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.

Addison, TX Mayor Meier Writes to Pres. Obama

Addison, TX’s Mayor Todd Meier has recently sent a letter to President Obama expressing his concern over the President’s repeated negative remarks regarding general aviation as well as his opposition to the proposed $100 per segment user fee. For a copy of his letter, click here: Addison Mayor Meier letter to President 2013-01-04

Mayor Meier joins more than 115 Mayors across the country who have sent letters to the President explaining the critical importance of GA to local towns and communities. FMI and for a listing of these Mayors: http://www.aviationacrossamerica.com/mayors-petition-to-president-obama/

I encourage you to invite your Mayor to do the same.

GA in New Zealand

My husband Jared and I recently came back from spending a few vacation days in New Zealand (South Island only). When we travel abroad, we always try to look for opportunities to fly and experience the country from the air. Not only does it give you a special 3D perspective of the surroundings, but we are also curious to learn about the aviation systems in different countries, especially when it comes to General Aviation (GA). NZ made it easy for us to learn.

Just as a way to familiarize yourself a little bit with the country and its aviation… approximately 6,500 of its only 4.4 million people are GA pilots. People in NZ are greatly outnumbered by sheep, with over 7 sheep for every person. Geographically, about one quarter of the population live in the South Island, with Christchurch being the largest city. Over 20 percent of New Zealand is covered in national parks, forest areas and reserves.

GA was pretty prevalent in the areas of the South Island where we travelled. We only spent a week in NZ but it was a great and productive week with the help of a small campervan we rented. We flew into Christchurch (CHC), known as the gateway to the Antarctica, and did a loop back to CHC through Mount Cook National Park, Omarama, Queenstown, Te Anau, Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, Wanaka, Mount Aspiring National Park, Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, Hokitika, and Arthur’s Pass National Park. During our time there, we noticed that GA is used, much like in the US, for business, pleasure, and as a necessity.

GA is the only way to get in and out of certain areas (as I mentioned before, 20 percent of NZ is federal land). I’ll mention two examples:

1) Tourists really only get a good view of the majestic national parks when taking a GA flight, whether it is a helicopter or an airplane ride due to access issues. A lot of tourists do actually take advantage of these opportunities so it wasn’t rare to see two or three aircraft at a time flying around these areas. I did one of those tours in Fiordland National Park. Amazing! More to come later.

2) There are so many remote areas in the country that sometimes, given different circumstances, GA flying is the only way to get access to these remote towns. The town (or township as they call it) of Milford is 73 miles (118 km) or 1 1/2 hours away by car from the nearest town – Te Anau. There is a stretch of the road that connects the two that often closes when the area experiences a lot of rain, causing land slides that are both hazardous to people and blocks the road with debris. Sometimes this road remains closed for several days at a time. Flying is the only way to get resources and people in and out Milford during that time. We talked with a local who was stuck in Milford for two days while visiting before she was flown out. Her car stayed in Milford for a week before she was able to go back to get it. Milford is not a bad place to be stuck in (it is truly a magical place to visit); however, she had to return to work and could not spend an additional week there. For those that remained for the week… food and supplies had to be flown in. As it is, the local campground and lodge only receives shipments twice a week but they are not prepared to be completely disconnected for an entire week.

And talking about Milford… the Milford Sound Airport (NZMF) is a beautiful, busy, and interesting place surrounded by fjords with a 2,565 ft. runway for daytime and VFR operations only. While there, both my husband and I swore it had to be a “one way in-same way out” type of airport regardless of winds; however, after coming back home and doing some research, it appears that takeoffs and landings can be done in either direction (although I would say that a high performing aircraft and a brave pilot would be required). Here is a document from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regarding departure and arrival procedures: www.aip.net.nz/pdf/NZMF.pdf. Based on what we saw and observed, it appears that Runway 11 is preferred as a landing runway and Runway 29 is preferred as a takeoff runway.

During the day, NZMF is a very busy airport with both airplanes and helicopters flying air tours, taking and bringing hunters, bringing supplies, shuttling people from nearby towns, etc. However, come 6-7 pm, we found it to be a quiet and peaceful place with breathtaking views of the fjords around. My husband and I took this opportunity to (with permission, of course) walk the runway and take some pictures to share with you.

Aerial of Milford Sound (this is a photo of a poster)

Milford Sound Airport (NZMF) Ramp – This picture was taken when most aircraft were flying.

Runway 11 – Preferred Landing Runway

Waterfall to the left of Runway 11 – That’s how beautiful and natural this place is.

Runway 29 – Preferred Takeoff Runway

Cessna coming in to land on Runway 11

Parallel taxiway (doesn’t go down the entire length of the runway)

Terminal Building

I’ll also share with you my helicopter flight. I really wanted to rent a plane with an instructor and fly around with my husband for a couple of hours (this is normally what we do on our trips); however, our lack of time and some bad weather during the first few days of our trip prevented us from doing that. No problem, we will be back and a helicopter flight around Milford Sound and up to the Galore Glacier for a snow/ice landing really sounded great anyway. That is not something I can easily do back home in Texas so I took it. What an exciting flight!! The three German students onboard and I got to see the national park, the Airport’s tricky location, and glaciers up close and personal. During this short 25 minute flight, I noticed NZ uses some of the same procedures, signs, and nomenclature that Australia does (Jared and I flew around Sydney in May – look for another blog about this soon). For example, a runway pattern is a runway circuit.

Waiting for our ride in the helicopter after going to get a group of hunters. Notice the cargo compartment underneath the helicopter with their gear and equipment.

Glacier landing on Galore glacier. It felt like we were on top of the world.

Aerial of the Milford Sound Airport

Over the field for a left downwind

Final into helicopter area (tight area, I must say. You can see that in the first helicopter picture.)

We also saw a seaplane and a “water” heliport on Lake Te Anau.

To my surprise, I also paraglided for the first time while in NZ. My husband and I hang glided twice in Lookout Mountain, TN but I had never paraglided before. We were walking around small town Arrowtown (close to Queenstown) when we saw two paragliders up the mountain. I found it very cool and started taking pictures and videos when Jared said “let’s drive up and see if we can find them.” Well, he found them. We started talking with them (an American and a Czech) about paragliding and watching them fly when Jim, the Niagara Falls native and pilot, asked if we wanted to give it a try. You don’t have to tell me twice to try anything in GA so we flew tandem and had a blast. He was able to find a few thermals to keep up us in the air and do a few tricks until the wind started to die down and we landed by a cow field below the mountain. How fun! I might have to start paragliding back in the States.

Panoramic of the Valley overlooking Arrowtown, the Gibbston Hwy, Lake Hayes, and Frankton in the distance. This gliding location is just outside of Queenstown’s Class D airspace.

Paragliding. It’s hard to see us but you can see the canopy. Notice the very winding road to get you up the mountain.

Just having fun with what most of us know best – flying!

Both paragliders flying just before the winds died down and we landed down the mountain by a cow field.

While the mountain by Arrowtown generated a few good thermals, Omarama, about 80 miles to the NE, is world known among glider pilots for its strong lee wave conditions, ridge soaring, and thermal flying. It is common for gliders to soar hundreds of kilometers along the Southern Alps. Several national and world gliding records were set in Omarama and the prevailing conditions have attracted record seekers like Steve Fossett. When we drove by the town, we unfortunately did not see any gliders flying around but we did see they claim it to be “the gliding mecca” and I can see why.

On a slightly different note… we also noticed NZ seems to do a pretty good job at preserving their aviation history. While driving around, we saw two important pieces of history for the country: 1) Guy Menzies’ landing site from the very first solo flight from Australia to New Zealand on January 7, 1931 and 2) New Zealand’s first scheduled air service in Hokitika in 1934.

This is the nice plaque and information posted regarding Guy Manzies’ historic flight near Hari Hari. The flight, from Sydney, took him a long 11 hr and 45 mins over the rough Tasman Sea.

Although hard to reach (and see) because it is in private land, the windsock shown above is the exact location where Menzies crash landed. He originally intended to land in Blenheim, but was well off course and mistook a swamp as a landing paddock.

 The town of Hari Hari built this hangar to go into more detail regarding Menzies’ flight and accomplishment. Inside you can see a replica of the airplane he flew.

The building was closed when we were there but I was able to take this picture to try to show the replica biplane –> single-engine Avro Sports Avian IVA biplane G-ABCF “Southern Cross Junior”

Those are the plaque and information found in Hokitika commemorating the country’s first scheduled air service (Air Travel Ltd) founded by Bert Mercer in 1934.

 The original airport (aerodrome) in Hokitika was on the south side of town just over the Hokitika River where the plaque is located. The aerodrome’s susceptibility to flooding was problematic so, in 1948, the airfield was closed and moved to its current location on the other side of town (currently called Seaview Airport) by 1951. The old hangar in the picture above is still on its original place, by the plaque and information area.

Our very own Dave Hirschman, Senior Editor, visited NZ earlier this year also. He wrote a great article and posted an awesome video. If you haven’t seen them yet, I encourage you too. You can find them at: http://www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/2012/may/f_new-zealand.html. In addition, AOPA-NZ’s Web site is: http://www.aopa.co.nz/

When you travel again, consider experiencing General Aviation (maybe with a local CFI depending on location). You will be happy you did. If you travel and fly abroad, you will also realize the great freedom of flight we have in the US and why it is so important to preserve it as is. This is one of the things we, at AOPA, do best and will continue to do so on behalf of our members.

Shuttle Endeavour’s Last Flight (even if it is on top of NASA’s B747)

The recently decommissioned Endeavour is one of three space shuttles transitioning from being an active astronaut-carrier to an awe-inspiring exhibit, this one at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. As you might expect, getting a 122’ x 78’ x 57’ spacecraft to the museum from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) comes with a few challenges. Some of the key ones are highlighted here.

First, they removed a number of toxic materials (rocket fuel, for example), the engines, and hatches that have explosives and also pulled out the toilets and galleys for a separate display.

Then, a “mate-demate device” was needed to load and unload the shuttle on the back of the modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (or SCA) to transport it from Florida to California. Such device exists at KSC; however, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) does not have one because they are not used to handling these types of operations. Therefore, NASA engineers plan on erecting a number of large cranes to take the Endeavour off the B747 once in LA.

The trip from Florida to California was scheduled to begin on Monday, September 17, 2012; however, due to weather, it had to be postponed to Wednesday, September 19. If I heard correctly, the SCA with the shuttle on top can only fly in VMC conditions. The trip is divided into three legs: from Cape Canaveral (XMR) to Ellington Field in Houston (EFD), from Houston to NASA’s Dryden and then from there to LAX with a few flyovers along the way =)

I was not able to see it flyover or arrive at either New Orleans or Houston respectively (both in AOPA’s Central Southwest Region) due to the fact that it was delayed two days and I had to travel early Wednesday morning to New Mexico to meet prior commitments. However, I had a personal reporter – my husband Jared =) – in Houston sending me pictures and updates along the way. I wanted to share those with you here.

Houston is very happy to have Endeavour, even as a visitor for a few hours. NASA plays a big role in Houston, especially in South Houston (namely Clear Lake, Seabrook, etc.), and the City was disappointed to learn a few months back that one of the “flying” shuttles would not retire in Houston at Johnson Space Center (JSC).

The shuttle (escorted by one of NASA’s Houston-based T38s) flew over several parts of Houston, including downtown, Texas Southern University (TSU) and the University of Houston – Main (UH), Hobby Airport (HOU), Clear Lake, etc. Traffic was backed up for a couple of miles on Highway 3 by Ellington Field. Several hundred people went out to EFD to greet the retired shuttle. Here are a few pictures from the shuttle’s low pass and landing at Ellington Field:

The crowd was very excited. It was worth waiting in line after all… what a sight and piece of history!

I also wanted to share with you the picture I liked the most out of those my husband sent me. A little boy dressed as an astronaut posing for a picture in front of the 747 and shuttle. I am glad to see science, space, flying… is still exciting for the new generations to come. We certainly need future pilots… and future astronauts in this case.

The ferry flight is scheduled to continue at sunrise tomorrow, heading to NASA Dryden, then on to Los Angeles Friday. Endeavour is slated to take off from Ellington Field around 7 a.m. The flight plan after that calls for them to fly south, turn east over Johnson Space Center for one last pass, then fly back over downtown before flying over west Houston. It will then make a low flyover just south of the Capitol Building in Austin en route to El Paso. Hope you can catch them during any of those flyovers if you leave in Texas.

On Friday, once on wheels at LAX, the shuttle will travel six miles to the museum. This will require the temporary removal of most power lines and traffic signals, two engineering firms to plan the route and a person to “drive” the four mobile transporters that carry the shuttle. Can’t make it to LA to watch the shuttle taxi from LAX to the museum? Well, you can still plan on attending AOPA’s Parade of Planes in Palm Springs. General aviation airplanes will taxi on city streets from Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to the Convention Center in downtown Palm Springs on Wednesday, October 10 at 10 am. Then, on Saturday October 13 from 3 to 5 pm, the airplanes will return to the Airport from the Convention Center. Organizing such an event is also quite an undertaking and I promise you it will be exciting and fun. FMI, visit www.aopa.org/summit.

The picture below shows a graphic of some of the steps involved and described in this blog to transport the shuttle from Florida to California:

September 2012 Trip to Omaha, NE and Atlantic, IA

As you may already know, the AOPA Regional Manager program was created to increase AOPA’s ability to address the issues facing general aviation at the state and local levels. Among other things, all seven Regional Managers are responsible for all legislative issues within their region as well as making AOPA more visible, promoting membership, and serving as a local point of contact for members.

My region, the Central Southwest region, includes Nebraska and Iowa along with seven other states. I just came back from a trip that took me to Omaha, NE and Atlantic, IA to work on a legislative issue and promote general aviation and AOPA.

While in Omaha, I met with Senator Krist and hosted a Pilot Mix and Mingle event on Friday, September 14:

-          We have started working on next year’s legislative initiatives and, therefore, I wanted to meet with Senator Bob Krist of Nebraska’s District 10, and a professional pilot when not working as a legislator, to discuss a 2013 bill to extend the approach zones from the current three miles to 10 miles (in a conical manner) from the end of every IFR runway in the state to increase safety and promote good land use planning. Cell phone towers, wind turbines, power lines or other tall structures built too close to airports create a serious safety hazard for pilots and those on the ground and the potential for tall obstacles is greater today than ever before. AOPA very much supports this bill. It failed to pass this year due to lack of time; however, Senator Krist is committed to introducing it again in early 2013.

-          Later that afternoon, I hosted a Pilot Mix and Mingle social and networking event at the Hangar One FBO at the Millard Airport (MLE) with fellow AOPA members, pilots and aviation enthusiasts. We offered free food and drinks, gave a few prizes… some thanks to USAIG… and just had a “plane” good time. Those who flew in even received a fuel discount. We had a great turnout with 50+ attendees and had a great time talking and playing an ice breaker game. Here are pictures from the event:

On Saturday, September 15, I was up bright and early to set up AOPA’s booth and to teach a safety seminar at the Fly Iowa 2012 event in Atlantic, IA. The “Fly Iowa 2012” airshow/fly-in was organized by the Iowa Aviation Promotion Group (IAPG).

The safety seminar was titled “Operations at Nontowered Airports.” It was a well attended seminar with approximately 35 attendees where we covered airspace found around nontowered airports, references and resources to use for planning purposes, pattern prodecures and techniques, communications, collision avoidance procedures, etc. Rod Ticknor, an experienced local flight instructor, was scheduled to co-teach the seminar with me but, unfortunately, he was feeling under the weather.

The day continued with ground displays and an airshow. The audience was WOWed by the performances of several P-51 Mustangs and Greg Koontz among others. I always enjoy attending smaller airshows in rural areas because most of the attendees are attending an airshow for the first time and, sometimes, it is even their first time around general aviation aircraft. I find it fascinating to listen to the conversations and comments made by the local attendees, especially kids, of course. They are absolutely amazed by aircraft, their abilities and those of the pilots. I think these pictures describe the event and the engaged attendees pretty well.

As we were packing everything after the show, I came across the Koontz Team as they were taking their Piper Cub apart to put it in their trailer. I found it very interesting and wanted to share it with you all. It took them about 30 minutes from the time they pulled the aircraft into the hangar to the time it was safely secured in the trailer – pretty impressive team work. Everything was studied and measured to the last detail. Here are pictures of their progress:

As part of AOPA’s efforts to reach out more to its members and aviation enthusiasts in the regions, we have set up Twitter accounts to help share news and information about local aviation events and issues. Please follow me at http://twitter.com/AOPACentralSW. I try to keep the tweets up-to-date, fresh and entertaining and always announce upcoming events where AOPA will be participating.

My next trip takes me to New Mexico (Ruidoso, Albuquerque and Santa Fe) and Little Rock, Arkansas this week. Will I see you there??