2015’s Year-End Review –> Central Southwest Region

Note: The AOPA Central Southwest Region covers NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE, and IA.

Addressing the big issues that will affect the way we fly for decades to come requires a big commitment, and 2015 has been a year marked by steady progress on some of the biggest issues of all.

National Issues and Initiatives

Some of the federal issues AOPA worked on in 2015 include addressing barriers to Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipage, introducing the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 to include third class medical reform as well as protections for pilots facing enforcement actions, integrating Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or “drones” into the National Airspace System (NAS), and identifying a replacement for unleaded avgas (100LL). AOPA was also a key player in growing the General Aviation Caucuses on both houses, with the House one reaching an all-time membership record of 274 representatives.

State and Local Issues and Initiatives

When it comes to making an impact on the way we fly, it’s not just national issues that make a difference. AOPA is equally hard at work on the state level and at local airports to keep GA flying.

In 2015, we monitored over 750 bills across the regions, taking an active advocacy role on many of them. Among the state legislative victories racked up in the Central Southwest Region were:

  • Airport improvement funding/appropriations in all the states,
  • Texas: 1) A requirement to mark, register and enforce the marking and registration of Meteorological Evaluation Towers (MET towers) to mitigate safety-of-flight hazard for pilots, 2) clarification of how GA aircraft leasing and business practices operate so that sales and use tax changes do not affect the industry’s positive contribution to the state’s economy, 3) the ability for repossession agents to file a petition in a justice court for a writ of assistance to receive help from law enforcement officials when repossessing an aircraft, and 4) allow anybody to obtain a copy of the TxDOT Airport Directory for free,
  • Louisiana: A fly-away sales/use tax exemption on Louisiana-manufactured or Louisiana-assembled passenger aircraft with a maximum capacity of 8 people.
  • Oklahoma: Setting a minimum mile-and-a-half distance between the construction of new wind-energy turbines and any public-use and private-use airport. Although the state’s 2010 law known as the Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act only applies to public-use airports, this new law also applies this safety protection to Oklahoma’s 245 private-use airports.
  • Arkansas: 1) A partial fly-away sales/use tax exemption on aircraft, 2) a sales/use tax exemption on maintenance (labor and parts) for aircraft 12,500 lbs or more, and 3) a law that authorizes the State Highway Commission to maintain and repair roads leading up to qualifying airports.
  • Missouri: A fly-away sales/use tax exemption on aircraft,
  • Nebraska: 1) Property tax cuts on business aircraft and 2) an improved law regarding the marking and registration of MET towers as well as an enforcement provision of those two requirements, and
  • Iowa: Legislation to 1) protect GA education and flight instruction providers, 2) promote good land-use and protect navigable airspace in the form of the Airport Zoning Act, and 3) preserve the process for closing airports and repaying open state grants.

In addition, if you are watching the news, you may also know that the states and several local municipalities are considering and drafting rules and legislation addressing UAS use. We have been tracking these to ensure they understand the FAA’s safety reasons and responsibility for federal oversight of aviation and airspace (such as restrictions on flight altitude or flight paths, regulation of the navigable airspace, or mandating UAS-specific equipment or training). UAS laws likely to fall under state/local authority involve requirements for police to obtain a warrant prior to using UAS for surveillance, prohibitions on the use of UAS for voyeurism, exclusions on using UAS for hunting or fishing, and prohibitions on attaching firearms or other weapons to a UAS.

And, sometimes in politics, the good news is that bad news won’t happen. This year, we had to fight the reversion, diversion, and/or elimination of aviation-generated funds from state aviation funds in several states, most notably in New Mexico, Missouri and Louisiana. We also fought against aviation (mostly aviation fuel) tax increases, especially if those additional taxes were not scheduled to go back to the state’s aviation division for aviation uses.

Louisiana Speaker Kleckley

Louisiana Speaker Kleckley

Aviation Days at the Capitol

New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa all had Aviation/Transportation Days at the Capitols, providing a great opportunity for pilots, aviation organizations (like AOPA), and legislators to meet and chat about our agenda and the importance and benefit of general aviation to each respective state.

Glider designer George Applebay being honored on the House floor during New Mexico's Aviation Day at the Capitol.

Glider designer George Applebay being honored on the House floor during New Mexico’s Aviation Day at the Capitol.

With Kansas State Representatives Seiwert (L) and Carmichael (R)

Kansas State Representatives Seiwert (L) and Carmichael (R)

With Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

State Aviation Caucuses

Arkansas and Texas are the two states within our region with State Aviation Caucuses and both had meetings in 2015. Several members of the Texas General Aviation Caucus met for a couple of presentations on March 5th and the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus learned about airspace and air traffic in their respective communities as well toured the Little Rock ATCT/TRACON on January 21st.

Texas Rep Kuempel welcoming members of the Texas General Aviation Caucus as well as aviation stakeholders to the annual meeting

Texas Rep Kuempel welcoming members of the Texas General Aviation Caucus and aviation stakeholders to the annual meeting

With members of the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus and two FAA controllers

With members of the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus and two FAA controllers

Aviation Proclamations

The majority of the states – and several communities within some of those states, such as mayors in Baton Rouge, Hammond, New Iberia, and Ruston – issued Governor proclamations recognizing the value of aviation and the jobs and opportunities it creates, among other benefits.

Member Engagement and Outreach

As part of a Regional Manager’s job, we also get to engage with our members and future pilots. In 2015, I represented AOPA at over 50 events across the region, ranging from flying club meetings to flying events (like a poker run or an air tour) and everything in between (meetings with our Airport Support Network Volunteers, visits to Universities and other entities, seminars, Pinch Hitter courses, fly-ins, fly-outs, airshows, conferences…).

You can also engage with me via Twitter or any of the media outlets I contribute to (like the regional website, Midwest Flyer Magazine, or TxDOT’s Wingtips newsletter, for example).

I looking forward to another productive year in 2016! Stay tuned for ways you can contribute and engage with us but keep in mind several of the states will only have tax-related sessions and the Texas Legislature will not meet.


(in collaboration with Elizabeth Tennyson)

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!

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. http://warrenaircraft.com/

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 http://www.stolaircraftmagazine.com/


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.


3rd Annual Backcountry Fly-in at the Beautiful Mystic Bluffs (NM56) Airstrip in New Mexico

The State of New Mexico wants to encourage pilots to consider their state as a destination for backcountry flying. A New Mexico Airstrip Network (NMAN) Steering Committee, of which AOPA is a member of, has been created to increase public access to state airstrips for recreational enjoyment and to promote tourism and economic development, while preserving the environment. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months but, today, I want to write about the 3rd Annual Backcountry Fly-in at the absolutely stunning Mystic Bluffs airstrip (NM56) in Ramah. The little town of Ramah is in northwest New Mexico, southeast of Gallup and west of Grants, as shown in the sectional below.

Location of Mystic Bluffs

Location of Mystic Bluffs

I attended the event to represent AOPA, meet with pilots, and help support/promote the event. My husband Jared happened to be off so he was able to join me on this trip, not a very common instance :) On the way to Ramah, we stopped in Moriarty (0E0) for avgas and to see some of the gliding activity going on. I have to admit we probably saw more gliders together there than in any other place before but, it makes sense, it’s the birth place of the Applebay Sailplanes, it’s home to the U.S Southwest Soaring Museum George Applebay founded, and the soaring conditions are perfect on that part of the world.

Gliders at 0E0

Gliders at 0E0

From there, we went to Albuquerque’s Sunport (ABQ). Earlier in the week, I ran into a newspaper article describing a meeting between a 5 year old boy and a Southwest Airlines Captain after the Captain witnessed the little boy waiving at airplanes from the Airport’s Aircraft Viewing Area. Knowing I was going to be in the area on Friday, August 21st, I immediately reached out to the family to see if future pilot Hudson and his mom would be interested in a local flight around town. They did and we wrote a story about it! Soon after… we were on our way to Gallup (GUP). Unfortunately, the Archer I fly is not equipped or capable of flying into Mystic Bluffs, so we left the airplane at GUP and drove the rest of the way. Mystic Bluffs has a 5,100′ strip at an elevation of 6,980′ (not to mention density altitude!).

Close to Gallup

Close to Gallup

Our original plan was to camp Friday night and leave on Saturday after the event was over but… after enjoying wonderful camaraderie, seeing the beautiful starry sky (first time I’ve seen sooo many stars and the Milky Way with a naked eye), sitting around the campfire, and seeing how beautiful the place was, we decided to stay until Sunday morning.

Our tent

Our tent

Saturday’s event started early… Pilots from around New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and even Nebraska started to arrive around 7 am and, of course, some of us were already there! The local ladies from Timberlake Ranch prepared and setup an amazing spread of wonderful homemade goodies, from your more typical breakfast burritos to a very tasty French toast with blueberries, and everything in between. They also made airplane-shaped sugar cookies. And you should know you cannot travel to New Mexico and not try green or red chile! I have attended a lot of fly-ins but, no offense, none had food quite like Mystic Bluffs did. Wow!

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet


Cute airplane cookies

We counted about 25 aircraft on the field which is an awesome turnout for a backcountry fly-in but I can’t say I blame the pilots and locals for coming… we had a great mixture of beautiful scenery, a well maintained airstrip, near perfect weather, delicious food, airplane watching, camping, a campfire, lots of hiking options, Native American jewelry, and wonderful, wonderful people.

Full ramp of beautiful birds

Full ramp of beautiful birds

This aerial picture is from last year's fly-in but it's the best one I have to show how magical the place is. Courtesy of Mike Marker.

This aerial picture is from last year’s fly-in but it’s the best one I have to show how magical the place is.
Courtesy of Mike Marker.

The surrounding mountains as viewed from Cindy's aircraft. Courtesy of Cindy Crawford.

The surrounding mountains as viewed from Cindy’s aircraft.
Courtesy of Cindy Crawford.

No lie, I took over 100 pictures at the event but here is just a sample…

Lanny Tonning, AOPA's Airport Support Network Volunteer (ASN) for Albuquerque's Sunport, landing his Socata Rallye

Lanny Tonning, AOPA’s Airport Support Network Volunteer (ASN) for Albuquerque’s Sunport, landing his Socata Rallye

Holland, Kky, and Olivia watching airplanes from the shade of a Maule

Holland, Ky, and Olivia watching airplanes from the shade of a Maule

Ron Keller, former NMDOT-Aviation Safety & Education Administrator and jack of all trades, taking off to head back to his home airport of Belen

Ron Keller, former NMDOT-Aviation Safety & Education Administrator and jack of all trades, taking off to head back to his home airport of Belen

1 2 3 There was a flour bombing competition as well and the winner actually got fairly close to the target. After the fly-in was over, those of us who remained at the field for another night went on a little exploration and hiked up to “The Falls” and over to Ramah Lake.

Native American ruins

Native American ruins

The Falls

The Falls

Panoramic of Ramah lake

Panoramic of Ramah lake

I can’t close this blog without acknowledging and thanking the folks who worked for months to make this fly-in the successful event it was: the authentic (not the movie star) Cindy Crawford is the airstrip owner, Perry (dad) and Jason (son) Null from Gallup as well as Ed Coffee worked tirelessly to get the airstrip, picnic area and parking ready, and the locals contributed with tents, food, etc. The Null’s also brought jewelry for everybody from their Trading Company.

Organizers (2)

(Left to right) Rol Murrow with the Air Care Alliance and the Recreational Aviation Foundation, Perry Null, Cindy Crawford, Ed Coffee, Jason Null and I.

Hope you consider attending next year! You won’t be disappointed! Fly in, camp, and stay awhile! =)

But, if you just can’t wait until next year to give backcountry flying a try… the Negrito Fly-in (0NM7) is scheduled for September 11-13 this year and you can read about last year’s event here. (Editor’s note from Sept 10th – The Negrito Fly-in has been moved to October 16-18 due to rain the past few days)

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Activity in Central SW Region

In all of 2014, the FAA recorded a total of 238 reports of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) activity near manned aircraft. Through the beginning of August 2015, that number stands at more than 650. This dramatic increase should be a concern for not only the FAA, but also pilots and drone operators.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a new list of pilot, air traffic and citizen reports of possible encounters with UAS. A total of 56 reports were counted within the Central Southwest Region between November 13, 2014 through August 20, 2015:

  • 1 in Arkansas
  • 1 in Kansas
  • 4 in Louisiana
  • 5 in Missouri
  • 1 in New Mexico
  • 5 in Oklahoma
  • 39 in Texas
  • 0 in Nebraska
  • 0 in Iowa

The FAA wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal. People interested in operating a UAS should first become familiar with the information in the FAA’s “Know Before You Fly” campaign.

Pilots should check notams prior to every flight and be aware of areas where legal UAS activity may be scheduled and/or happening. The FAA also asks that pilots or any concerned citizens report unauthorized drone operation to local law enforcement.

The FAA is working with local law enforcement to identify and investigate UAS incidents. Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.


True Flying Vacation: TX, NM, AZ, CA in 12 days

My husband Jared and I had been looking forward to our “flying vacation” to the Bahamas at the end of May, 2015. However, when Staniel Cay (highlighted as a must stop by everybody we talked with) was suddenly closed on April 9th, we had to make a decision: A) continue with our plans without the Staniel Cay stop or B) change plans.

As pilots, both Jared and I are used to changing plans or making plans “on the fly” so the decision was easy although disappointing: B) change plans and go to the Bahamas next year when Staniel Cay is open.

So, where to go now? Well, we had been talking about heading west in 2016 so we just flip flopped our plans. And why west? Simple! We both love the mountains, wanted to fly into California’s Catalina Airport, and we had been wanting to visit the Sequoia and King Canyons National Parks but they are quite out of reach from major commercial airports.

And, on May 18th, we embarked on our trip. Woohoo! This is the story of two pilots in love with each other and with flying =) (yeah, ok, that may be too cheesy! haha) Screenshot_2015-05-17-08-47-21~2 * I titled this blog “true flying vacation” because I see two ways of using aircraft on vacations: 1) You can use them as pure transportation to get you to your final destination (as an example, you can read my blog titled “Flying Vacation to the Florida Keys”) or 2) You can make flying the primary purpose of your vacation. We did the latter on this trip.

Day 1: KIWS (West Houston Airport, TX) – KFST (Fort Stockton-Pecos County Airport, TX) – KLSB (Lordsburg Municipal Airport, NM) – KSDL (Scottsdale Airport, AZ)

The first day was mostly a travel day that started a little later than expected due to weather (remember all the rain and flooding in Texas in May?) and a minor maintenance issue. Leg 1 IWS-FST 20150518_110013 The first leg of the day was in and over clouds as well as over flat land but soon after Fort Stockton, the weather started to clear, the elevation started to rise, and the mountains started to appear in the distance, like the Guadalupe Mountains and its Signal Peak – the highest one in Texas. We actually saw the road we once drove on (and the CBP checkpoint we went through) from El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns.

Signal Peak

Guadalupe Mountains and Signal Peak

By the time we got to El Paso, we had mountains on both sides of the airplane and I started snapping lots of pictures. This is also when actual flight planning started taking place as we had to consider:

  1. Elevations,
  2. Density altitude and weight/fuel calculations,
  3. Airports with fuel,
  4. Winds aloft,
  5. Airspace (restricted, MOAs, etc),
  6. Minimum enroute altitudes,
  7. Turbulence,
  8. Etc.

Lordsburg, NM was a great little stop for us. We only stopped for fuel but airport manager Fred Beem was very sweet (literally, ha!, because he had candy for crews and passengers) and helpful. KLSB won “best airport stop” as well as “highest density altitude” for the trip.

How about these gorgeous mountainous views! Nothing like seeing a 360-degree perspective from the air.

How about these gorgeous mountainous views! Nothing like seeing a 360-degree perspective from the air.

El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ enroute to Scottsdale

El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ enroute to Scottsdale

We had been to Phoenix on other occasions so we decided to stop in Scottsdale since we had never been. Air traffic control treated us to a nice view of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (KPHX) and downtown Phoenix.

KPHX and downtown Phoenix

KPHX and downtown Phoenix

Although we enjoyed the SDL airport and its surrounding mountains, neither one of us was very impressed with the city itself. We only found shops and chain restaurants – not anything we are interested in.

Left downwind for 21

Left downwind for 21

Base to final, runway 21

Base to final, runway 21

Day 2: KSDL (Scottsdale, AZ) – (KSEZ Sedona Airport, AZ) – KPRC (Ernest A Love Field Airport in Prescott, AZ) Leg 4 SDL-PRC Sedona won the “best aerial views” category. The red rocks are absolutely drop dead gorgeous from the air. We had been to Sedona before but not to Prescott so, for the sake of time spent in Prescott, we did not land or stop at KSEZ but we did fly all around Sedona (as you can see on our radar track), taking it all in and identifying all familiar places from the air. Sedona 1

Sedona 2

Sedona and KSEZ on the right

General aviation is such a small world. Would you believe we ran into Josh Olson, Executive Director of Angel Flight West, at the FBO who had flown in from California to meet with a local hospital in Prescott? I love it! We then rented a car but really explored the area by foot and mountain bikes (and I must add… that was the toughest mountain biking we’ve done to date!)

We really enjoying hiking around Prescott’s Watson Lake (on the right of the picture).

We really enjoying hiking around Prescott’s Watson Lake (on the right of the picture).

Since we’re both alumni of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), we also stopped at the University’s Prescott campus and saw their aircraft on the ramp at KPRC. In fact, several of them were flying while we were there. I also liked seeing AOPA’s Pilot Magazine in the lobby of the University’s Visitor Center. ERAU We didn’t get to do this (because we couldn’t bring the camping gear due to weight) but two friends recommended Payson, AZ (KPAN) for two reasons: 1) the Payson Airport Campground onsite and 2) the onsite Crosswinds Restaurant apparently has one of the “best fly-in pies” in the country. Marked for next time…

Day 3: KPRC (Prescott, AZ) – KAJO (Corona Municipal Airport, CA) Leg 5 PRC-AJO There are things you can only see from the air. This is one of them:

Near Bagdad, AZ

Near Bagdad, AZ

Joshua Tree National Park on our left, attractive desert all around us

Joshua Tree National Park on our left, attractive desert all around us

Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I think what we saw approaching the Los Angeles area was smog!

LA's smog?

Los Angeles smog?

My husband Jared has family in Corona so we decided to drop in and visit with them for the night. It also happens that Corona is one of only few non-towered airports in the Los Angeles area. Nothing against towered airports but I appreciate non-towered airports with easier in and out and, normally, cheaper services/parking.

Corona won “best overall airport” for the trip. It has a unique self-serve fuel station with a round owning and a cool area with benches (appropriately known as “The Bench”) to sit on, chat with local pilots and watch traffic coming and going. The airport is also in a nice setting with mountains nearby.

Corona 2

Unique self-serve fuel tanks in Corona

Corona 3

KAJO’s “The Bench”

Day 4: KAJO (Corona, CA) – KAVX (Catalina Airport, CA) Leg 6 AJO-AVX After navigating through Los Angeles’ challenging and busy Class B airspace and flying over Disneyland (on an IFR flight plan during their 60th anniversary), we approached California’s beautiful coastline.

Approaching CA's coastline

Approaching CA’s coastline

“The Airport in the Sky” won “coolest approach” for the trip. You’re probably not surprised about that if you’ve ever seen any pictures or videos of it, like this one. It was also a solid runner-up for “best overall airport” but we were just too happily surprised with Corona’s friendly feel. Catalina airport Just like everybody says… runway 22’s gradient goes up during the first 1,800’ of runway and the remaining 1,200’ is flat so, when on short final, you lose sight of the flat 1,200’ of runway. Your approach also seems higher than you really are due to the drop-off prior to the runway and rising runway. No problem though. If you are expecting those things, it is really not a problem at all.

Catalina used to be frequented by seaplanes quite a bit and Avalon still has quite a bit of seaplane art around town. Pretty neat. And I learned that the first water to water flight (and also the longest and fastest overwater flight to that date) was flown by Glen L. Martin from Newport Beach, southwest of Santa Ana, to Santa Catalina Island on May 10th, 1912. Catalina art 1 Catalina art 2 Day 5: Catalina, CA Would you believe we went scuba diving and the gear we rented was from the brand “Pilot?” Could it be more perfect? Very fitting.

"Pilot" scuba gear

“Pilot” scuba gear

We saw lots of beautiful garibaldi fish (as we understand it, the official marine state fish of California), a couple of crabs, a bat ray, several sea tars, and lots of other cool fish (some of which tried “attacking” us for food).

We saw lots of beautiful garibaldi fish (as we understand it, California's State Fish), a couple of crabs, a bat ray, several sea tars, and lots of other cool fish (some of which tried "attacking" us for food).

One of the crabs and garibaldi fish

Catalina's bay

Avalon Bay

Day 6:  KAVX (Catalina, CA) – KBFL (Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield, CA) – Sequoia National Park

Avalon's panoramic

Avalon’s panoramic

This day represented, to me, a perfect example of the benefits of flying GA. We spent half a day relaxing in Catalina Island, had a famous buffalo burger (and bought some T-shirts and things) at the airport’s DC-3 Gifts and Grill, then flew less than two hours to Bakersfield (even though our initial plan was to fly to KVIS-Visala since it’s the closest airport to the park entrances but, since it was Memorial Day weekend, they were out of rental cars), and we were still able to spend a few hours in Sequoia’s National Park. That just can’t all be done within a day with any other mode of transportation: not by boat, not by car, not by airline, and not by any combination of those. Leg 7 AVX-BFL Google Maps tells me it “could not calculate directions from Santa Catalina Island to Sequoia National Park” even though it’s normally very good about considering several modes of transportation (car, bus, train, walking, airline, bike…) so here is what I gathered:

  • Boat: Not an option without using an additional mode of transportation (car, for example).
  • Car: Not an option without using an additional mode of transportation (boat).
  • Airline: Not an option without using an additional mode of transportation (boat). Catalina Island does not have airline service (only helicopter charters) and the closest airport with airline service to the parks may be Fresno or Bakersfield itself (but remember connecting may be involved, too).
  • Combination: The high-speed ferry from Catalina Island to Long Beach (closest option to the national park) is an hour long. Then, the drive from Long Beach to the entrance of Sequoia National Park is four and a half hours. There goes most of your day by the time you include waiting for the ferry (on a set schedule), picking up the car, and fighting LA traffic.

Left – Two Harbors in the morning; Right – Sequoia National Park in the afternoon

Day 7: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Jared and I love visiting U.S. National Parks. They are absolutely treasures we need to help preserve.

While I personally enjoyed Kings Canyon more than Sequoia (and only because I have a thing for canyons and we’ve been to Yosemite National Park before which also has sequoia trees), Day 7’s highlight was seeing wild brown bears (including cubs) up close and personal while walking around the Crescent Meadow trail. 20150524_180144_Richtone(HDR) 20150524_180245 Day 8: KBFL (Bakersfield, CA) – KPSP (Palm Springs International Airport, CA)

Does taking off from a displaced threshold count as an “off-rwy takeoff?” 😉 Bakersfield’s runway 30R has one 3,400′ long and the Archer was off the ground before reaching the runway threshold.

See the looooong displaced threshold?

See the looooong displaced threshold?

The flight from BFL to PSP was very, very pretty, seeing the Mojave Desert on our left, then LA covered with clouds to our right, and Morongo Valley on our descent. I really enjoyed it! It’s hard to say which leg was our top choice but this one was towards the top because of its variety of scenery.


Mojave Desert with Rosamond Lake and Rogers Lake (dried lakes, that is)


Los Angeles on the other side of the San Bernardino Mountains and ski resort


How could anybody not enjoy flying with views like this? Ahhhhh……


High altitude lakes in the Big Morongo Canyon Reserve area (and, yes! I love inside the cockpit pictures like this one because it shows exactly what we show! No zoom used!)


Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

By chance, we planned to be in Palm Springs on Memorial Day but, because of that, we got lucky and got a chance to see the Palm Springs Air Museum’s Flower Drop while there. Each Memorial Day, the museum commemorates the important role of those who fought in World War II with a flower drop from the museum’s B-25 aircraft. Thousands of white and red carnations represent those who gave the greatest sacrifice — their lives — for their country. Here is a news story (with a video) from the same event in 2013.

Downwind for Palm Springs's runway 31R

Downwind for Palm Springs’s runway 31R

Day 9: KPSP (Palm Springs, CA) – KTUS (Tucson International Airport, AZ) Leg 9 PSP-TUS

Leaving Palm Springs

Leaving Palm Springs. Interesting seeing that well-defined green golf course community in the desert!

We timed our flight from Palm Springs to Tucson to arrive around sunset. We were very happy we did.  The sun’s color and shadows on the mountains around Tucson made our views fantastic even when it meant the sun was in my face on final.

Tucson 1

Approaching Tucson from the west

Tucson 2

Beautiful sunset

Tucson 3

KTUS’ tower (I like the neon sign on the side!)

Day 10: Tucson, AZ

Different websites and forums said to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum bright and early to avoid the heat of the day and to obtain tickets for the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), better known as “aircraft boneyard,” tours so we did! We really enjoyed both the museum and the boneyard tour. My husband would say that the “coolest aviation visit/reference” we saw was TWA’s Constellation at the Pima museum because he is infatuated with Howard Hughes.

Pima Air Museum

Pima Air and Space Museum

Davis-Monthan Air Force has “the largest aircraft boneyard in the world.” The area’s low humidity, rainfall of about 11″ annually, hard alkaline soil, and high altitude of 2,550 feet allows the aircraft to be naturally preserved for cannibalization or possible reuse. In addition, the geology of the desert allows aircraft to be moved around without having to pave (additional cost and maintenance) the storage areas.

Davis-Monthan is the location of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), the sole aircraft boneyard and parts reclamation facility for all excess military and government aircraft. Aircraft from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, NASA and other government agencies are processed at AMARG. Another role of AMARG is to support the program that converts old fighter jets, such as the F-4 Phantom II and F-16, into aerial target drones. AMARG has more than 4,000 aircraft.

AMARG boneyard

AMARG boneyard

We had lunch at San Xavier’s mission, which also happened to be the “most historic” site we saw during the trip. And, in the afternoon, we took lots of water and headed to Sabino Canyon.

Day 11: KTUS (Tucson, AZ) – KTCS (Truth or Consequences Municipal Airport, NM)

We went ATVing through Box Canyon in the morning and the owner of the company was a pilot and an AOPA member. As you can see, we like keeping it in the family =) ATV AOPA member On Day 10, we were left wondering where the surplus/retired non-military/non-government airplanes were stored in the area. Well, we found them! Pinal Airpark (KMZJ) is the answer. Several old airliners were parked there.

Airline boneyard

Airline boneyard

As we were doing our pre-flight in preparation for departure, a Piper Cherokee Six (below) taxied by with an inmate they were taking to a different jail. It was quite interesting to see two Sheriffs flying. I don’t often see uniformed cops flying GA aircraft. Most usually wear flight suits, not uniforms. It was a good reminder, yet again, of all the important uses GA has. 2015-05-28 22.29.59 I filed Redington Pass as the first checkpoint from KTUS with hopes of them keeping it that way so we could fly right over the military boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB. Some people we talked with told us “good luck with that” when we asked them what the best way to fly over the boneyard was but I tell you what… they gave it to us and it was very, very cool to see all 4,000+ military aircraft in perfect formation with each other from the air. It was an impressive sight – even more so than from the ground. BTW – In case you are wondering (like I did)… no, they are not for sale to private individuals! :(

AMARG boneyard from the air

AMARG boneyard from the air. WOW!

Leg 10 TUS-TCS And… we arrived at TorC. While we experienced the highest density altitude at KLSB, KTCS won “highest airport” of all stops at 4,862 feet. In contrast, KAJO won “lowest airport” of all stops at 533 feet.

Do you know the history behind the name “Truth or Consequences?” The town used to be called Hot Springs because, guess what, they have wonderful natural hot springs. Duh! 😉 We could not pass on that so, as soon as we dropped our bags at the hotel, we headed to Riverbend Hot Springs – definitely our trip’s “most relaxing” experience.

I know this may sound surprising since Truth or Consequences was the smallest town we visited but we had the “best food” of the trip there at Bella Luca’s Italian restaurant.

Day 12: KTCS (Truth or Consequences, NM) – (Spaceport America) – KPEQ (Pecos Municipal Airport, TX) – KIWS (West Houston, TX)

And here is another small world instance. We borrowed the airport’s courtesy car overnight to get us to/from the airport and agreed to return it early in the morning because another pilot had called asking if she could use it for some business in town. Do you know who that ended up being? The one and only Cathy Myers, President of the NM Pilots Association =) Funny thing is… she wasn’t too surprised to see me… She knows I get around the region but she was glad to meet my husband though. No solo flying on this trip!

Tail of Cathy's Piper Cherokee with NMPA's logo ;)

Tail of Cathy’s Piper Cherokee with NMPA’s logo ;)

The main reason for visiting TorC was touring Spaceport America and visiting with its staff. Wondering what’s going on at the Spaceport? Here is a news article/video from July 29th.

Bill Gutman with the Spaceport and I in front of the astronaut's walkway

Bill Gutman with the Spaceport and I in front of the astronaut’s walkway

We know many GA pilots are interested in flying in/out of the Spaceport so I met with their staff to offer some suggestions on how to organize more fly-ins, where to find helpful resources, how we can help, who else can help, etc.

Spaceport America

Spaceport America (and we actually saw a replica of SpaceShipOne inside Bakerfield’s terminal)

The Spaceport now has a museum that opened up to the public on June 24th. One of the things they have is a fun G-Shock simulator where one can really experience centrifugal force. I had to try it to make sure it was safe 😉 Spaceport Centrifugal force After the tour, we went back to the aircraft and began our flight back home, starting with a first leg to Pecos, TX with the worst turbulence of the trip. Did you know Pecos is home of the world’s first rodeo? We didn’t see one during this stop though.

Even though we were not given permission to land at the Spaceport, we at least got lucky on departure and R-5111 C & D were inactive. We were able to fly close enough to the Spaceport to see it and take some aerial pics.

Spaceport America

NM’s Spaceport in the distance

And, yes, we were back to crossing Texas. This time, we entertained ourselves by remembering the best parts of our trip by giving ratings to different parts of our trip. You read about the winners (with “best” this or “best” that) throughout the blog. That is purely our rating based on our experience – nothing else. 😉

Good or bad, lucky or not, we missed some really bad weather and floods back home in the Houston area while we were gone but we still saw lots of flooded areas all around.

TX flooding

West Houston


Throughout the trip, we saw lots of dirt runways perfect for tundra tires and other capable aircraft. Dirt airstrip “Best beer” tried? Hangar 24’s IPA from their craft brewery in Redlands, California and, yes, we may be bias. If you don’t like it, you can blame Jared because I don’t drink beer. 😉

And what’s one thing we learned on this trip that we need to plan for the future? Boating around Catalina Island. My husband won’t let me forget. 😉


12 days, 1 GA aircraft, 2 people, 4 states, 12 airports, 8 hotels, 6 cars, 1 ATV, 2 bikes, 2 scuba dives, more mountain flying and density altitude experience, great adventures, a number of hikes and walks, a couple of aviation-related visits, one work-related stop, perfect weather, wonderful laughs, lots of fun, beautiful sights… a lifetime memory!

We’ll never forget this trip and we have decided we need to take a trip like this once a year. I encourage you to consider doing one yourself. It’s a completely different way of traveling: you have complete freedom, you get both aerial and ground views, you can get to hard-to-get-to-areas of the country, you can pack whatever you need, you can change destinations or change your routing along the way, you can challenge yourself with different types of flying experiences, you can do a variety of different things while you are gone, you see different types of airports and aviation museums along the way, you meet wonderful people, and the list goes on.

What To Do with Your Pilot Certificate

Whether you are young and are looking for a career, whether you are retired and are looking for activities to do on your spare time, or whether you are somewhere in the middle looking for transportation for either business, leisure, or both… flying is for you!

Here are some of the things you can do with a pilot certificate! =)

At the end of the day, remember that:

  • A mile of runway will always take you anywhere…
  • Life a journey, not a destination!
  • And, the sky is not the limit for pilots!

Legend: Each idea will have a letter by it identifying the minimum type of pilot certificate you need to do that particular activity.

  • P = Private pilots (and, a lot of those, can also be done with a sport or recreational pilot certificate)
  • C = Commercial pilots
  • A = Airline Transport Pilots (ATP)
  • I = Flight instructors

For information about the differences between them, visit: http://www.aopa.org/letsgoflying/ready/certs/categories.html.

Note that a lot of these things can be done with airplanes, balloons, gliders, helicopters, seaplanes, etc so I did not go into those specifics. A lot of those activities may also require special endorsements, ratings or sign-offs but I did not go into those specifics either. I would like to encourage you to review “14 CFR Part 61.113 – Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command” to ensure that you are able to do some of these things with a private pilot certificate.

Disclaimer: A lot of these activities are addicting and can cause harm to your wallet 😉

  • Experience freedom: P. Yes, like no other… every time.
  • Fly others for hire: http://flighttraining.aopa.org/careerpilot/
    • Fly for the airlines: A. Regional or mainline. Passenger or cargo.
    • Fly for a charter company: C. Like XOJET, for example.
    • Fly for a fractional ownership company: C. Like FlexJet, for example.
    • Fly for a smaller cargo carrier: C. Normally flying time sensitive cargo at night, such as lab specimens, money and check and things for banks, organs, etc.
    • To take skydivers up: C. http://www.uspa.org/
    • To take skiers heliskiing: C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliskiing
    • Fly for an individual company or person: C.
    • Be an air medical/ambulance pilot: C. http://www.nemspa.org/
    • Fly for a flight department: C.
      • Of any company, not necessarily aviation related. https://bizjetjobs.com/directory/
      • Of a hospital.
      • Of an oil company. For either staff transportation (sometimes going to oil rigs) or cargo transportation.
  • Work for a manufacturer: C. You can work for an aircraft manufacturer or a supplier (like an avionics manufacturer).
    • As a test pilot.
    • As a sales pilot.
    • As a demonstration pilot.
    • As a ferry pilot.
    • As an instructor pilot.
    • As an aircraft accident investigation expert.
    • As a combination of the above.









  • Compete in air events: P.
  • Fly as much as you can because every flight is different: P. The lighting, the colors, the amount of traffic, your abilities as a pilot. Everything is always different.
  • Touch a cloud: P. Fly a capable aircraft (like some Grummans where you can open the canopy) and touch it! Cool (literally sometimes) experience.
  • Do some “real” fly fishing: P. Combine seaplane flying with fishing. If you are not a seaplane pilot or do not have access to a seaplane, this company out of Louisiana offers charters: http://neworleansfishing.com/sea_plane_charter.html. (Yeah, I probably need to schedule this for my husband!)
  • Meet like-minded people: P. Create lifetime friendships. People who love flying really love flying. Some of us are a different breed. Most of us love to fly and love to talk about it… we like adventure, we like the outdoors… we are open minded…
  • Become one of AOPA’s Airport Support Network Volunteers (ASNVs): P. The ASN program provides the vehicle for AOPA members to work in concert with AOPA to establish that much-needed early warning system. www.aopa.org/asn
  • Some things are seen differently from the air: P.
    • Christmas lights
    • Fireworks
    • Different types of events, like boat races
  • And some things can only be seen from the air: P. Because using Google Earth does not count!
  • You can also put your pilot certificate to work without actually flying an aircraft: P. Many companies and jobs benefit by having pilots on staff. Here are some I can think of:
    • Air traffic control: Whether it is working for the FAA in a federal tower or for a contract tower under an FAA contract.
    • Airports: management, operations, planning…
    • Airlines: crew scheduling, aircraft dispatching, training…
    • Aircraft accident investigation: Whether it is working for the NTSB, an aircraft manufacturer, a private aircraft accident investigation company, yourself, an insurance agency…
    • Aviation weather forecasters: Pilots know the type of weather information that is useful to us.
    • Aviation reporters: We all know most TV stations always get aviation news wrong. That’s because most of them do not have aviation experts onboard. The Wichita Eagle, as an example in the region, is usually pretty good about having knowledgeable aviation reporters on the team.
    • School teachers: Put your aviation STEM skills to work in the classroom.
    • Many AOPA jobs =) http://www.aopa.org/About-AOPA/Join-the-AOPA-Team/Current-Openings.aspx
    • Many other aviation jobs, including several at the FAA, the NTSB, universities with aviation programs, etc. http://jobs.aopa.org
  • And, yes, why not, impress folks at parties… ha!

And you said you needed an excuse to fly? The possibilities are endless and you will love every minute of it! You may also want to take a look at AOPA’s “Aerial Adventures – 99s Ways to Fly” (http://www.aopa.org/Products-and-Services/AOPA-eBooks) where AOPA editors share some of their favorite getaways, routes, and airborne challenges.

Importance of GA to your State and Individual Airport

I often get e-mails from members asking if we can help them find information about general aviation’s importance to their state and/or individual airport. I thought I would share that information with y’all (as they like to say here in the south) via this blog.

In 2011, the FAA published a report titled “The Economic Impact of Civil Aviation on the U.S. Economy  – Economic Impact of Civil Aviation by State.” While this report covers all of civil aviation and it’s a bit out of date (since it mostly uses 2009 data, right after the 2008 recession), you may still find it helpful.

A February 11, 2015 report, with 2013 data, shows that general aviation adds up to 1.1 million jobs and has a significant contribution on the U.S. economy—$219 billion.

The AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) program also has great resources available for your usage. And, if your state does not have a current economic impact report for your airport, this ASN resource can help you prepare your own.

For your convenience, I have prepared a one-pager for each state in the AOPA Central Southwest Region (NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE and IA) that you can share with your elected officials, boards, local organizations, etc and I will also provide you with other links in case you need more information, particularly as it relates to your based airport.

And, if you are having trouble with the above links, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) has a library on their website with a compilation of state economic impact studies.

The Alliance for Aviation Across America, which is supported in part by AOPA, has a list of proclamations and resolutions passed by Governors and Mayors across the country. These show your state’s/city’s appreciation and recognition of general aviation as an asset with both quantitative and qualitative benefits.

Now go and spread the good word about our valuable industry! =)

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.

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.

9/14/2015 update: The updated version of Info 15002 incorporates a list of added and deleted airports.

11/4/2015 update: A new story about this topic has been written by Dan Namowitz: http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2015/November/04/FAA-issues-updated-list-of-cold-temperature-restricted-airports

2/15/2016 update: AOPA has released a new online resource to help pilots who fly approaches to cold temperature restricted airports understand the mandatory altitude-correction procedure to use in extremely cold weather, and the flight hazards it was designed to avoid. http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2016/February/08/New-online-resource-explains-cold-temperature-altitude-correction?WT.mc_id=160212epilot&WT.mc_sect=sap