NOAA’s Organizational Structure

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

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

NOAA's Organizational Chart

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA is an Operating Unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce along with several other agencies, such as the Economics and Statistics Administration or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for example ( NOAA has seven divisions:

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

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

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS)

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

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

NWS Regional Offices

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

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

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

NWS National Centers

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

For more general information about NWS, visit:

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

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

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

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

For more information about OMAO, visit:

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



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

California Senate Holds Hearing on Avgas Transition

On September 18, the California Senate Select Committee on Air Quality held an informational hearing on the transition of leaded avgas to an unleaded replacement fuel. The hearing, chaired by Senator Ted Lieu, from Torrance, was held in Westchester, just north of Los Angeles International Airport. Assembly Member Steven Bradford, from Gardena, also participated in the hearing.

The purpose of the hearing was to examine the environmental risks of leaded avgas and the status of current efforts to develop an unleaded alternative. The list of invited speakers was impressive and covered a cross section of interests. Included were: the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; the South Coast Air Quality Management District; the University of California Los Angeles, Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences; the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and the Environment; the University of Southern California, Dept. of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering; the California Air Resources Board; Torrance Airport; Santa Monica Airport; a community representative; a pilot community representative. Although the FAA was not represented, Senator Lieu presented a letter from the FAA describing the current efforts to replace leaded avgas.

AOPA submitted a comprehensive statement for the record, describing the need for leaded avgas at this time, the importance of general aviation to the nation and state, recent efforts of the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee, and the status of the current Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative. In my testimony as AOPA Western Pacific Regional Manager, I highlighted these important facts and emphasized that the AOPA continues to be committed to safely transitioning the general aviation fleet to an unleaded fuel. Along with our industry partners, we have been and will continue to be active in pressing for timely action on the search for a safe, reliable, and affordable alternative to 100LL avgas.

With the given current Federal budget stalemate that threatens funding for research in 2014, I urged the Committee to work with members of the California Legislature and the state’s congressional delegation to ensure that the FAA has the funding needed to continue the transition process.

While talking to Senator Lieu after the conclusion of the hearing, I once again assured him that the general aviation community supports the transition to unleaded fuel once it can be safely, reliably, and affordably accomplished. Boarding a commercial flight back to Sacramento late in the evening, I ran into Assembly Member Bradford, who complemented the AOPA presentation. I think we got our message across.

Changes coming to Lake Hood Chickaloon Departure

Pilots who fly to and from Lake Hood should take note: On October 17th the Chickaloon VFR Departure will change.  This is one of the half dozen VFR arrival and departure procedures that help GA traffic navigate the Part 93 airspace segments providing access to the airports, airstrips and water landing areas in the Anchorage Bowl.

In the revised procedure below, aircraft departing Lake Hood that used to fly over the old Kulis Alaska National Guard Base will now head directly to the east shore of Campbell Lake before turning south to depart the area.  This change addresses conflicts between Lake Hood traffic and the ANC Runway 15 departures, resulting in TCAS alerts and close calls when winds or other factors complicated flight paths.

While the new procedure is expected to address these issues, at times when ANC Runway 15 is in use, controllers send Lake Hood traffic that is inbound from the south to the east shore of Campbell Lake– before turning them in toward Lake Hood.  This may on occasion put them in a “head to head” situation.  According to the FAA Alaska Terminal District, this is an infrequent occurrence, and the controllers have been thoroughly briefed on this situation.

Note: This diagram becomes effective on October 17, 2013

Note: This diagram becomes effective on October 17, 2013

This plate will go into effect with the publication of the October 17 edition of the Alaska Supplement, and may be found in the NOTICES section at the back of the salmon-colored book. If you have comments or feedback on this change, please contact FAA ATC Support Manager, Dave Chilson

Alaska Aviation Weather Forecast Changes and Enhancements

Update:  Due to the government shutdown, the changes described below have been delayed, and are planned to go into effect on November 12.

The weather is still one of the most important factors we need to evaluate before each flight.  Whether you fly VFR or IFR, knowing the current conditions and how they are expected to change is critical to that all important GO/NO GO decision,  figuring out which route to take, and what to watch for inflight.  On October 15th, the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) will make changes that should help you make those decisions, as you plan to fly.  Here are some of the changes.

Area Forecast/Airmets
Starting in mid-October, new Area Forecasts (FA’s) will be issued three times a day—at 4:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., local Alaska time.  Updates will come out at 12:15 a.m., 6:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m.—or as needed if things are changing faster than anticipated.  AIRMETs will be either issued or updated using a similar schedule, the details of which may be found on the AAWU website at:

Icing and Turbulence Graphics
In a trend which I find helpful, more information is being presented in graphic form.  Starting on Oct 15, the AAWU will issue new icing and turbulence graphics, showing the forecast in three-hour time slices, as opposed to the 6 hour charts we have been using.  Found under the Graphical Forecast tab on their home page, in the sample Icing Forecast product below, the user has a choice of viewing a single 12 hour summary, or on the bar immediately above the product, selecting one of the three-hour charts to see how the forecasters expect conditions to develop during the day.

Sample Icing Forecast Product summarizes over the entire 12 hour period. Individual charts showing 3 hour intervals show how conditions are expected to develop.

Sample Icing Forecast Product summarizes over the entire 12 hour period. Users can select individual charts showing 3 hour intervals to see how conditions are expected to develop.

Another change is that the Turbulence Forecast will be split into separate low and high altitude products.  Along the top, in the sample image below, the user again has the option to look at the 12 hour summary— showing the entire forecast period—or can mouse-over a progression of graphics to see how the turbulence is expected to develop during the forecast period.  Note that while the products are split at Flight Level 180, if conditions span that flight level, they will be depicted on both sets of products.  A little time spent examining the legend to become familiar with the new conventions will help become accustomed to these products.

sample turbulence lo level

Sample low altitude turbulence product, covering a 3 hour period. Users may also select the 12 hour summary chart to get the “big picture.”

A more subtle difference in the product to note:  An additional turbulence category, “Isolated Moderate” is being added. Previously the products only depicted “Occasional Moderate” and “Isolated Moderate to Severe” conditions.

table 2 issuance times

Table showing when both graphic and text products will be updated. Helpful if the weather is bad and you are waiting for the next forecast!

Other graphic products, such as the Surface Map and IFR/MVFR Chart won’t change, however the issuance and update times will.  The AAWU has provided a table (above) summarizing the timing of both text and graphic product which provide a roadmap to the new scheme.

These are significant enhancements to the products available to Alaskan pilots, and a downloadable document summarizing them is available online that contains examples and a more complete description of the schedules and changes.  If you have feedback on products, the National Weather Service would like to hear it. An easy way to reach them is to shoot an email to

As pilots we need to remember that the accuracy of these products is influenced by the PIREPs we file, either confirming forecast conditions, or alerting forecasters when conditions are changing faster than expected. Please take time to file an extra PIREP or two as you fly.

So a modification to an old adage might be… “If you don’t like the weather you see at the moment, just wait for the new forecast.”  Thanks to these changes, the new forecasts will be showing up more graphically and more frequently than before.

History of Eureka Springs, Arkansas


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

June Westphal

June Westphal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Aviation Month in Alaska

It is an honor to have Governor Parnell recognize the importance of aviation in Alaska!  Below is the proclamation, in its full wording, which outlines not only our dependence on aviation, but some of the challenges as well.  The final whereas also recognizes the centennial of flight.

In spite of the many challenges, it is exciting to see how far we have come in a hundred years!

governor parnell sealGeneral Aviation Appreciation Month

Effective Date: Sunday, September 1st, 2013

WHEREAS, 82 percent of Alaska’s communities are without roads and depend on aviation as a lifeline to provide year-round access for commerce, transportation, emergency medical service, and tourism; and

WHEREAS, Alaskan residents fly more than eight times as often as residents of other states on average; and

WHEREAS, Alaska has more private planes per capita than any other state. There are 855 registered airports and seaplane bases, including 405 public use facilities and 450 private airports in Alaska, housing 10,423 aircraft utilized by 8,202 registered pilots; and

WHEREAS, our state’s extreme climate and formidable terrain requires the highest vigilance of volatile conditions, training, resourcefulness, and maintenance of equipment; and

WHEREAS, the aviation industry generates $3.5 billion and over 47,000 Alaskan jobs annually, accounting for ten percent of the jobs in the state; and

WHEREAS, this year, Alaska celebrates a century of aviation history that began on July 3, 1913 in Fairbanks and which, against overwhelming odds, has steadfastly become the largest aviation system in the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sean Parnell, Governor of the State of Alaska, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as:

General Aviation Appreciation Month

in Alaska, and encourage all Alaskans to honor the achievements of general aviation in Alaska during the past one hundred years.

Dated: August 30, 2013

Aviation Vocabulary and Phrases in Spanish



General aviation – Aviación civil/privada

Airline – Aerolínea

Airplane – Avión

Passenger – Pasajero


Flight Information

Reservation – Reserva

Ticket – Billete/Pasaje

Flight – Vuelo

Number – Número

Roundtrip – Ida y vuelta

One-way (leaving) – Ida

One-way (coming back) – Vuelta

Roundtrip ticket – Billete de ida y vuelta

Boarding pass – Pasaje de abordo

Delayed – Retrasado

Cancelled – Cancelado

Cancellation – Cancelación


Around the Airport

Airport – Aeropuerto

Terminal – Terminal

Departure – Salida

Arrival – Llegada

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

Hallway – Pasillo

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

Restroom – Baño‎ (also known as “servicio”)

Store – Tienda

Coffee Shop – Cafetería

Restaurant – Restaurante

Hangar – Hangar

Control tower – Torre de control

Waiter/waitress – Camarero/a

Controller – Controlador/a (male/female)

Mechanic – mecánico



To fly – Volar

Flying – Volando

Domestic – Nacional

International – Internacional

Takeoff – Despegue

Landing – Aterrizaje

North – Norte

South – Sur

East – Este

West – Oeste

Good weather – Buen tiempo (o buena meteorología)

Bad weather – Mal tiempo (o mala meteorología)



Luggage – Equipaje

Baggage – Maletas

Carry-on – Maleta/Bolsa de mano

Checked luggage – Equipage facturado (o maletas facturadas)

Luggage trolley – Carro (de equipaje)



Security checkpoint – Control de seguridad

Security guard – Guardia (de seguridad)

Police – Policía

Metal detector – Detector de metal


In the Aircraft

Pilot – Piloto (for both genders)

Flight attendant – Azafata/o

Take-off – Despegue

Landing – Aterrizaje

Seat number – Número de asiento

Seat belt – Cinturón de seguridad

Aisle – Pasillo

Luggage compartment – Guarda maletas/equipaje

Maintenance problem – Problema de mantenimiento


International Flights

Immigration – Inmigración

Foreign country – País extranjero

Duty free – Libre de impuestos

Passport – Pasaporte

Visa – Visado

Dollar/s – Dólar/es

U.S. – Estados Unidos (EEUU)



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

Public transit – Transporte público

Train – Tren

Bus – Autobús (also known as “bus”)

Taxi – Taxi



Hotel – Hotel

Water – Agua

Food – Comida

Wheelchair – Silla de ruedas

Public telephone – Teléfono público

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




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

What is your name?


¿Cómo le puedo ayudar?

How can I help you?


¿Qué necesita?

What do you need?


Trabajo para el aeropuerto.

I work for the airport.


¿Trabaja para el aeropuerto/aerolínea?

Do you work for the airport/airline?


Soy piloto. He venido/volado en ese avión.

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


¿Donde están los baños?

Where are the restrooms?


Sígame. Yo le enseño.

Follow me. I’ll show you.








Estoy aquí de vacaciones.

I’m here on vacation.


Estoy aquí de negocios.

I’m here on a business trip.


¿Cúanto tiempo va a estar aquí?

How long will you be here for?


Voy a estar aquí una semana (unas semanas).

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


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

I need to see your passport, please.


¿Tiene algo que declarar?

Do you have anything to declare?


No, no tengo nada que declarar.

No, I don’t have anything to declare.


Sí, tengo que declarar…

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


Usted tiene que pagar impuestos.

You have to pay a tax.


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

What is your occupation? or What do you do?


¿Dónde se va a quedar usted?

Where will you be staying?


¿Qué contiene esta bolsa/maleta?

What’s in this bag?


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

Where is your luggage?


¿Qué hora es?

What time is it?


¿Cuánto cuesta?

How much is it?


¿Quién le viene a recoger?

How is coming to pick you up?


Por favor, entre, siéntese.

Please, come in, sit down.

The Power of Youth

For pilots and aviation enthusiasts like me it is hard to imagine anyone not fascinated by aviation. The idea of zipping along above flight level one-eight-zero; feeling the squeez of heart-pounding, high-G maneuvers; or flying at tree-top level in a Robinson R-22 are a few of the adrenaline-charged images that come to mind—but these people do exist and like us, maintain strong personal opinions. Simply put, we can’t please everyone but for the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of those whose opinions are not yet cemented, nothing supports our aviation communities’ as much as local airshows and public fly-ins!

Although I was unable to attend Air Venture this year, I was privileged to be able to represent AOPA at the Wings Over Wiscasset Airshow in Maine on Tuesday, August 6—a day that oddly enough, marked my sixth-year anniversary of working for my beloved Pilot Association. The major draw for the day’s event was the magnificent aircraft herald-in by the Texas Flying Legends Museum like the awe-inspiring P-51D Mustang, FG-1 Corsair, the P-40K Warhawk, and US Congressman Sam Graves’ TBM Avenger. These aircraft are no doubt representative of a time in our history when American know-how reign supreme, propelling the nation to Superpower status.

A standard week day for most, community attendance was slow through the early hours but by 4 pm, the local event boasted an excess of 4000 people. Both young and senior alike crowded the flight-line to snap pictures with these aviation legends. Many also enjoyed the surprise visit paid by US Senator Angus King. With only smiles to be had, seasoned pilots light-up at the opportunity to share “war stories”—even if theirs takes place during private pilot training far from any battlefield.

As a father I can tell you, enticing our nation’s youth produces a multiplier effect worthy of repeating. While my one-year old may still be too young to ignite a self-propelled interest in aviation; children are no doubt conduits to their parents.  As anyone with children knows, we spend our free time following our kid’s curiosities—always trying to highlight the educational component to whatever task they’re engaged.  While not every child is destined to be the next Amelia Earhart or Chuck Yeager, their natural interest in all things new, fast, and (seemingly) dangerous, makes the connection to general aviation an easy bridge for parents to cross.

With this in mind, grab your family, friends, neighborhood kids (parental permission required) and Veterans; and head to a community aviation event near you—besides you never know who you might run into while planting the seeds of general aviation:

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

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

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” ( 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

-       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:

-       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 ( 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 or on FlyQ (

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