common in the Swiss Alps.

Interlaken's water color is turquoise because of all the water it receives from the glaciers.

Interlaken’s water color is turquoise because of all the water it receives from the glaciers.

Flying over the Flugplatz Meiringen airport, starting our approach back to home base

Flying over the Flugplatz Meiringen airport, starting our approach back to home base

On approach back to Kägiswil… flying over the middle of the lake while keeping some altitude to avoid noise sensitive areas over town

On approach back to Kägiswil… flying over the middle of the lake while keeping some altitude to avoid noise sensitive areas over town

This was one of those approaches where being on your airspeeds was key to help with the increased descent angle (but yet slow) past obstacles. Immediately after touch down, a car attempted to cross the runway but, luckily, he stopped when he saw me and I was able to stop before reaching that point on the runway.

Stephan and I after putting the aircraft in the hangar for the night

Stephan and I after putting the aircraft in the hangar for the night

My husband Jared was particularly intrigued by the airplane lift the flying club had in the hangar to be able to fit more aircraft. He sent it to several mechanic friends here at home.

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You may also be interested to know how much that one hour flight was… well, 245 CHF (Swiss francs) or about $260 wet with the instructor and a $10 landing fee. Yes, more expensive than here in the U.S., but totally worth every penny for the experience. However, considering regular car gas was around 1.50 CHF per liter (or about $6 per gallon!)… I did not think the flight was too expensive in relation. The Lugano Airport, close to where we spent the night that night, was selling avgas for 278.70 CHF per 100 liters. That equates to about 10.55 CHF per gallon or $11.15 per gallon. Who says 100LL is expensive in the U.S.? ;)

We then crossed the border into Italy where we visited the Aero Club Como (and, yes, George Clooney has a house nearby since everybody asks…). They claim to be “the oldest seaplane operation and flight school in the world“ so, of course, we wanted to see it. They were founded on April 6th, 1930 and you can read more about their history on their website (some of which is in Italian). Unfortunately, airplane maintenance and weather prevented us from seaplane flying around Lake Como. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing their facility and aircraft. The club and flight school (scuola di piloti) have a hangar and ramp across the lake, very close to downtown Como.

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Since the weather grounded students as well, one of them decided to do some chair flying with his instructor.

Since the weather grounded students as well, one of them decided to do some chair flying with his instructor.

I thought it was neat that they perform weddings in the club’s 1930 hangar and they had a poster with information about it inside the hangar.

On the way back to Zurich, we stopped at the Locarno Airport in CH. We were happy to see a wonderful GA airport with lots of activity, including skydiving, flight training, military training, emergency/air ambulance operations, external cargo load operations using one helicopter, other helicopters, gliders, etc. The airport is divided into two areas: the north side had a paved runway and the south side had two grass runways. In between and just west of the skydiving facility, there was an area for the skydivers to land.

Google’s satellite image of the Locarno airport

Google’s satellite image of the Locarno airport

PC-6 performing some kind of military training

PC-6 performing some kind of military training

Helicopter making rounds dropping off cargo

Helicopter making rounds dropping off cargo

Skydiver trying to make his landing target. The skydiving plane was also a PC-6.

Skydiver trying to make his landing target. The skydiving plane was also a PC-6.

Air medical helicopter with skis.

Air medical helicopter with skis

Grass runways in Locarno

Grass runways in Locarno

Do you think you want to experience what we did? Well, you can, and AOPA is making it easier for you. The AOPA Foundation is preparing to launch its annual online auction in November with one-of-a-kind packages and flight experiences. One of those items in 2013 was a popular “Pilatus Aircraft package in Switzerland“ so there will be another one with new features in this year’s auction, which opens on November 7. Be sure to bid!

Before I end this blog, I wanted to thank all those people involved in our visits (all mentioned above) in addition to President Daniel Affolter and Philippe Hauser of AOPA Switzerland for their help and coordination. Special thanks go out to Thomas and Jan who helped us get two new tires for the rental car in a short timeframe, which allowed us to continue with our itinerary. Danke!

Ok, now back down to the ground….. after daydreaming for a little while.

Showcasing “Kansas Aviation is for Everybody”… the 2014 Fly Kansas Air Tour

700, 10, 10, 9. 3, 60, 40, 600 are all great numbers. Can you imagine… flying about 700 NM in around 10 hours of flight time to 10 airports, in 9 cities, in 3 days, with about 60 other pilots in close to 40 different aircraft while learning about general aviation in your state and sharing your love for general aviation and flying with over 600 school children, many of which could be our next generation of aviators? Yes! That’s what Joey Colleran, AOPA’s Director of the Airport Support Network (ASN) program, and I did September 22-24 when we participated in the 2014 Fly Kansas Air Tour as part of the Kansas Aviation Expo – a week-long series of aviation events in Kansas. In the history of flight in Kansas, this was only the third organized air tour of Kansas.

2014 Fly Kansas Air Tour’s circular route

2014 Fly Kansas Air Tour’s circular route

Joey and Yasmina on right of the picture accompanied by the other three female air tour pilots Tiffany Brown, Pat Hockett, and Star Novak (left to right).

Joey and Yasmina on right of the picture accompanied by the other three female air tour pilots Tiffany Brown, Star Novak, and Pat Hockett (left to right).

On Sunday, Joey and I headed up to Wellington, KS (KEGT – Exhaust Gas Temperature? Ha!) to prepare for the start of the air tour on Monday. On the way, we stopped at the Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport (KGOK) for fuel, to see how things are at the airport since I had met airport manager Justin Heid at an earlier event this year and had asked me to stop by, and to check out the home of Zivko Aeronautics, the builder of the Edge 540.

The air tour started out at the Wellington Municipal Airport (KEGT) bright and early on Monday. Lots of aircraft, including some who did not participate in the air tour, came to Wellington to kick-off and celebrate its start. Several skydivers brought down the U.S. flag as the local H.S. band sang the national anthem and Randy Hardy flew around them in his Stearman with smoke on as they were coming down. A local ag operator performed an ag spraying demonstration and lots of local students got a chance to walk around all the aircraft. There was a formal presentation of the air tour by Jesse Romo, the Kansas DOT-Aviation Director, and a discussion of the local benefits the airport and its activity and business brings to the community. Each of the pilots also introduced themselves and their aircraft.

Flight line at KEGT

Flight line at KEGT

Skydivers, Stearman, and the National Anthem

Skydivers, Stearman, and the National Anthem

Kids and aircraft

HS band and Stearman

Students and aircraft

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback showed his appreciation of the Kansas Aviation Expo program by proclaiming September 22-26, 2014 as “Aviation Appreciation Week.”

Governor's proclamation

Governor’s proclamation

From KEGT, we flew to Hutchinson (KHUT) for lunch at the Airport Steakhouse. After the lovely lunch, the pilots departed to the Cosmosphere for an awesome behind-the-scenes tour by Brian Youngers, President of the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE), and aerodynamics activities with local students. I’m not sure who loved this visit more… the students or the pilots… Once back at the airport, students interacted with the pilots, learning all about their aircraft, how to become a pilot, pilot jobs, etc. They also got a chance to see a Life Team helicopter and a fly-by by several Stearman and a Navion. I tell you… those kids sure got excited when they turned their smoke on! (well, and the “not so kids”)

First group of kids learning about aerodynamics

First group of kids learning about aerodynamics

Kids testing their propeller-driven vehicle

Kids testing their propeller-driven vehicle

From Hutchinson, rather than getting the heck out of dodge, we went to it – Dodge City (KDDC) for the night. Several Boy and Girl Scouts joined us after dinner. Joey and I had a good time showing a group of them (and their parents) the Archer we were flying. They had great questions and we enjoyed linking Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to aviation by doing a few math problems and science experiments with them.

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Tuesday called for stops at Scott City (KTQK), Salina (KSLN), and Topeka (KTOP). We toured and learned about the Spencer Flight Training Center in Scott City – a non-profit center whose objective is to provide access to resources and training opportunities for pilots to keep their skills as sharp as possible and help ensure their safety while inflight. We had read about it but it was great to be able to visit it and learn more about what they’re doing first hand. Great work!

Some of the air tour pilots and Spencer Flight Training Center staff

Some of the air tour pilots and Spencer Flight Training Center staff

The flight between Scott City and Salina was our longest leg of the trip – 150 NM+ direct with a couple of deviations for airspace so we were ready for lunch upon arrival. Salina had organized booths for several of their based tenants to include military, law enforcement, and K-State Salina’s aviation program.

And we made it to the Capital… Topeka – Philip Billard Municipal Airport (KTOP)… before nightfall to learn about the Aviation Explorer’s Post 8, where Post 8 kids learn about aviation, flying, and leadership. The organization operates two aircraft to provide young people an introduction to aviation and a private pilot certificate! We also enjoyed dinner accompanied by Kansas Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Mike King.

Learning about Aviation Explorer’s Post 8

Learning about Aviation Explorer’s Post 8

Joey, Secretary Mike King, Yasmina, and Jesse Romo (left to right)

Joey, Secretary Mike King, Yasmina, and Jesse Romo (left to right)

On Wednesday, we were off to Pittsburg (Pittsburg-Atkinson, Kansas, that is…). Lots of students (one of the largest crowds we saw) were awaiting our arrival at KPTS. They watched us land, taxi, and park from the fence. This stop was centered around business aviation because several companies operate flight departments and aircraft from Pittsburg so we talked about using our Piper Archer for AOPA business travel and work. They really understood it when we put it in perspective and worked some example trips with them.

Names and Numbers, a local aviation operator discussing business aviation on the field

Names and Numbers, a local aviation operator discussing business aviation on the fiel

The youngest of the air tour bunch also met us at KPTS – an adorable 13 month old future aviator – with her dad Andy!

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Daddy day care

And, because “aviation means independence” everywhere but especially in Independence, KS… we stopped at KIDP for our second to last stop of the trip. A group of kids had already taken a tour of the Cessna facility by the time we had arrived so they were pumped to see the aircraft pull up. We toured the facility where Cessna makes C172s, TTXs, Mustangs, etc and gave the students an opportunity to jump in our aircraft and ask questions.

The final stop of the tour was at Benton-Lloyd Stearman Field (1K1), where we had a hangar party and shared our great air tour experience with other aviation professionals. Stearman Field is a lovely residential airstrip with a cool restaurant but it was a bitter-sweet moment to see the air tour end…

Final group pic

2014 Fly Kansas Air Tour group

All along the 3-day tour… the pilots developed a great camaraderie and lasting relationships. We were also able to get a couple of rusty pilots back into flying and one worked on his tailwheel endorsement. In addition, we showed the local community the importance of their airport, including the economic impact that their airport and general aviation has on their community and the state.

If that wasn’t enough… Joey and I were able to meet and talk with the wonderful AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteers (ASNVs) along the route. Joey also recruited a few new Volunteers. I say it was a very successful tour.

Several of the ASNVs we met with along the route.

Several of the ASNVs we met with along the route.

Joey and I flew one more very short reposition leg over to Colonel James Jabara Airport (KAAO) from Stearman (all 5 NM!) to prepare for Thursday’s Flying Classroom (and Joey’s airline flight back home to Austin).

So, yes, we invite you to consider flying the 2015 Fly Kansas Air Tour, already being organized for September 28-30, for many reasons: 1) you get to visit new airports you may not have visited before, 2) you can learn more about aviation in Kansas, 3) you can introduce young people to aviation and have an impact in their lives, 4) you can show a local community and a state why general aviation is important, necessary, and that they should protect it and promote it, 5) you get to meet some great people and pilots, 6) you can bring friends or family with you (maybe even someone new to aviation!), 7) you can build time, work on another rating, build cross country time, or whatever else you may want to work on, 8) you can share rides with people (several pilots got a chance to fly in other people’s airplanes), and, yes, 9) it is lots of fun!

See you then!

Successful Pinch Hitter in Houston

As you might remember… fellow aviator and friend Linda Street-Ely and I planned and organized a Pinch Hitter course (non-pilot flying companions learn the fundamentals of flying, how to talk with ATC controllers, basic emergency procedures, etc) for the Houston area last Saturday, August 16th. For an earlier blog about this and more information, visit: http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=1625 and http://houstonpinchhitter.weebly.com/.

We were initially happy to get 25-30 RSVPs because we did not know what to really expect but, when we got to 50, we had to set that as the limit. RSVPs and interest got to 70 strong so we now have a list of 20 flying companions for a future date and two cities, Fort Worth and Conroe, have also asked us for a course in their area. The interest and response was overwhelmingly positive and we were happy to see that!

We were very fortunate and thankful to recruit four other great Texas pilots/flight instructors along with their aircraft to help us present the material to the attendees: 1) Vickie Croston from Conroe, 2) Erin Cude from Victoria, 3) Mike Ely from Liberty, and 4) Mary Latimer from Vernon. We cannot thank them enough. They volunteered their time and money to come to the event. Thanks also go out to West Houston Airport for being a great host!

Attendees were provided with some goodies and materials to take home so they can review the concepts and topics discussed as well as learn more about any particular topics. One of those materials was the latest copy of the FAA Safety Briefing that happened to focused around flying companions.

Attendees with their FAA Safety Briefing magazines with a "Flying Companion Guide to GA"

Attendees with their FAA Safety Briefing magazines with a “Flying Companion Guide to GA”

We received great and encouraging post-course feedback from the 49 attendees. Here are some samples:

  • I wish I would have done this earlier
  • I look forward to taking some flight training and learn how to land the airplane in case of something happening to my girlfriend
  • I’m going to start training and become a private pilot
  • I’m going to enjoy flying more now that I understand how things work and feel more safe
  • Hope my husband lets me help him now, especially with radios and checklists

Based on our experience and their comments, we believe the course was successful and met its objectives. We believe all attendees were rewarded with a greater understanding of flying and general aviation, a more enjoyable time during future flights, and a greater sense of safety regardless of what their future plans call for. Sharing the joy and passion of flight with someone special to you can only have positive returns. Being an active participant in what’s going on can only increase the safety factor.

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Attendees learning about pre-flights and parts of an airplane

Attendees learning about pre-flights and parts of an airplane

And they learned about cockpit instruments as well

And they learned about cockpit instruments as well

So, if you are interested in a Pinch Hitter or know someone who is within the region, please send me an e-mail with your/their contact info so I can keep track and contact you/them when a course is scheduled close to you. My e-mail is yasmina.platt@aopa.org.

If you are interested in organizing a Pinch Hitter yourself in your area (and I encourage you to do so! :) ), I am also happy to talk with you and provide you with some important topics of discussions, things to consider when choosing a venue, tips, lessons learned, etc. Send me an e-mail to that above address and we can schedule a phone call.

Now, for all pilots… please remember to always make your passengers comfortable before, during, and after flying. Remember that they may not be used to flying in small airplanes like you are and they, for sure, do not know or understand the lingo or the procedures involved so, when able, try your best to explain it to them. Encourage them to ask questions and be involved in the process (unless they just prefer to just read a book or take a nap). Passengers are much more relaxed and comfortable riding in any type of transportation mode when they have information and know what to expect.

Need help creating your own passenger briefing? Here are a couple of links that can help: http://www.aopa.org/Education/Safety-Videos/Passenger-Safety-Briefing.aspx and http://flash.aopa.org/asf/volunteerpilots/app/content/pdf/ASI_PBF_Passenger%20Briefing%20Checklist.pdf

Upcoming Pinch Hitter in Houston

As I travel the region… I often hear that non-pilot flying companions (business associates or friends, for example)/spouses/significant others don’t often ride along in GA aircraft because they are not comfortable with flying or just are not very interested. Many who regularly fly with us do so, to some degree, under stress, never really enjoying the experience. Some are scared, others just nervous. Some question what if this or that (for example… can turbulence cause a wing to fall apart? how do you ensure that you don’t come in contact with another aircraft in flight?). And, for most, it just isn’t as much fun as it is for us and, when it isn’t fun for them, it probably isn’t as much fun for us either.

However, your flying companion can be a tremendous asset and, with training, flying can be safer, easier, and more enjoyable for all parties involved. So, fellow aviator and friend Linda Street-Ely and I decided to organize a Pinch Hitter course in the Houston area where we live.

What is a Pinch Hitter? A course where non-pilot flying companions learn the fundamentals of flying, how to talk with ATC controllers, and basic emergency procedures. Here are the details of this upcoming course:

  • When: Saturday, August 16, 2014 (9 am – 5 pm). Rain or shine.
  • Where: West Houston Airport (KIWS); 18000 Groschke Rd; Houston, TX 77084.
  • Who: Any non-pilot who regularly flies in GA aircraft is a good candidate.
  • Objective: To introduce the non-pilot flying companions to flying an airplane. We will discuss the possibility of the pilot becoming incapacitated while in flight and the need for the non-pilot to take control of the airplane. When the non-pilot is well-versed in the operation of the aircraft, it enhances safety as well as increases the enjoyment of flight. Some of the topics to be covered will include: safety, basics of aerodynamics, aircraft instruments and parts, basic navigation and chart reading, checklists, radio usage and communications, GPS usage, traffic patterns and landing, and emergency procedures. We will also offer an open forum to answer all questions/concerns about flying and can help the participants get some actual flight training, if interested.
  • Cost: $25 (the cost of lunch and materials)
  • FMI: For a tentative agenda, more information and updates, visit http://houstonpinchhitter.weebly.com/.
  • Questions and RSVP: Contact me at yasmina.platt@aopa.org. Please RSVP by August 10th with the following information: 1) Name, 2) Contact info, 3) Your passenger experience in small (GA) aircraft, 4) Aircraft most often riding in, 5) Personal reasons for taking the course, and 6) Expectations of the course (what you want to learn).

Can’t make it on August 16th? No problem… here is AOPA’s Online Pinch Hitter: http://flash.aopa.org/asf/pinch_hitter/swf/flash.cfm

International Fly-in in Garray (Soria), Spain

It is probably no surprise to many of you that my husband and I attended a fly-in while on vacation recently. In previous blogs, I have mentioned how we always try to link our vacation with a little bit of aviation and flying to learn how general aviation (GA) works and is treated in other parts of the country and world. And, yes, we also enjoy seeing places and landscapes from a 3D perspective. Who doesn’t, right?

This time… we headed to my home country of Spain for 10 days to visit family, eat some good food, enjoy a little R&R, and experience traditional festivities during Soria’s fire walking festival (paso del fuego) in San Pedro de Manrique and annual festivities, called Fiestas de San Juan.

The map below shows you where Soria is located within Spain. It is about a 2 1/2 hr drive from Madrid (in the center of the country) to Soria.

Map of Spain with Soria's aerodrome

Map of Spain with Soria’s aerodrome

On Saturday, June 21st, Soria’s aerodrome/airport in Garray (only 7 or so km north of Soria) held a fly-in to introduce the newly re-opened and improved airport to the locals (called sorianos) and pilots. While the airport was opened in the early 20th century, the airport has not always been successful. The airport is owned by the province and managed by a private entity. A new management company, Airpull Aviation, took over the management and control of the airport on December 18th, 2013 for the next 10 years. Their goal is to make the airport attractive to pilots and the local community while ensuring its economic viability. My family had been updating me on the improvements made to the airport since the beginning of the year (resurfacing of the main and existing runway, a new runway, a bigger ramp, a restaurant, a fuel farm, a new roadway leading to the airport, etc.) so the fly-in was the perfect opportunity for me to see it for myself.

To be honest…. I was excited about it, but I truly expected a small event with a low turnout. To my pleasant surprise… the fly-in actually reminded me of a lot of fly-ins I attend here on behalf on AOPA and it was one of my highlights of the trip.

One side of the ramp

One side of the ramp, with a good mixture of aircraft

The airport has a restaurant/coffee shop (restaurante/cafeteria) inside the terminal with a couple of patios outside, where several locals where eating and talking while enjoying the sights of aircraft flying.

Airport terminal in Garray

Airport terminal in Garray

Airport terminal

Locals and pilots talking and watching airplanes

The airport also has a flight school that provides training, rental aircraft, skydiving, etc. The prices seem pretty competitive with other parts of Spain and Europe but, not suprisingly, not with those here in the States. To give you an idea… a 1979 Cessna C172 Skyhawk or a 1985 Piper Warrior II goes for 205 euros an hour wet with taxes (with or without a CFI – the charge is the same!). At the current exchange rate of about 1  = $1.36, that would be $279/hr. Flying club members can get them discounted at 160 /hr ($218/hr). Yes, then you have to pay user fees/landing fees separately.

I introduced myself to the guy who looked to be in charge of the event since he was carrying a portable handheld radio and was giving takeoff/landing/low flying permissions/clearances to the pilots flying. He immediately asked if I had any interest in flying. What do you think I said? “Of course! No need to ask! Thank you!” A few minutes later… my High School friend Lorena (who came to visit us from Zaragoza - 2 hrs drive time east of Soria) and I were in a Piper Warrior with CFI Eduardo at the controls heading out to the runway. I took the back seat and let my friend Lorena sit up front. It was her first flight in a small GA aircraft and I wanted her to experience it first hand. We had a fabulous flight and Lorena left the aircraft (and airport) wanting more and thinking about obtaining a private pilot license (or PPL as they call it in Europe). Mission accomplished!

Lorena

Lorena, a happy flyer during her first GA flight

Departing the airport

Departing the airport

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Garray airport in the distance

Low level pass with a C172

Low level pass with a C172

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Passing the C172 as we do the low pass over the airport

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Aerial of the airport

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Town of Garray

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Landing

Landing

CFI Eduardo with Lorena and I in front of the Piper Warrior

CFI Eduardo with Lorena and I in front of the Piper Warrior

It’s funny how all the people who took “first time rides” left with a big grin on their face and nothing but complementary comments. “Amazing!, Wow!, Fantastic!, How fun!” are some of the things I overheard them say. Ahhhh the joys of flying general aviation aircraft…..

While there, I also spoke with Santi Marti, the airport’s general manager, to thank him for the event, his work with the airport, and get a summary of the day’s and year’s (to date) success. Approximately 500 people and 45 aircraft (airplanes, gyrocopters, ultralights, LSAs, etc) attended from around the country (Valencia, Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid, Valladolid, Navarra, Soria, Toledo…) as well as four from France and one from Germany. Among the aircraft was an Antonov AN II from 1947.

Antonov

Antonov AN II

Mr. Martin also gave me some great news. Their goal was to have at least 500 aircraft operations in 2014 but they have already exceeded that in only the first few months of service and that’s with Spain’s current recession. Soria’s airport does have a good future ahead… :) The province and the local media have provided a lot of support to the airport and I hope it continues that way.

The airport is located in a great area (centrally located, with beautiful scenery as you saw from my pictures above, and away from busy airspace), making it ideal for GA operations, to include gliding. Glider pilots say it may be the best area in Spain given its thermals, geology, and meteorological conditions.

Based helicopters, mostly used for firefighting

Based helicopters, mostly used for firefighting

But, if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake was to meet Victor Gaspar, an AOPA member who flew in from Bilbao, in northern Spain, in the RANS Coyote II he built seven years ago. He is also currently building a second aircraft, this time an RV-10, and he briefly explained to me some of the issues he is running into with the Agencia Española de Seguridad Aérea (AESA), the “Spanish FAA” and a sub-agency of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as he chooses an engine for his new aircraft. They don’t allow it to have the engine that the kit aircraft is designed for because it has too many horsepower according to current Spanish regulation.

A past Air Venture attendee, he expressed his gratitude towards AOPA and EAA. Without AOPA, general aviation wouldn’t be what it is, he said.

AOPA member Victor Gaspar, my husband Jared and I

With my husband Jared and Victor Gaspar, proudly wearing his AOPA hat

Did I get you excited about flying to Europe or within Europe? If so, here is a website the airport recommends to obtain weather, notams, flight planning info, etc: http://flyingineurope.be/

The airport in Tudela, Navarra is now on my list to visit during my next trip to Spain. =)

I had a dream!

A lot of people (I would even venture to say “most people”) have dreams… some reachable, some unreachable. I could tell you that my ultimate dream would be to fly to the moon but, unfortunately, that is not a realistic dream for more reasons than one. Instead, I rather think of dreams as big goals and desires – things that you can achieve if you work hard at it, stay on task, and persevere.

Some people dream of their wedding, owning a big house and a nice car, or maybe buying a boat. Others dream of what they want to be or do. As a kid, I always remember thinking of one dream… to fly one day. It took all of those things that I mentioned earlier and more but, boy, was it worth it!

General aviation flying is something special that I wish more people could experience. The Oxford Dictionary defines “takeoff” as “the action of becoming airborne.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the moment when an airplane, helicopter, etc., leaves the ground and begins to fly.” Those are very factual and physics-based definitions. There is so much more to it… taking off (especially during the first solo) is something magical; it’s a feeling of enjoyment, adventure, freedom, power, empowerment, majesty, and departure from depressing world news among others.

Flying itself is also more than the physical part of it. It’s also about the wonderful people you meet, the events (fly-ins, airshow, air races, air routes…) you can participate in and attend, the destinations you visit, the 3D views you enjoy, the experiences you live and so forth. It brings some cool options and opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy it.

On a day when we remember MLK’s dream of equality, today is a good day to review and celebrate our own dreams. And, for me, today is a good day to celebrate the achievement of my dream with its main enablers – my parents. I could not think of a better way to celebrate it than to take them up flying for the weekend so I could share my dream and passion with them.

So… I had a dream that one day I would fly and it feels amazing to have achieved it. Now I’m working on my next dream because I believe in bettering yourself… looking further and challenging yourself within your limits and reach.

What’s your dream? Whatever it is, I encourage you to keep going through the fun times and the hard times. I especially encourage those of you who wish to fly and join the PIC ranks.

Listing of Aviation Programs at Middle and High Schools

Interested in a career in aviation? Your kid is the one who is interested? Your grandkid, friend, or neighbor is interested but don’t know where to start? Looking for a middle or high school to get her/him started? Live in the Central Southwest Region (NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE, IA)? Well, you came to the right place.

AOPA’s Flight Training magazine publishes an annual College Aviation Directory with a list of colleges and universities with aviation programs. Here is next year’s (2014′s): http://flighttraining.aopa.org/magazine/2013/December/1312f_college%20directory2.pdf. Flight Training’s College Aviation Directory is the largest, most comprehensive database available anywhere.

You can also search the interactive College Aviation Directory by state and type of program (pilot training, maintenance, ATC… and associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s) here: http://flighttraining.aopa.org/learntofly/school/aviation_colleges/

By the time a teenager gets to college, he/she usually knows what he/she wants to do as a career and the path to follow. Therefore, I believe it is far more important to attract students to aviation from a younger age. Realizing that a similar listing of schools does not exist for programs below college level, I have started to compile a listing of pre-college aviation programs at schools in the AOPA Central Southwest Region.

I have been wanting to compile this list for quite some time. I am a graduate of Sterling H.S.’s aviation program in Houston, TX. I think I mentioned this in my “10 year flying anniversary” blog last year. I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was a toddler. Therefore, during my junior year in High School, in preparation for college, I started researching how I could start flying and what it would take since no one around me knew anything about it or knew how to help me. Google and the AOPA website were my best friends. They were highly used and abused :) However, one day, I ended up in Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) website because my sister was looking for a school with an arts program she had heard about (what we now know as the High School for the Performing and Visual arts or HSPVA, which she attended) and, under the list of “vanguard” or “magnet” programs, I saw “aviation.” Uh huh, magic word! I was very lucky to find it and, after having graduated from the program years ago, I still find it amusing that most pilots or people in aviation in the Houston area have not even heard about it.

Anyway, that’s my long story for wanting to create this list. I want to make it a little easier for kids and parents to find schools with aviation programs in their areas, especially for those with no ties to aviation. Hope it is helpful.

Listing of Pre-College Aviation Programs

This list might not be inclusive of all such programs so, if you know of any missing, or if you have more information about any of the programs currently listed, please e-mail me (yasmina.platt@aopa.org) or reply to this blog.

Aviation History at Glenwood Cemetery

Today was a grey and cold day in Houston so my husband Jared and I decided it would be nice to visit the Glenwood and Washington Cementeries and visit the graves of some famous people, especially those with ties to aviation.

The first grave we were most excited about was Howard Hughes, Jr’s. I know all of you know who Mr. Hughes was but here is a brief bio from the cemetery’s website as a refresher:

Hughes, Jr., Howard R. (1905-1976)
Billionaire and man of legendary accomplishments in business, aviation and film making. He assumed control of the Hughes Tool Company at the age of 19, following his father’s death. In the late 1920s he moved to Hollywood. His best-remembered films are the epic Hell’s Angels (1930) and The Outlaw (1941). During WWII and the decade that followed, he pursued his fascination with aviation, forming Hughes Aviation and receiving government contracts for development and manufacture of aircraft (including the wooden flying boat dubbed “The Spruce Goose”). In 1956 he acquired TWA and pushed it into the jet age. By the late 1960s, he was becoming increasingly reclusive, eventually running his business empire from a penthouse atop the Dessert Inn in Las Vegas. He died on a flight from Acapulco to Houston.”

Most non-aviation enthusiasts know about Howard from the 2004 movie “The Aviator,” played by Leonardo DiCaprio (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338751/).

According to the cemetery’s website, the Howard Hughes family plot is one of the most frequently visited sites at Glenwood. I’m very happy to hear that; I’m happy to hear that some people care about aviation history. Even though his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle became very apparent later in life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder and chronic pain, Mr. Hughes should be remembered by his aviation entrepreneurship as well as his piloting and engineering skills.

Grave of the Hughes Family

Grave of the Hughes Family

Grave of Howard Hughes, Jr and his two parents

Grave of Howard Hughes, Jr and his two parents

We were also interested in seeing William P. Hobby’s grave. He was Governor of Texas for a few years but, most importantly (for us, anyway), Houston’s second commercial airport (KHOU – William P. Hobby Airport) is named after him. I may be wrong here, but it is my understanding that this is the timeline of the airport’s name over the years:

- W.T. Carter Field in 1927 when it was a private landing field in a 600-acre (240 ha) pasture

- When the City of Houston acquired it in 1937, they changed the name to Houston Municipal Airport

- In July, 1938, after setting a new speed record flying his Lockheed 14 Super Electra around the world, Howard Hughes visited Houston for a 3 day celebration. During a banquet at the Rice Hotel, the City announced that Houston Municipal Airport was to be renamed Howard Hughes Municipal Airport. A few months later (about 4 months), the City learned that the airport will be disqualified for Federal grant money if it is named after a living person and the name was changed back to Houston Municipal Airport. (source: 1940 Air Terminal)

- Renamed Houston International Airport in 1954

- And renamed to its current name (William P. Hobby Airport) in 1967

Grave of William P. Hobby and his two wives

Grave of William P. Hobby and his two wives

Grave of William P. Hobby

Grave of William P. Hobby

I am not exactly sure what William P. Hobby’s involvement with the airport was, but Howard Hughes was responsible for several improvements to the airport, including its first control tower in 1938, in addition to being the era’s most influential aviator and a user of the airfield. If any of you know what Mr. Hobby’s involvement with the airport was, I’d like to know; please e-mail me or post a reply to this blog. I do not want to ignore Mr. Hobby’s accomplishments; however, I think I would prefer the airport to be named after Howard Hughes once again. Mr. Hobby has a local school named after him (William P. Hobby Elementary School – http://www.houstonisd.org/HobbyES). Mr. Hughes only has a restaurant/bar named after him – Hughes Hangar (http://hugheshangar.com/) - and, as a private enterprise, it could close and we could lose it. Hobby Airport is also the place where my husband and I met so it definetely has a special place in our hearts. =)

If you are interested in learning more about KHOU’s history, the 1940 Air Terminal Museum does a fabulous job of capturing it. I would suggest that you visit them sometime. It is pretty impressive. Here is their website: http://www.1940airterminal.org/history/timeline/.

For more information about the cemetery, visit their website at http://www.glenwoodcemetery.org/. If you click on “About Glenwood,” you can learn more about the cemetery and the significant and important people buried there. By clicking on “Visiting,” you can find a map of the cemetery.

We will be back to take a guided walking tour when my husband recovers from his running injury. I’ll update this if we learn some more interesting information.

Social Media in Central Southwest Region

In addition to several “friendly airports,” there are also quite a few airports, museums, and organizations in the Central Southwest Region (NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE, and IA) that are active in social media. Click on the link below to see the list I have compiled to date but I welcome any additional ones I may have missed.

Twitter and Facebook Accounts in Central Southwest Region

If you have a Twitter account, you can quickly follow all the “listings or Twitter accounts” (sorry, I don’t know the appropriate Twitter nomenclature) in your state by going to the regional Twitter profile (https://twitter.com/aopacentralsw) and clicking on “Lists.” Once you log in with your account information (if you are not logged in already), you will see a list for each of the state, titled “Aviation in New Mexico,” “Aviation in Texas,” and so forth. Rather than typing each one of the Twitter names from this blog, you can view them all very quickly on each of the lists and follow who you want.

Thanks to Jim Rivere from www.LaAviator.com (and AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer for St. John the Baptist Parish Airport (1L0)), we now also have a list of Facebook pages for airports and aviation businesses in Louisiana. I have also been able to find a couple in Iowa.