Flying Vacation to the Florida Keys

Have you ever taken a long cross country (say, a two or more leg cross country trip)? Maybe to go to Oshkosh or on a business trip? What about taking a flying vacation? If you have not, I encourage you to. I’ll share a trip my husband and I just came back from. As I mentioned in at least one other blog entry, my husband and I enjoy including some form of general aviation in our vacations. It’s just “plane fun.” Sometimes it is by renting an airplane for a local flight around a city, others involve skydiving or taking a glider ride… but this time, we decided to take a complete “flying vacation.”

My husband Jared and I flew to the Florida Keys from our home base in Houston, Texas, and it was a great trip. We flew low and slow a total of 20.1 hours roundtrip in a C172N and we absolutely loved every minute of it. My husband is an airline pilot so he is certainly used to long cross-country trips but this was essentially his first one in a general aviation aircraft.

We really could not have made it to all the areas we visited if it wasn’t for general aviation aircraft and we did it at our own pace and schedule, stopping where we wanted to and when we wanted to, and the best of all… all in 3D and mostly with good weather. We visited beautiful parts of the country during our week off. Although the terrain was mostly flat given the states we visited (TX, LA, MS, AL, and FL), it was interesting to see the different types of agriculture, land, swamps, islands, rivers, sunsets (no, we did not fly early enough to see sunrises… we were on vacation after all…), water colors, sand colors, etc. not to mention the weather patterns, too. We also enjoyed spotting and identifying airports along the way.

The 172 we flew burned about 10 gallons an hour. With a 40 gallon tank, we calculated we were comfortable flying it a maximum of three hours a leg. That being said and given the winds aloft, our route there was EFD – PNS (our longest leg), PNS – LAL, and LAL – FD51. This alone accounted for 9.3 hours of flying.

We left Saturday, October 19, after I participated in Conroe, TX’s Challenge Air event, an event designed to build self-esteem and confidence in children and youth with special needs through the experience of flight. I really enjoyed my time with the kids at the event… it is just great to see the “before and after” taking the flight. Challenge Air was recently the recipient of one of AOPA’s Giving Back grants, too: http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2013/September/18/Giving-Back-grant-recipients.aspx. Because we left Houston quite late in the afternoon, we decided to fly just one leg and spend the night in Pensacola, FL. By the way… Pensacola Aviation Center gives $0.25 fuel discounts to AOPA members. It felt great to be an AOPA member!

The next day, we flew the rest of the way to our destination airport by way of Lakeland, home of Sun ‘n fun, where were stopped for lunch at the on-site restaurant. The flight down from Lakeland was quite spectacular: over the Everglades and down the Keys. Our destination airport, FD51 – Summerland Key Cove, is a private airport between Marathon and Key West… the only airport in the world where airplanes are on one side of the house and boats are on the other. Pretty sweet, right? I loved that little (literally) airport! The runway is 2,550 ft long but only 26 ft wide. Making the numbers was rather important here! Also important was to watch for the balloon in R-2916.

FD51 – Summerland Key Cove Airport

FD51 – Summerland Key Cove Airport

Runway 30 at FD51 and the high altitude balloon in the distance

Runway 30 at FD51 and the high altitude balloon in the distance

A friend of ours let us use his beautiful house at the airport and the experience of flying into the house was phenomenal. One day… we’ll live on an airport community.

Friend’s house at FD51

Friend’s house at FD51

Here are a few pictures from our flights there:

Acadiana Regional Airport (ARA) in Louisiana with its runway and sealane

Acadiana Regional Airport (ARA) in Louisiana with its runway and sealane

Sunset over Mississippi

Sunset over Mississippi

Flying north of Destin

Flying north of Destin

The fairly new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, FL

The fairly new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, FL

And the old, now closed, Panama City airport

And the old, now closed, Panama City airport

Everglades

Everglades

20131020_151429

Everglades

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

The rest of the week, between our arrival and our departure, was your typical Florida vacation. My husband also took me to the Sugarloaf airport where they conduct skydiving operations and the Conch Flyer restaurant at the Key West International Airport (EYW) to watch airplanes. And, the day prior to our departure, we were walking around downtown Key West when we hear a fast moving airplane… we look up (what else would pilots do, right?) and it was no one else than Skip Stewart’s airplane! Alright! =) I contacted Skip via Facebook and he told us his ferry pilot Raymond Cabanas was just having a little fun. Awesome!

Conch Flyer restaurant at KEYW

Conch Flyer restaurant at KEYW

Aviation décor inside the Conch Flyer restaurant

Aviation décor inside the Conch Flyer restaurant

The only regret I have from our trip to the Keys was not flying a seaplane but the winds picked up tremendously towards the end of our stay.

Our route back was FD51 – MTH – BKV – DTW – LFT – EFD. That amounted to 10.8 flying hours. FD51 does not have fuel onsite so we had to relocate to MTH – Marathon to fill up. While we were there, we went to lunch, quickly visited the EAA Air Museum, and then headed to BKV – Hernando County Airport.

The controller at BKV was the sweetest controller. Upon departure, we asked if we could overfly the approach end of runway 3 to take a picture of a corn maze. He asked how it looked from the air and we joked with him that we had the exit plan. He called us cheaters, ha! =) He also asked us how long the flight to Destin was and we told him “two hours.” He is going to make that flight himself soon, he added. It beats the almost six hour drive and I do not believe there is a direct flight from Tampa (closest commercial airport to Hernando County) and Destin (and, even if there is, that is not to DTS but rather to VPS which is quite far from downtown Destin and the beach).

Corn maze at BKV

Corn maze at BKV

Oh, by the way, did you know that Zephyrhills, FL makes its own natural spring water?

2013-10-26 22.17.11

We arrived in Destin right after sunset, just in time for dinner with one of our pilot friends there. A nice walk on the beach the next morning and we head to LFT – Lafayette, LA for one of the best Cajun restaurants – Prejean’s.

Our destination airport, Ellington Field (EFD), was having the Wings over Houston airshow that day so we waited in LFT long enough to ensure that we would arrive in EFD past 5 pm when the airport opened. Well, that was not a problem. We had such terrible headwinds on the last leg that we barely hit 100 kts of groundspeed on descent! Ouch!

Here are a few pictures from our trip back:

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Orange trees in Florida

Orange trees in Florida

Sunset approaching Destin

Sunset approaching Destin

20131027_110034

Amazing Florida water and the airplane’s shadow

20131027_111401

Coast of Florida

20131027_111642

Difference in water color and depth

20131027_164125

Arrow close to the LA and TX border

20131027_171702

Approaching Houston

We truly had a great trip and general aviation and flying was really what made it all worth it and fun.

I will also tell you that, through Twitter, I tried to show the value of our trip to the local community where we stopped because, as you can imagine, we spent quite a bit of money on fuel, lodging, food, ground transportation, etc and that has a great impact to the local economy. Here is an example of that work after the completion of our trip. I sent tweets to the governors of TX, LA and FL as well as Florida’s Office of Tourism, Lafayette’s (Louisiana) official source for tourism, and Lafeyette’s City-Parish President. If nothing else, my intention was to bring general aviation to their attention and what an airplane flying in brings to their community besides noise.

Tweets

NOAA’s Organizational Structure

I had been confused about the structure of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for quite some time so I decided to research it and write a blog about it for everybody’s benefit.

Here is a summary organizational chart I created to help visualize NOAA’s structure and then I summarize what each aviation-related division’s mission is below.

NOAA's Organizational Chart

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA is an Operating Unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce along with several other agencies, such as the Economics and Statistics Administration or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for example (http://www.commerce.gov/sites/default/files/documents/migrated/Department%20Organization%20Chart.pdf). NOAA has seven divisions:

  • Ocean Service
  • National Weather Service (NWS)
  • Fisheries
  • Satellites and Information
  • Research
  • Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
  • Office of Program Planning and Integration

As pilots, some of us obtain aviation weather services directly from the National Weather Service (NWS) while others get it through flight planning tools, such as AOPA’s FlyQ.

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS)

The NWS’ mission is to provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy.

NWS is divided into three areas: 1) Leadership and headquarter staff in Silver Spring, Maryland, 2) six regional offices, and 3) nine national centers.

NWS Regional Offices

The AOPA Central Southwest Region (NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE, and IA) aligns with NWS’ Central (IA, KS, MO, NE among others) and Southern (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX among others) Regions.

The NWS Central Region office is located in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit http://www.crh.noaa.gov/crh/. The NWS Southern Region office is located in Fort Worth, TX. This region is the most weather-active region in the nation and its nearly 1,000 employees are dedicated to the effective 24/7 delivery of weather, water and climatological forecasts, services and warnings. For more information, visit http://www.srh.noaa.gov/.

In addition, there are Center Weather Service Units (CWSUs) which were formed as a direct response to the Southern Airways flight 242 crash. The aircraft crashed near Atlanta, Georgia in 1978 due to a thunderstorm. Since that crash, 84 National Weather Service meteorologists directly support the aviation customer by providing detailed weather information 16 hours a day, 7 days a week from 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) (http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/artcc/) in several large metropolitan areas, such as Albuquerque (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/zab/), Fort Worth (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/zfw/), Houston (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/zhu/), and Kansas City (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/crh/cwsu/index.php?site=zkc) in the AOPA Central Southwest Region. CWSU meteorologists perform several functions, but none more important than the face-to-face on the spot briefings to air traffic controllers. These face-to-face briefings let the meteorologist convey a variety of weather information to air traffic controllers using science, past experiences and local knowledge. This is vital in helping FAA personnel safely and efficiently route traffic. Other functions of CWSU meteorologist’s include producing and disseminating Center Weather Advisories (CWAs) and Meteorological Impact Statements (MISs). For more information about CWSUs, visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/aviation/pages/CWSU/CWSU.php.

NWS National Centers

One of the nine NWS National Centers is the Aviation Weather Center (AWC), which delivers consistent, timely and accurate aviation weather information. The AWC is housed in the Kansas City, MO Central Region office. As a pilot, this might be the site you are most familiar with when it comes to aviation weather and the National Weather Service: http://www.aviationweather.gov/. It provides written and visual information regarding weather observations (METARs, radar, satellite, etc.), advisories (SIGMETs, AIRMETs, etc.), and forecasts (TAFs, convection, turbulence, icing, winds and temperatures aloft, etc).

For more general information about NWS, visit: http://www.weather.gov/organization.

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO)

NOAA ships and aircraft play a critical role in the collection of oceanographic, atmospheric, hydrographic, and fisheries data. The NOAA fleet is managed and operated by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), an office composed of civilians and officers of the NOAA Commissioned Corps.

OMAO’s aircraft operate throughout the world providing a wide range of capabilities including hurricane reconnaissance and research, marine mammal and fisheries assessment, and coastal mapping. NOAA aircraft carry scientists and specialized instrument packages to conduct research for NOAA’s missions.

In addition to research and monitoring activities critical to NOAA’s mission, OMAO ships and aircraft provide immediate response capabilities for unpredictable events. For example, aerial images of disaster-torn areas—taken by NOAA aircraft—enabled residents and emergency workers to verify the condition of houses, bridges, and roads.

For more information about OMAO, visit: http://www.omao.noaa.gov/.

The following are a couple of summary pages about what I’ve been explaining from the National Weather Service’s Aviation Weather Services brochure.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

BTW, since we are talking about services – Did you know that AWOS systems are limited to reporting cloud ceilings up to 12,000 feet?? Well, if you didn’t, now you do! =)

History of Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Image

I just came back from the Arkansas Airport Operations Association (AAOA) conference, held between September 15 and 17 in Eureka Springs. On the 16th, June Westphal, a very sweet local and historian, talked about the history of the town of Eureka Springs and its aviation story. I wanted to share a summary of it with you, especially for those who live in or close to this beautiful little town. I would also like to encourage you to study the history of your own airport and aviation. I am personally trying to find out more about a small general aviation (GA) airport who used to be in Texas City, TX, where my husband’s family used to run the Airport Drive-in and Grill.

June Westphal

June Westphal

Eureka Springs was not named as such until July 4, 1879, where “Eureka” means “I’ve found it!” It was named that because Eureka Springs is known as the “city that water built” after finding the “healing springs” in town (where Basin Springs is today). The name was chosen by Buck Saunders, a young man who encouraged and brought his dad (Judge Saunders) to town to receive the special healing treatment to cure his illness.

The aviation history in Eureka Springs goes back to 1919 when the first sighting of an aircraft was recorded in Carroll County (this is only 16 years after the Wright Brothers invented, built, and flew the first successful controlled, powered aircraft).

Then 66 year old Buck Saunders asked to be flown over town in 1929 to take pictures of the old “road” he used to bring his dad to town for treatment 50 years earlier. A pilot took him flying in a Curtiss Jenny biplane. Those pictures created the first aerials of Eureka Springs. It appears Buck Saunders was quite a travel and airplane buff, too.

In 1930, the City of Eureka Springs purchased land for a landing strip. This is now the Carroll County Airport (4M1). On July 4 of that same year, a huge fly-in was held at the Airport where dozens of aircraft participated and celebrated Independence Day.

Another airport, the Lake Lucerne Airport, was built in 1930 but, unfortunately, it closed about 30 years later for housing.

Just a couple of years later, in 1932, a pilot flew into town and his airplane broke down. The best car mechanic in town (given the lack of A&Ps) fixed the airplane and, rather than charging the pilot for his services, he asked him to take local kids up flying. One of those kids was the mechanic’s niece, Anna Frankman. The then 10 year old loved the experience and, when the opportunity came up to apply to serve the military during World War II, she applied. Ms. Frankman was one of about 1,100 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried and tested airplanes so male pilots could head to combat duty.

It is quite interesting to see how history repeats itself (closing an airport to build housing, for example) and how attracting people to aviation is still quite similar to how it used to be years ago (pilots taking kids up). Therefore, I encourage you to continue supporting and fighting for your airport and showing its value to your local community and elected officials as well as continue to share the great joy of flying with non-aviators and kids.

Aviation Vocabulary and Phrases in Spanish

AVIATION VOCABULARY in SPANISH 

General

General aviation – Aviación civil/privada

Airline – Aerolínea

Airplane – Avión

Passenger – Pasajero

 

Flight Information

Reservation – Reserva

Ticket – Billete/Pasaje

Flight – Vuelo

Number – Número

Roundtrip – Ida y vuelta

One-way (leaving) – Ida

One-way (coming back) – Vuelta

Roundtrip ticket – Billete de ida y vuelta

Boarding pass – Pasaje de abordo

Delayed – Retrasado

Cancelled – Cancelado

Cancellation – Cancelación

 

Around the Airport

Airport – Aeropuerto

Terminal – Terminal

Departure – Salida

Arrival – Llegada

Runway – Pista de despegue/aterrizaje (takeoff/landing)

Hallway – Pasillo

Hold room – Sala de embarque (literally “sala de espera”)

Restroom – Baño‎ (also known as “servicio”)

Store – Tienda

Coffee Shop – Cafetería

Restaurant – Restaurante

Hangar – Hangar

Control tower – Torre de control

Waiter/waitress – Camarero/a

Controller – Controlador/a (male/female)

Mechanic – mecánico

 

Flying

To fly – Volar

Flying – Volando

Domestic – Nacional

International – Internacional

Takeoff – Despegue

Landing – Aterrizaje

North – Norte

South – Sur

East – Este

West – Oeste

Good weather – Buen tiempo (o buena meteorología)

Bad weather – Mal tiempo (o mala meteorología)

 

Luggage

Luggage – Equipaje

Baggage – Maletas

Carry-on – Maleta/Bolsa de mano

Checked luggage – Equipage facturado (o maletas facturadas)

Luggage trolley – Carro (de equipaje)

 

Security

Security checkpoint – Control de seguridad

Security guard – Guardia (de seguridad)

Police – Policía

Metal detector – Detector de metal

 

In the Aircraft

Pilot – Piloto (for both genders)

Flight attendant – Azafata/o

Take-off – Despegue

Landing – Aterrizaje

Seat number – Número de asiento

Seat belt – Cinturón de seguridad

Aisle – Pasillo

Luggage compartment – Guarda maletas/equipaje

Maintenance problem – Problema de mantenimiento

 

International Flights

Immigration – Inmigración

Foreign country – País extranjero

Duty free – Libre de impuestos

Passport – Pasaporte

Visa – Visado

Dollar/s – Dólar/es

U.S. – Estados Unidos (EEUU)

 

Transportation

Ground transportation – Transporte terrestre (also known as “transporte de tierra”)

Public transit – Transporte público

Train – Tren

Bus – Autobús (also known as “bus”)

Taxi – Taxi

 

Other

Hotel – Hotel

Water – Agua

Food – Comida

Wheelchair – Silla de ruedas

Public telephone – Teléfono público

Cell phone – Móvil (also known as “teléfono celular”)

 

AVIATION PHRASES in SPANISH

 

¿Cómo se/te llama? (“Se” is more formal than “te” but they both mean the same)

What is your name?

 

¿Cómo le puedo ayudar?

How can I help you?

 

¿Qué necesita?

What do you need?

 

Trabajo para el aeropuerto.

I work for the airport.

 

¿Trabaja para el aeropuerto/aerolínea?

Do you work for the airport/airline?

 

Soy piloto. He venido/volado en ese avión.

I’m a pilot. I came/flew in that airplane.

 

¿Donde están los baños?

Where are the restrooms?

 

Sígame. Yo le enseño.

Follow me. I’ll show you.

 

Aquí.

Here.

 

Allí.

There.

 

Estoy aquí de vacaciones.

I’m here on vacation.

 

Estoy aquí de negocios.

I’m here on a business trip.

 

¿Cúanto tiempo va a estar aquí?

How long will you be here for?

 

Voy a estar aquí una semana (unas semanas).

I will be here for one week (a few weeks).

 

Necesito ver su/tu pasaporte, por favor. (“Su” is more formal than “tu” but they both mean the same)

I need to see your passport, please.

 

¿Tiene algo que declarar?

Do you have anything to declare?

 

No, no tengo nada que declarar.

No, I don’t have anything to declare.

 

Sí, tengo que declarar…

Yes, I have to declare… (whatever it is)

 

Usted tiene que pagar impuestos.

You have to pay a tax.

 

¿Cual es su ocupación? o ¿A qué se dedica?

What is your occupation? or What do you do?

 

¿Dónde se va a quedar usted?

Where will you be staying?

 

¿Qué contiene esta bolsa/maleta?

What’s in this bag?

 

¿Dónde está su maleta? (maleta = equipage = bolsas)

Where is your luggage?

 

¿Qué hora es?

What time is it?

 

¿Cuánto cuesta?

How much is it?

 

¿Quién le viene a recoger?

How is coming to pick you up?

 

Por favor, entre, siéntese.

Please, come in, sit down.

Flying to National Parks

One of the things we are trying to do here at AOPA is to increase recreational flying. We can do so by opening up more airstrips, preventing airstrips and airports from closing, engaging in fly-ins and other flying events, introducing new people to general aviation, etc.; however, we can also increase recreational flying by increasing visitation to some of the nation’s most beautiful spots… the U.S. National Park Service system via its airports.

While at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh this year, I attended a great seminar about “flying to national parks” and I wanted to share some of my notes with all of you. The seminar was taught by Cliff Chetwin, retired Park Ranger and Park Service pilot for the National Park Service.

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 “…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment…by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” NPS has approximately 401 national park units with over 30 designations, including parks, forests, primitive areas, wilderness areas, recreational areas, national seashores, national monuments, national lakeshores, and national wildlife refuge and range areas. For more information about the Aviation unit within NPS, visit http://www.nps.gov/fire/aviation/

Flying into these magnificent sites and parks is one of the least invasive and most enjoyable ways to get to the parks; however, it does require “careful planning and consideration.”

Careful planning includes all of the normal cross country planning tasks (checking weather, planning a route, looking for alternates and alternatives, etc.) plus ensuring you and your aircraft are capable of operating at the intended airport. Some of these airports are surrounded by mountains, at high elevations, at high density altitudes, etc. and some only have gravel or grass strips with rising or descending terrain. If you need to bring a CFI with you, do it! It is also a good idea to contact the airport prior to departure to ensure you will have transportation upon arrival and that they will have fuel for you, if needed. Some of these strips are pretty remote and getting fuel can take time (sometimes days or weeks). And, while you are at it, ask the airport manager for any arrival/departure tips he/she might have as a local.

Consideration refers to remembering that you are flying into a site designated as a national treasure (regardless of whether it is a national park or a historic site) and that people and animals are there to enjoy peacefulness among other things. You are flying into a noise sensitive area and, as such, Mr. Chetwin recommended following “14 noise rules” as best as possible while remaining safe and using good judgment in addition to reading any specific noise abatement procedures for the particular airport you are flying to:

  1. Avoid noise sensitive areas (picnis areas, camping areas, key sightseeing areas, public areas, etc.).
  2. Don’t overfly trails/rivers since they are usually transited by hikers, rafters, etc.
  3. Plan your route over high noise areas, such as roads.
  4. Fly later in the day when convection will lift your noise.
  5. Fly downwind of noise sensitive areas. The wind will take the noise away.
  6. Fly as high as practical with one mile separation from terrain.
  7. Minimize your run-up as much as practical when near noise sensitive areas and point the aircraft towards that area.
  8. Use Vx speed for takeoff and climb to keep as much of the noise over the airport as possible. You can also climb over the airport (doing 360s) to (or close to) your cruise altitude.
  9. Reduce takeoff power ASAP when safe.
  10. Avoid repetitive patterns (like flying up and down a beach as an example) and high power maneuvers.
  11. Use lower RPM settings. Adjust adjustable props as soon as practical.
  12. Use good, short field landing techniques. Avoid “dragging it in” and having to apply power towards the end and close to the runway because you are low.
  13. Plan rollouts to minimize use of beta/thrust reverses.
  14. Helicopters should minimize descent time spent at 55 kts or less.

FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 91-36D (VFR Flight over Sensitive Noise Areas) also encourages pilots making VFR flights near noise-sensitive areas to fly at altitudes higher than the minimum permitted by regulation and on flight paths, which will reduce aircraft noise in such area. This AC can be found at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/advisory_circulars/index.cfm/go/document.information/documentID/23156.

You should, of course, also watch for wildlife on airport grounds.

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) 7-4-6, “Flights Over Charted U.S. Wildlife Refuges, Parks, and Forest Service Areas” (http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/aim/aim0704.html) reads, in part:
“Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of the following: National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas and Scenic Riverways administered by the National Park Service, National Wildlife Refuges, Big Game Refuges, Game Ranges and Wildlife Ranges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wilderness and Primitive areas administered by the U.S. Forest Service.” AC 91-36D mentioned earlier also defines the surface of a NPS area as the highest terrain within 2,000 feet laterally of the route of flight, or the upper‐most rim of a canyon or valley. Simply stated, find the highest ground on your flight path and add 2,000 feet to your cruising altitude over these parks:

-       Acadia

-       Alibates Flint Quarries

-       Amistad

-       Aniakchak

-       Apostle Islands

-       Arches

-       Arkansas Post

-       Assateague Island

-       Badlands

-       Bandelier

-       Bering Land Bridge

-       Big Bend

-       Big Cypress

-       Bighorn Canyon

-       Big South Fork

-       Big Thicket

-       Biscayne

-       Black Canyon of the Gunnison

-       Bryce Canyon

-       Canyon de Chelly

-       Canyonlands

-       Cape Cod

-       Cape Hatteras

-       Cape Krusentern

-       Cape Lookout

-       Capital Reef

-       Capulin Volcano

-       Carlsbad Caverns

-       Cedar Breaks

-       Chaco Culture

-       Channel Islands

-       Chiricahua

-       Colorado

-       Coulee Dam

-       Crater Lake

-       Craters of the Moon

-       Cumberland Gap

-       Curecanti

-       Death Valley

-       Delaware Water Gap

-       Denali

-       Devil’s Tower

-       Dinosaur

-       Dry Tortugas

-       Everglades

-       Fire Island

-       Florissant Fossil Beds

-       Fort Laramie

-       Fort Point

-       Fort Union

-       Fossil Butte

-       Gates of the Arctic

-       Gateway

-       Gettysburg

-       Gila Cliff Dwellings

-       Glacier Bay

-       Glacier

-       Glen Canyon

-       Golden Gate

-       Golden Spike

-       Grand Canyon

-       Grand Teton

-       Great Basin

-       Great Sand Dunes

-       Guadalupe Mountains

-       Gulf Islands

-       Haleakala

-       Hawaii Volcanoes

-       Hovenweep

-       Indiana Dunes

-       Isle Royale

-       Jewel Cave

-       John Day Fossil Beds

-       Joshua Tree

-       Kalaupapa

-       Katmai

-       Kenai Fjords

-       Kings Canyon

-       Kobuk Valley

-       Lake Chelan

-       Lake Clark

-       Lake Mead

-       Lake Meredith

-       Lassen Volcanic

-       Lava Beds

-       Little Bighorn

-       Mammath Cave

-       Mesa Verde

-       Mount Ranier

-       Muir Woods

-       Natural Bridges

-       Navajo

-       Noatak

-       North Cascades

-       Olympic

-       Organ Pipe Cactus

-       Ozark

-       Padre Island

-       Petrified Forest

-       Pictured Rocks

-       Pinnacles

-       Point Reyes

-       Rainbow Bridge

-       Redwood

-       Rocky Mountain

-       Ross Lake

-       Saguaro

-       Saint Croix

-       Sequoia

-       Shenandoah

-       Sleeping Bear Dunes

-       Statue of Liberty

-       Sunset Crater Volcano

-       Theodore Roosevelt

-       Timpanogos Cave

-       Voyagers

-       Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity

-       White Sands

-       Wind Cave

-       Wrangell-St. Elias

-       Wupatki

-       Yellowstone

-       Yosemite

-       Yukon-Charley

-       Zion

-       Parks charted by some other device

So, how do you know which parks have airports and which ones you can fly into?

-       Check sectionals

-       Check Airport Facility Directories (AF/D)

-       Check state aeronautical charts

-       Call NPS or check http://www.nps.gov/fire/aviation/

-       Attend one of the NPS aviation seminars like I did

You can fly into any public use airport in or near a park and you can also request written permission from a Park Superintendent.

Some of the more known parks with airstrips are:

-       Big Bend National Park in Texas (3TE3). Private use airport. Permission required prior to landing.

-       Big Horn Canyon (5UF) in Montana which has great fishing. Winds are normally a problem and there is no fuel on the field.

-       Cape Cod National Seashore (PVC – Provincetown Municipal) in Massachusetts

-       Death Valley, California: Two airports are available. Death Valley is one of the (if not “the”) hottest places on earth so density altitude is definitely an issue at both airports regardless of its elevation. It is not uncommon to see temperatures over 110 F. While one of the 14 noise rules said to try to fly later in the day to allow convection to lift your noise… flying earlier in the day is actually recommended at Death Valley due to density altitude considerations and safety.

  • L06 – Furnace Creek. North of the National Park. There is no fuel at the field or tie downs so bring your own. Note its elevation is – 210 feet (yes, minus! 210 feet).
  • L09 – Stovepipe Wells. West of the National Park.

-       McKinley National Park (INR or PAIN) in Alaska

-       Ft. Vancouver (VUO – Pearson Field) in Washington State. Be aware of Portland International’s (PDX) Class B airspace close by.

-       Gates of the Artic (PAKP – Anaktuvuk Pass), Alaska

-       Glen Canyon, Utah: Two airports are available.

  • UT03 – Hite. This is the toughest airport out of the two. In fact, the Denver sectional shows it as “(Hazardous)”
  • U07 – Bullfrog Basin.

-       Grant Teton (JAC – Jackson Hole), Wyoming. One of the better airports in the NPS system; even airliners fly into this airport.

-       Kalaupapa (PHLU), by Maui, Hawaii.

-       First Flight Airport (FFA) in North Carolina. A daytime only airport… this is one treasured landmark for pilots, where the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight. AOPA donated a pilot facility in honor of the Wright Brothers’ 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight. FMI about it: http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2003/October/5/AOPA-donated-Pilot-Facility-opens-at-Wright-Brothers-Memorial

-       Lake Mead National Recreational Area, Nevada: Three airports are available. A seaplane base is also available.

  • 0L9 – Echo Bay
  • L25 – Pearce Ferry (in Arizona)
  • U30 – Temple Bar (in Arizona)

-       Tuskegee Airmen (06A – Moton Field Municipal), Alabama. Nice, attended airport.

-       Wrangell/St. Elias, Alaska: 68A (seaplane base) and PAWG (airport).

-       Isle Royale in Lake Superior, Michigan: Two seaplanes bases, one at Rock Harbor and another one at Windigo.

-       Dry Tortugas, Florida: Because of sensitive resource issues, any individual wishing to fly a private seaplane to the park must have a Special Use Permit (http://www.nps.gov/drto/parkmgmt/specialuse.htm) issued through Everglades National Park. There are no facilities at the Dry Tortugas National Park so all seaplanes must have enough fuel and supplies for a round trip flight.

Remember that you can always find more information about specific airports at http://www.aopa.org/airports/ or on FlyQ (http://www.aopa.org/Flight-Planning/FlyQ).

And, with that, let’s do some flight planning and go flying! I look forward to visiting some of these airstrips.

Inaugural Kansas Aviation Expo taking off in Wichita

Reprint from the “July 2013 Reporting Points from the Salina Airport Authority” electronic newsletter
The Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education is proud to announce its partnership with the Kansas Department of Transportation’s   Division of Aviation to bring forth the first-ever Kansas Aviation Expo   event. “Where the state capital meets the air capital” is the theme   as KDOT Aviation leads a team of industry stakeholders towards a common goal   – to promote aviation in the state of Kansas.”Kansas   is home to one of only five aerospace clusters in the world, yet we don’t   have a singular event for industry leaders to gather,” said Brian   Youngers, KCAE President. “Several states across the union have similar   events to demonstrate and celebrate the role aviation plays in their economy   and community and now it’s time for Kansas to have one as well.”This   year’s event will gather some of the great partners from across the aviation   family and include guest speakers from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots   Association, Aviation Workforce Development Group, National Weather Service,   United States Department of Agriculture (Wildlife), Kansas State Salina,   Kansas Association of Airports, Federal Aviation Administration and many   more.”We   can’t think of a better location to host an event to highlight the aviation   industry in Kansas than the National Center for Aviation Training,” said   Jesse R. Romo, Acting Director of Aviation at KDOT.

“Support   for this event has been tremendous and we couldn’t be happier to see it all   come to fruition, but the hard work isn’t over, yet. This is just the   beginning of the marketing campaign. We have some great speakers, like Paul   Bowen, and tremendous partners like AOPA coming to this event, but we also   need the aviation community from across the state to help make this event   spectacular.”

The   Kansas Aviation Expo is an opportunity for various facets of the aviation   industry to discuss the current climate and then strategize how to leverage   resources and join forces towards a brighter tomorrow. It’s an opportunity   for the Kansas aviation family to gather and for the community at large to   celebrate our rich aviation history. Concurrent sessions will include   discussions on airports, aviation fuel taxes, diversity matters, air traffic   control, weather, wildlife, insurance, flight clubs and more.

The   Kansas Aviation Expo will take place on the Friday leading up to the Wichita   Flight Festival, which will also take place at Jabara Airport. For more   information on hotel and event registration, you can go to the KCAE website   at www.ksaeroeducation.com or   visit the event Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KansasAviationExpo,   or contact Jesse R. Romo at 785-296-2553 or email jromo@ksdot.org.

Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) Tool

Hello Central Southwest Members!

I participated in the Iowa Aviation Conference in Des Moines this week (glad to see and meet some of you there!) and, while there, I learned about the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool from the Chief Pilot at Air Methods.

I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of it… and found it to be pretty interesting so I thought I’d share with you. The Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool is prepared by the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) within the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with FAA funding and its website is: http://weather.aero/tools/desktopapps/hemstool.

From that website, you can read that the HEMS tool was “specially designed to meet the needs of low-altitude VFR emergency first responders. The HEMS Tool can overlay multiple fields of interest: ceiling, visibility, flight category, winds, relative humidity, temperature, radar (base and composite reflectivity), AIRMETs and SIGMETs, METARs, TAFs, and PIREPs. All 3D data are interpolated to AGL altitudes and can be sliced horizontally on 500 ft intervals up to 5,000 ft. All data can be animated in time. The tool has high-resolution basemaps, including streets, hospitals, and heliports for the entire United States. More detail is revealed as you zoom in.” Air Methods uses the information on this website/tool to make their “no go” mission decisions. The 3:26 min demo video on the website shows how the tool works. Note you will need JAVA to  launch the tool.

Many times we spend a lot of time below 5,000 feet (especially flying VFR in busy airspace areas where we need to stay below airspace) so this tool can be helpful even for us GA pilots.

We were also told “MEDEVAC” aircraft (those aircraft with a patient on board or when time is critical… think about it as an ambulance with lights and sirens on) use frequency 123.05 as the HEMS frequency for updates. If you fly in an area where there are a lot of MEDEVAC helicopter type operations, it was recommended during the conference that pilots listen in to 123.025 (Helo Air to Air) and 123.05 (Helo Air to Ground) when appropriate through their standby radio (this information was corrected based on member comments to this post). It was explained to us that most EMS helicopters are usually monitoring and talking on at least three radios: 1) the airport’s CTAF or ATC, 2) the HEMS frequency, and 3) the company’s radio to communicate with the medical facilities.

Hope you find this useful.

Safe flying,

Yasmina

Seaplane Training in Central Southwest Region

Interested in flying seaplanes? Interested in getting your SES or MES designation? You are already a seaplane pilot but want to get current? Well, you can do it within the Central Southwest Region. Here is a listing of training providers:

- Oklahoma:

- Texas:

  • Lakeway Seaplanes in Austin. www.texasseaplane.com. Contacct Robert White at (512) 914-6682 or via e-mail at bobwhiteinc@hotmail.com
  • Texas Bush Pilots in Spring (north of Houston). Contact Terry Sonday at (281) 467-4348 or via e-mail at terrysonday@hotmail.com

Safe skies and calm waters!

FAA Makes Tower Closing Decisions with Dates

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided to close 149 federal contract towers beginning April 7 as part of the agency’s sequestration implementation plan. The agency has made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest. An additional 16 federal contract towers under the “cost share” program will remain open because Congressional statute sets aside funds every fiscal year for these towers.

The national interest considerations included to save those 24 towers were: (1) significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security; (2) significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community; (3) significant impact on multi-state transportation, communication or banking/financial networks; and (4) the extent to which an airport currently served by a contract tower is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.

FMI: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=14414

The FAA has released its three-part phase in period for closing federal contract towers. On April 7, 24 contract towers will close (http://download.aopa.org/advocacy/130325april7-closures.pdf), followed by 46 on April 21 (http://download.aopa.org/advocacy/130325april21-closures.pdf), and the remaining 79 on May 5 (http://download.aopa.org/advocacy/130325may-5-closures.pdf). The FAA is closing the towers based on activity levels, with the first to close having fewer than 1,000 commercial operations in fiscal year 2012. The second group had fewer than 2,500 commercial operations.

This means the following towers will be closing in the Central Southwest Region:

- Arkansas: Drake Field (FYV in Fayetteville) on April 7 and Texarkana Regional – Webb Field (TVK) on May 5.

- Iowa: Dubuque Regional (DBQ) on April 21.

- Kansas: Hutchinson Municipal (HUT) on May 5, New Century AirCenter (IXD) on April 21 and Johnson County Executive (OJC) on April 7 (both in Olathe), Manhattan Regional (MHK) on May 5, and Philip Billard Municipal (TOP in Topeka) on April 21.

- Louisiana: Shreveport Downtown (DTN) on April 7.

- Missouri: Branson (BBG) and Columbia Regional (COU), both on May 5.

- Nebraska: None.

- New Mexico: Double Eagle II (AEG in Albuquerque) on April 21 and Santa Fe Municipal (SAF) on May 5.

- Oklahoma: Lawton-Fort Sill Regional (LAW) on May 5, University of Oklahoma Westheimer (OUN in Norman) on April 21, Wiley Post (PWA in Oklahoma City) on May 5, and Stillwater Regional (SWO) on April 21.

- Texas:

Closing on April 7:

  • Lone Star Executive (CXO in Conroe)
  • Georgetown Municipal (GTU)
  • Dallas Executive (RBD)
  • Sinson Municipal (SSF) in San Antonio

Closing on April 21:

  • New Braunfels Municipal (BAZ)
  • TSTC Waco (CNW)
  • San Marcos Municipal (HYI)
  • Collin County Regional at McKinney (TKI in Dallas)
  • Victoria Regional (VCT)

Closing on May 5:

  • Brownsville/South Padre Island International (BRO)
  • Easterwood Field (CLL in College Station)
  • Sugar Land Municipal (SGR in Houston)
  • Tyler Pounds Regional (TRY)

For a complete list, visit: http://www.faa.gov/news/media/fct_closed.pdf

AOPA recommends checking notams often, flying with current charts, and reviewing ASI’s Operations at Nontowered Airports safety advisor (http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/sa08.pdf).

How Sequestration Could Affect Central Southwest Region’s Airports

As most of you know, President Obama and Congress are in the throes of debate over federal sequestration, an unusual legislative requirement that dictates across-the-board cuts of $85 billion in federal spending on March 1, unless Congress finds a solution before. FMI, read the following two articles: http://www.aopa.org/advocacy/articles/2013/130225fed-sequestration-impact-on-ga.html and http://www.aopa.org/advocacy/articles/2013/130227top-officials-offer-glimpse-post-sequester.html?CMP=News:S1T.

I’ll start by pointing out that all of this is worst-case scenario. No one is able to draw any conclusions or reach decisions on where we might end up until, at least, this Friday, March 1.

Those articles above and the letter the FAA wrote to AOPA and other organizations(http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/2013_02_22_10_00_10.pdf) cited several measures that the agency might have to enact if a deal on sequestration isn’t reached, including:

1) the closure of 72 airport control towers during midnight shifts,

2) the complete shutdown of 238 towers (189 towers in the Contract Tower Porgram and 49 federally funded control towers) at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year,

3) the reduction of preventive maintenance, provisioning and support for all NAS equipment, and

4) a staff furlough.

Combined, the impact of the closures would amount to a 30-percent reduction in control tower service system-wide. Cuts would start in April and continue incrementally over 10 years if Congress and the Obama administration cannot agree by Friday, March 1 on a compromise to avoid  the arbitrary $85 billion cuts in federal spending for the rest of this fiscal  year.

You might be wondering how this could affect airports in the Central Southwest Region. Here is the list of airports, by state, that could potentially be permanently closed or their tower midnight shifts cut or reduced:

ATC Facilities - Potential Permanent Closures

Arkansas: Springdale Municipal (ASG), Fort Smith (FSM), Drake Field (FYV) in Fayeteville, Rogers Municipal – Carter Field (ROG), and Texarkana Regional – Webb Field (TXK).

Iowa: Waterloo (ALO), Dubuque Regional (DBQ), and Sioux Gateway (SUX).

Kansas: Forbes Field (FOE) and Philip Billard Municipal (TOP) in Topeka, Garden City Regional (GCK), Hutchinson Municipal (HUT), New Century AirCenter (IXD) and Johnson County Executive (OJC) in Olathe, and Manhattan Regional (MHK).

Louisiana: Chennault International (CWF) and Lake Charles Regional (LCH) in Lake Charles, Shreveport Downtown (DTN), Monroe Regional (MLU), and Lakefront (NEW) in New Orleans.

Missouri: Branson (BBG), Columbia Regional (COU), Jefferson City Memorial (JEF), Joplin Regional (JLN), and Rosecrans Memorial (STJ) in St. Joseph.

Nebraska: Central Nebraska Regional (GRI) in Grand Island.

New Mexico: Double Eagle II (AEG) in Albuquerque, Lea County Regional (HOB) in Hobbs, Roswell International Air Center (ROW), and Santa Fe Municipal (SAF).

Oklahoma: Ardmore Municipal (ADM), Lawtown-Fort Sill Regional (LAW), University of Oklahoma Westheimer (OUN) in Norman, Wiley Post (PWA) in Oklahoma City, Stillwater Regional (SWO), Enid Wooding Regional (WDG), and Klamath Falls (LMT).

Texas: Waco Regional (ACT) and TSTC Waco (CNW) in Waco, New Braunfels Municipal (BAZ), Jack Brooks Regional (BPT) in Beaumont, Brownsville/South Padre Island International (BRO), Easterwood Field (CLL) in College Station, Lone Star Executive (CXO) in Conroe, Fort Worth Spinks (FWS), East Texas Regional (GGG) in Longview, Arlington Municipal (GKY), Grand Prairie Municipal (GPM), Georgetown Municipal (GTU), San Marcos Municipal (HYI), Dallas Executive (RBD) and Collin County Regional at McKinney (TKI) in Dallas, Sugar Land Regional (SGR), Stinson Municipal (SSF) in San Antonio, Tyler Pounds Regional (TYR), and Victoria Regional (VCT).

ATC Facilities – Potential Overnight Closures

Arkansas: Little Rock (LIT) Tower

Iowa: Des Moines (DSM) Tower

Kansas: Wichita (ICT) Tower

Louisiana: Shreveport (SHV) Tower

Missouri: Kansas City Downtown (MKC) Tower and Springfield (SGF) Tower

Nebraska: Eppley Field (OMA) Tower

New Mexico: Albuquerque Sunport (ABQ) Tower

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City (OKC) Tower and Tulsa (TUL) Tower

Texas: Abilene (ABI) Tower, Austin Bergstrom (AUS) Tower, Corpus Christi (CRP) Tower, El Paso (ELP) Tower, Meacham (FTW) Tower, Lubbock (LBB) Tower.

The exact timing of these overnight closures would vary by facility.

Stay tuned for updates on the AOPA website/newsletters/etc, the Region’s Twitter account (@AOPACentralSW), or on this blog.