Wings Around the World — From Right Here!


During AOPA’s Fly In at the Anoka County – Blaine Field Airport, I had the pleasure of stopping to visit with a number of exhibitors and vendors that were kind enough to join us for the event.  While walking the grounds, an unsuspecting Piper Seneca with several signs nearby and some writing on the wing caught my eye.


Little did I know, the Seneca, her pilot, Tim Fino, and several others would be traversing the globe in a few short months.  The goal: promote not only the Wings of Mercy organization but also general aviation’s role in providing humanitarian relief across the globe.  For those of you who aren’t aware of Wings of Mercy (WOM), the organization is a non-profit volunteer group that connects low income families in need of medical transportation to distant specialized medical facilities.

While Tim and his team were hoping to launch from Airventure this year, some logistical issues have pushed back that date to May 15, 2016 and gives the group some time to secure additional support for the trip which has a projected cost of more than $50,000 for fuel alone. Tim and the team’s arrival back in the area will take place during the 2016 Airventure in Oshkosh, WI.  I look forward to welcoming him back personally!
WOM Plane SigningOne of the ways Tim is raising money for the trip is to offer supporters the ability to make a trip around the world…sort of!  For a small contribution, anyone is welcome to sign the wing of the Seneca and offer well wishes to the pilots!  I must admit, I’m looking forward to my trip!

WOM Plane Signature


For more information on the Wings Around the World Trip, visit or\

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

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

Location of Mystic Bluffs

Location of Mystic Bluffs

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

Gliders at 0E0

Gliders at 0E0

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

Close to Gallup

Close to Gallup

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

Our tent

Our tent

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

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet


Cute airplane cookies

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

Full ramp of beautiful birds

Full ramp of beautiful birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native American ruins

Native American ruins

The Falls

The Falls

Panoramic of Ramah lake

Panoramic of Ramah lake

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

Organizers (2)

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

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

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

Presidential TFRs come to Alaska!

Revised TFRs: FAA revised the VIP TFR for ANC to include a seaplane gateway at Wasilla Lake. Graphics of Seward, Dillingham and Kotzebue added. Times updated.

The newspapers have for weeks reported that President Obama is coming to Alaska for a three-day visit, August 31 through September 2nd. Along with the President comes a VIP Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) that will make it challenging for general aviation operations in Anchorage and other Alaskan communities. AOPA, along with the Alaska Airmens Association, Alaska Air Carriers Association and other airport and aviation groups met with the Secret Service and TSA a few days ago to understand the nature of these restrictions, and to see what we could do to help mitigate the impacts.

Before going into details, I want to stress that it is critical to check NOTAMs before you fly. I know we always do, but during this period DOUBLE check the NOTAMS, as the Secret Service warned us that the NOTAMs posted today may be modified as conditions change.

VIP TFR ANC revised

FAA revised the ANC TFR on Aug 28 to incorporate a gateway airport at Wasilla Lake for seaplanes, and again on Aug 29 & 30 with changed hours.

TFR Structure
The basic structure of this VIP TFR consists of two parts: an inner and outer ring.
Inner Core: Inside a ten nautical mile radius, known as the inner core, flight operations will be prohibited except for approved law enforcement, military and regular scheduled commercial flights—operating to and from Part 139 airports. Flights not included in the approved category must undergo security screening, arranged for no less than 24 hours prior to scheduled departure. Airports that will support screening inside the inner core are Anchorage (PANC), Merrill (PAMR) and Lake Hood (PALH). For aircraft needing to fly into these airports, Palmer (PAAQ) has been designated as a gateway airport where inbound aircraft may land and be screened before proceeding into the designated airports. Read the NOTAM carefully for more details on what is required. But before focusing only on those details, look at the hours the TFR will be in effect. Adjusting your schedule to avoid the times the TFR is in effect may be the easiest thing to do.

Outer Ring: A second concentric ring of airspace extends from 10 out to 30 nautical miles, designated as the outer ring. Aircraft operating in this segment are limited to those arriving to or departing from local airfields, but only on active IFR or VFR flight plans, with assigned transponder codes, and maintaining communication with ATC. This clearly excludes the non-transponder equipped aircraft that live on many airfields in the area. There is a long list of operations not allowed while the TFR is active, including flight training, aerobatic flight, glider operations, ultralight operations, etc. Again, check the NOTAM for details. One piece of good news. This list of prohibited activities that appears in the TFR in other locations around the country (and initially for Alaska) included seaplane operations. This was brought up the Secret Service by the Alaskan aviation stakeholders, who recognized that “Alaska is different” and was willing to make accommodations to allow seaplane operations.

Timing is everything
While these restrictions are very limiting to general aviation, perhaps the best tool to deal with them is timing. The Secret Service has provided blocks of time each day of the visit that the TFR will not be in effect, and GA operations may come and go unrestricted. Studying the active times, and planning ahead may allow you to avoid these restrictions completely.   The Secret Service has also committed to releasing the airspace early if at all possible, to reduce the impacts on our operations.

Other communities impacted too
While the focus of this piece is on the TFR over Anchorage, the President is planning to visit other Alaska communities for shorter periods of time. Those mentioned in the initial planning meeting were Seward, Dillingham and Kotzebue. We were advised to expect TFRs in those areas, nominally for about a four hour window. These will not involve gateway airports or special access procedures, so look for NOTAMs covering these areas during this three day window (see graphics below).

I appreciate that the Secret Service and TSA invited the Alaska aviation groups to participate in their planning, and were responsive to our concerns. Please check—and double check NOTAMs, check out AOPA’s TFR information resources and help spread the word to your fellow aviators.

Additional Information: The FAA released additional diagrams to help explain the TFR’s associated with the President’s visit, the timing and nature of flight activities. Remember that these are for general planning purposes. Be sure to check NOTAMs in case plans change!

150831-150903 PANC REISSUE-4TFR alert handout thumbnailClick on the following link to download the above handout. 150826 TFR Alert Handout – AK

150902 Dillingham VIP ZAN 5-1668150902 Kotzebue VIP ZAN 5-1666150901 REISSUE 5-1587 Seward ZAN VIP

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Activity in Central SW Region

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signal Peak

Guadalupe Mountains and Signal Peak

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

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

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

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

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

El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ enroute to Scottsdale

El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ enroute to Scottsdale

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

KPHX and downtown Phoenix

KPHX and downtown Phoenix

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

Left downwind for 21

Left downwind for 21

Base to final, runway 21

Base to final, runway 21

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

Sedona 2

Sedona and KSEZ on the right

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

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

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

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

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

Near Bagdad, AZ

Near Bagdad, AZ

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

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

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

LA's smog?

Los Angeles smog?

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

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

Corona 2

Unique self-serve fuel tanks in Corona

Corona 3

KAJO’s “The Bench”

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

Approaching CA's coastline

Approaching CA’s coastline

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

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

"Pilot" scuba gear

“Pilot” scuba gear

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

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

One of the crabs and garibaldi fish

Catalina's bay

Avalon Bay

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

Avalon's panoramic

Avalon’s panoramic

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

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

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

Day 7: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

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

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

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

See the looooong displaced threshold?

See the looooong displaced threshold?

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


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


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


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


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


Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

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

Downwind for Palm Springs's runway 31R

Downwind for Palm Springs’s runway 31R

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

Leaving Palm Springs

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

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

Tucson 1

Approaching Tucson from the west

Tucson 2

Beautiful sunset

Tucson 3

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

Day 10: Tucson, AZ

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

Pima Air Museum

Pima Air and Space Museum

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

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

AMARG boneyard

AMARG boneyard

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

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

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

Airline boneyard

Airline boneyard

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

AMARG boneyard from the air

AMARG boneyard from the air. WOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spaceport America

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

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

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

Spaceport America

NM’s Spaceport in the distance

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

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

TX flooding

West Houston


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

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


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

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

Does a Transponder help when flying in the JPARC?

Recently a member who flies in the vast MOA complex in Interior Alaska posed the question: “Would installing a transponder in my Super Cub make me more visible to military aircraft?” This prompted both some thought, and a few phone calls to colleagues. Like most things in aviation there are complexities and multiple situations to consider. Here is an attempt to break down the issue into several parts, specifically relative to the Interior Alaska section of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). This contiguous set of MOAs and Restricted Areas starts near Fairbanks and extends east to just shy of the Canadian border, north to Fort Yukon and southward across the Alaska Range into the southcentral region, almost to Lake Louise.

Outlined on this map is the Interior Alaska segment of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). There are other smaller MOAs and Restricted Areas in other parts of the state that are also element of the JPARC.

Outlined on this map is the Interior Alaska segment of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). There are smaller MOAs and Restricted Areas in other parts of the state that are also element of the JPARC. (Map courtesy of

Ground Based Radar: A transponder makes your aircraft more visible to ground based radars if you are in range and line of sight of the station. In addition to the FAA Air Traffic Control Radars at Murphy Dome (northwest of Fairbanks) and at Fort Yukon, the military has two radars— one just east of Eielson AFB, and the other on Donnelly Dome, south of Delta Junction. Military range and safety personnel monitor the radars which are compatible with our civilian transponders, while the Special Use Airspace is active. For the lower and mid-altitudes in which many GA aircraft operate, coverage should be good east and south of Fairbanks, around Delta Junction, on the north side of Isabel Pass and in the vicinity of Fort Yukon. As you fly farther east, in the vicinity of Tok, the Taylor Highway and upper Yukon Valley, you are probably not in ATC or military radar coverage. Also, if you operate south of the Alaska Range over the Denali and Richardson Highway areas, you will probably not be visible by either a military or civil ground based radar. Fortunately for us, that is not the only way military training aircraft may detect our presence.

TCAS Equipped Aircraft: A segment of the military fleet is equipped with a traffic collision avoidance system known as TCAS. Aircraft with this on-board system may detect an active transponder and be issued a warning if a potential collision threat exists. C-17’s and C-130’s are among the military aircraft that use this system. It works based on direct interaction between the two aircraft, without requiring ground based radar, or being in contact with a controller on the ground. It is important to note that the fighter aircraft typically involved in these training exercises don’t have TCAS.

Airborne Radar in Fighters: While not equipped with TCAS, many of the fighter aircraft do have other onboard radar systems to detect “threat” aircraft—and a transponder increases their ability to detect a civil aircraft.

Flying Surveillance Platforms: Another class of aircraft that sometimes operates in the airspace are the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, or AWACS. The original AWACS were Boeing 707s with what looked like a flying saucer mounted on their backs. Today additional models of aircraft are designed to provide airborne early warning and control. These are literally flying radar stations, with multiple means to track targets at considerable range. AWACS are routinely deployed during the major flying exercises, and are used during routine training in some sections of the JPARC. A transponder-equipped civil aircraft should be readily detected when AWACS are orbiting at altitude, and that information is passed on to other participating military aircraft if a safety issue arises.

Activity Periods
Just as the weather can be benign, challenging or downright dangerous, the risk associated with Special Use Airspace also varies greatly. When planning to operate in the JPARC MOA complex, keep in mind the following categories and associated risk of encountering a military training aircraft.

Closed: About 100 days a year the ranges (both MOAs and Restricted Areas) are shut down. Typically, during weekends and holidays these airspaces are wide open to us.

Routine Training: Another ~240 days a year, the airspaces may be active, but at relative low levels of activity.

Major Flying Exercises: There are only about 40 days a year (could be up to 60 days max) when the major exercises like Red Flag and Northern Edge are conducted. These exercises routinely use AWACS, which are able to track transponder equipped aircraft within line of sight even at low altitude over the majority of the MOA complex. These exercises also represent the highest level of risk of encountering military aircraft operating in the ranges.

Don’t forget, whether you call them by phone before departure, or on the radio (125.3 MHz) after takeoff, the Special Use Airspace Information Service (SUAIS) operated by Eielson Range Control can tell you what level of activity to expect for the time and place you plan to fly.

Equipping with a Transponder: If you are not already transponder equipped, do careful research before investing. The mandate for equipping with ADS-B Out by 2020 is influencing transponder designs, as ADS-B communicates with the transponder. (At a future time we will explore the role ADS-B plays in the MOAs.)

While neither a transponder nor ADS-B Out will be required to fly in the JPARC, the transponder will certainly make you more visible to military aircraft in the MOAs.   How much so depends on where, how high and when you fly!

Final Push for the GA Survey

Summer is progressing… and we still need your help to quantify general aviation in Alaska. All Alaskan aircraft owners should have received a post card in the mail asking them to fill out the 2014 General Aviation and Part 135 Activity Survey. In a nutshell, the survey documents how much we fly, the type of flying we do and some of the equipment we use in our aircraft. It is about the only way to document the amount of GA activity in Alaska. AOPA, the Alaska Airmens Association, the Alaska Air Carriers Association and other organizations all use the data collected to help make the case for improvements to our aviation infrastructure.

34 percent filtered

Some of the main questions are:

How many hours did you fly in 2014?
What type of fuel do you use, and what is your average consumption rate?
What type of equipment do you have in your airplane?

When compiled statewide, this information helps us advocate for you.  The survey is conducted by TetraTech, and individual survey results are not sent to the FAA, only the summary totals. You may take the survey online,

If you are not among the 34% of Alaskan aircraft owners who have completed the survey, please do so today!  Thank You!

North Slope exercise planned for July 12-17, 2015

If you fly in the vicinity of Deadhorse and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields or in waters to the north, heads-up for an upcoming Search and Rescue exercise, scheduled for July 12-17. Unmanned aircraft will be operated within the Restricted Area R-2204 at Oliktok Point, and in the newly created Warning Area, W-220 which is located offshore to the north. This is part of a joint exercise involving the Coast Guard, Sandia and industry participants.

Restricted Area R-2204 is located at Oliktok Point, approximately 35 n miles nortwest of the Deadhorse Airport.

Restricted Area R-2204 is located at Oliktok Point, approximately 35 n miles northwest of the Deadhorse Airport. ( map segment)

While civil flight operations are precluded from the Restricted Area, the Warning Area does not restrict VFR operations. Sandia National Laboratories, the agency that manages the restricted and warning areas for the Department of Energy, has put out a notice about the exercise, including points of contact so that you may coordinate directly with them.

New Warning Area
W-220 is a new airspace feature, designed to support climate research, and allow the occasional use of exotic equipment such as tethered balloons, sounding rockets, or other equipment to understand arctic clouds and their influence on sea ice. Since charting won’t occur until the 2016 publication date of the Barrow Sectional, a notice has been issued with the details. The diagram below shows the southern part of the area.

Warning Area chart

The southern segment of Warning Area 220, a new airspace feature on the North Slope.

AOPA participated in the Safety Risk Management Panel that evaluated the impact of the warning area. While at first glance this may appear to be a remote area away from civil aviation activities, a surprising amount of flight operations take place over these waters in support of marine mammal surveys, resource exploration, aerial data collection as well as the occasional recreational trip to the north pole. Renewed interest in the Arctic may see further increases in these areas in years to come.

We are pleased that Sandia is providing advance notice of the upcoming activities, and providing phone and email contacts for the aviation community to coordinate with them, in case they need to share this airspace.

The July exercise only plans to use W-220A LOW. As always, check NOTAMs for specific information before you fly.



What To Do with Your Pilot Certificate

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

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

At the end of the day, remember that:

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

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

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

For information about the differences between them, visit:

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

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

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









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

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

Learning about Flying in Alaska

No matter how many certificates or ratings a pilot has in their pocket, when planning to fly in a part of the world you’re not familiar with, it has always been good advice to talk with a local pilot to get the “lay of the land.” But who do you ask?

A number of years ago members of the Interior Alaska Flight Instructors Association, based in Fairbanks, partnered with the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation and the Fairbanks FAA Flight Standards District Office to create a program for pilots who flew themselves to the state. During the summer months of June to August, pilots camped in the Air Park (a camp ground for airplanes) at Fairbanks International Airport may take advantage of this program. Three nights a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) at 6 p.m. a member of the CFI group drops by to chat with visitors in the Air Park, and answer questions about flying in Alaska. They are armed with a full case of charts, pamphlets, special maps and information specific to Alaska aviation.

An aerial view of the Air Park during an aviation event.

An aerial view of the Air Park at Fairbanks International Airport during an aviation event.

Why Fairbanks?
Fairbanks is a popular destination for pilots who fly up the Alaska Highway, along the historic Northwest Staging Route from Montana that was established during World War II for the Lend Lease program. Being centrally located in the state, Fairbanks makes a good jump-off location for visitors wishing to explore the state, whether planning to venture north into the Brooks Range and more arctic environs, west to the gold-rich beaches of Nome, or south to Mt. McKinley and southcentral Alaska. Many of the visitors that arrive in Fairbanks are looking for ideas on places to go, things to see and what to watch out for.

What is different about Alaska?
Yes, the laws of physics are the same when it comes to lift and drag—but Alaskan infrastructure is perhaps different, depending on what you may be familiar with at home. Most communities in Alaska have airports, however very few have gas, maintenance facilities or even a phone to call Flight Service for a weather briefing. In fact, 82% of Alaskan communities are not connected to the state’s road system. While they represent the primary access to those communities, many consist of a 3,000 foot plus gravel runway, a small pad for aircraft parking and a road to town. No FBO, no fuel, no airport loaner car, no phone. You are on your own, which is fine so long as you planned for those conditions.

Another difference is the density of our aviation facilities. Weather reporting stations, NEXRAD weather radar, RCO’s, and nav aids are all in very short supply in contrast to the rest of the country.  Let’s dig into weather just a bit. According to the FAA’s listing, there are 133 AWOS and ASOS stations in Alaska. We would need 183 more stations to have the same average density that is enjoyed by the “lower 48 states.” This not only limits the most basic information pilots use for planning and conducting flights, it also impacts the weather models that are used by the National Weather Service to create aviation forecasts. While our products (METARs, TAFs, Area Forecasts, winds aloft forecasts) LOOK the same as what you may be used to, they are much less ‘informationally rich’ in nature. [More info on this is available at “Alaska is a weather-poor state.”] The upshot: the weather you see out the window is what you need to deal with.

Alaska specific infrastructure
The FAA recognizes some of these differences, and has made accommodations to address certain issues. Alaska has a network of web cameras that, during daylight hours, provide an additional source of information on weather conditions. At over 220 locations across the state, you may actually look at the weather to get a better idea of conditions along a given route of flight.

Weather is just one topic. Alaska also has an incredibly large Special Use Airspace complex, with special services to make it easier to navigate; FAA still operates a network of Flight Service Stations to help pilots obtain information; and the National Weather Service has a dedicated web site for aviation weather. These services are all summarized in a document developed by the flight instructors group which is now available on AOPA’s Flight Planning website on the Alaska Info tab, in Guide to Aviation Visitors to Alaska. A second document in that section lists a number of websites with Alaskan aviation references, including the aviation weather cams, Flight Service Station map, NWS aviation weather site and a lot more.

But if you would like to learn about Alaska flying in the old fashioned way— stop by the Air Park at Fairbanks International Airport on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday summer evening around 6 p.m. and talk with a local flight instructor, to get the low-down on flying in Alaska.

Post Script:  The Air Park at Fairbanks International Airport has 15 camp spaces, along with two covered pavilions complete with a BBQ pit, and a restroom with shower facility. That’s right—during summer months it has running water! A few bicycles are available (first come, first serve) if you want to make a quick ride to town or down the ramp to one of the airport businesses or the Flight Service Station.