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Category: Central Southwest (page 1 of 5)

Nebraska Nice – The Nebraska Air Trail!

These Air Trails are designed to bring flying and tourism together. The idea is to give pilots another reason to fly and give their passengers another reason to get in the airplane. This time we are highlighting Nebraska.

Nebraska is a midwestern state encompassing the prairies of the Great Plains, the towering dunes of the Sandhills, and the panhandle’s dramatic rock formations.

According to Reference.com, Nebraska is known for its four seasons and friendly, hospitable residents. Gallup surveys rank Nebraska among the top 10 states with the happiest residents. Nebraska is known as the “Cornhusker State.” The state insect is the honeybee, the state flower is the goldenrod, the state gem is the Blue Agate, and the state motto is “Equality before the law.” Nebraska is the only state in the union with a single house legislature, also known as a unicameral. The 911 emergency dispatch communication system was developed in Nebraska and it was the first state to utilize the system.

I have to agree with Reference.com on that Nebraskans have to be the nicest people in the country! That has been my experience!

While the Omaha skyline surprises visitors with its big city feel, part of the real beauty of Nebraska lies in the sunsets that spread across the rolling plains. The vast openness of the scenery is overwhelming at first, as every color of the rainbow seems to blend together in perfect harmony.

Legend

A few symbols have been added throughout the route to make it easy for readers to identify the facilities and activities each airport/area has at a quick glance.

Figure 1. Symbol Legend.

Legend

Route

We have developed a circular route to make it easier to follow with multiple stops. We may have identified too many possible stops but you can start/stop this route from any airport and fly it in any order or direction you prefer. You can also skip and add other stops as you please; these are just suggestions. Fly at your own risk!

The following figures help give a visual of the entire route.

Figure 2. Route Overview (see references to locations in Figure 3)

Sectional

Figure 3. References to Locations on Previous Sectional

References to sectional

Figure 4. Route on ForeFlight

ForeFlight route

Source: ForeFlight

If you decide to do part or the entire route and use social media, we would love for you to use #NebraskaAirTrail as a hashtag.

Fly safe, fly often, and enjoy the Air Trail!

  1. Omaha

1 Omaha symbols

Omaha is the largest city and lies on the eastern edge of the state along the banks of the Missouri River. Omaha holds attractions like most metropolitan cities across the country. While shopping, one can find goods that run from locally produced items to the exclusive items sold throughout the world. Omaha has areas of revitalization worth visiting such as the Old Market downtown, Midtown Crossing, Benson, and Aksarben village. Omaha also has numerous breweries, a vast array of restaurants of all food types, the world famous Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Josyln Art Museum, and Lauritzen Gardens. In addition, the TD Ameritrade Stadium is the stadium where the College World Series is played every year.

The Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is halfway between Omaha and Lincoln. It offers year-round accommodations and recreational use along the picturesque Platte River. This ultra modern park offers an array of lodging (Little Creek and Lakeside campgrounds near Owen Marine Lake, cabins secluded on wooded ridge tops, and the Peter Kiewit Lodge has 40 rooms), group meeting facilities, and activities (like paddle boats at the Owen Marina or the Family Aquatic Center with water slides, a wave pool, and a lap pool, for example). The lodge also has a restaurant.

Nearby attractions include the Platte River State Park, the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari, the Quarry Oaks Golf Club, and the Iron Horse Golf Club.

You can visit the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum any day you like or you can consider attending when they are hosting a certain regular event, such as their annual Indoor Air Show, Swing Under the Wings, Helicopter Day, or Family Fun Carnival.

The quaint Platte River State Park draws guests to its cabins every year, with the teepees as perhaps the most unique lodging option. Other popular draws are the park’s picturesque waterfall, scenic hiking and biking trails and two observation towers that allow those who climb to the top a spectacular view of the Platte River Basin.

The Omaha area has several airports to choose from:

  1. Nebraska City

2 Nebraska City symbols

“It’s hard to think of a state with a bigger interest in creating shade than Nebraska. And with that in mind, it makes perfect sense that Arbor Day began in this town positioned where the Missouri River valley gives way to the vast Great Plains. Did you know that Nebraskans planted more than 1,000,000 tress on the first Arbor Day? J. Sterling Morton launched the holiday here in 1874, and his Arbor Lodge mansion still hosts tours of both the home and its parklike setting. Next door, Tree Adventure sends visitors into a series of interconnected tree houses and teaches lessons about conservation. Across the valley, the modern Lied Lodge features 140 hotel rooms, a massive indoor pool and the high-end Timber Room restaurant. Thousands come to town for the AppleJack Festival in September. The next month brings prime time for views of the river valley from the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Center on a bluff just outside of town.” – Midwest Living magazine, July/August 2016.

The Nebraska City Municipal Airport (KAFK) is your gateway to the city and you have your choice of runway based on your aircraft capabilities or preference – a 4,500 ft paved runway or a 2,500 ft turf runway.

  1. Falls City

3 Falls City symbols

The John Phillip Falter Museum opened in the historical downtown on May 1, 2015 in the lobby of the former Richardson County Bank. After graduating from Falls City High School in 1928, John Philip Falter went on to become a world-renowned illustrator. The museum features: his Philadelphia studio (on loan from the Nebraska State Historical Society Museum), his 129 “Saturday Evening Post” covers, original Jazz works and prints, as well as other works on loan from local collectors.

The Indian Caves State Park is in close proximity. Named for the park’s large sandstone cave, the park is well known for its beautiful camping and picnicking spots, as well as for its 22 miles of scenic hiking and biking trails along the mighty Missouri River. The park is particularly beautiful in the autumn when you can see wonderful, changing colors.

The Brenner Field Airport (KFNB) is your key to the area.

  1. Beatrice

4 Beatrice symbols

The Homestead National Museum has a Heritage Center and an Education Center. In addition, the 1867 Palmer-Epard Cabin is located just outside the Heritage Center and the Freeman School serves as a reminder of the role the schoolhouse played in the history of settlement on the prairie.

The Beatrice Municipal Airport (KBIE) is a nice little airport with two wonderful crossing runways.

  1. Hebron

5 Hebron symbols

Nebraska is also famous for being home to the largest porch swing in the world. Suspended from a giant crop irrigator pole, it can comfortably seat 24-25 adults.

The Hebron Municipal Airport (KHJH) offers two runways: a 3,600 ft concrete runway and a 2,500 ft turf one. While the airport may not be incredibly busy when you visit, I have seen that airport at one of its busiest time and that was during the 2015 Nebraska State Fly-in and Airshow. They had a great event and turnout!

  1. Lincoln

6 Lincoln symbols

Lincoln is the Capital of Nebraska and the State Capitol is definitely worth a visit.

Nebraska Cornhuskers football is basically a state religion. On game day, Memorial Stadium becomes the third largest city in Nebraska, with over 90,000 screaming fans. With more than 320 consecutive sold out games, the Cornhuskers have been one of the most dedicated fan bases for over 50 years.

Mammoth fossils have been found in most Nebraska counties so the state designated the mammoth as the official state fossil in 1967. In fact, the world’s largest “Woolly Mammoth” fossil was discovered in Lincoln, Nebraska and can be found in the University of Nebraska State Museum.

The Lincoln Airport (KLNK) is Lincoln’s airport and a great one; however, several pilots have landed on the extremely long (12,900 long!) runway when they were cleared to land on the long-enough (5,800 long!) almost parallel (18/36 vs 17/35) runway instead. Look out and review the FAA’s hot spots.

If you are looking for an adrenaline sport… Skydiving Crete is based at the Crete Municipal Airport (KCEK) (not pictured on graphical route), only 16 air miles southwest of KLNK.

  1. Seward

7 Seward symbols

Seward is home to the world’s largest time capsule, buried by Keith Davisson, a man who vowed not to be forgotten. Weighing 45 tons, the capsule was buried in front of a store he owned in 1975 and was marked with a huge pyramid. Set to be opened in 2025, it contains over 5,000 items including a bomb, a pair of bikini-style panties, and even a brand new car.

You have your choice of runway at the Seward Municipal Airport (KSWT): a 4,200 ft concrete runway and a 3,400 ft turf runway. Seward is home to the Midwest Aerobatic Championships, scheduled at the beginning of each July. This year, they had over 30 aircraft and 50 participants!

  1. Grand Island

8 Grand Island symbols

Depending on the time of year you visit, Grand Island creates a huge migratory corridor for Sandhill Cranes. That, of course, is both good and bad news for pilots. Good news… they are pretty and interesting to watch. Bad news… look out the window and avoid them!

The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer preserves and portrays the inspiring era of the pioneer town builders who created the first communities in Nebraska.

The Central Nebraska Regional Airport (KGRI) has three wonderful runways and, let me tell you, they do come in handy in windy Nebraska sometimes. The airport has an onsite restaurant called the Afternooner’s.

  1. Hastings

9 Hastings symbols

Hastings celebrates the birth of Kool-Aid with an annual festival called “Kool-Aid Days” in August.

The town is also home to Hastings College and the Hasting Museum has a popular Planetarium from 1958.

The Hastings Municipal Airport (KHSI) is just northwest of town.

  1. Kearney

10 Kearney symbols

Depending on the time of year you visit, Kearney also creates a huge migratory corridor for Sandhill Cranes.

The Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center preserves the state’s firefighting heritage, fosters public understanding of the impact and benefit of firefighting in regards to saving lives and possessions, and educates individuals about fire prevention and fire safety.

Pilots like airplanes, cars, motorcycles… you name the kind of vehicle! Kearney’s Classic Car Museum is your chance to see over 200 beautiful classic cars.

And the Great Platte River Road Archway is something to see from both the road and the air… as it spans 310 feet over Interstate 80, representing 170 years of America’s westward movement. It features the story of the homesteaders and pioneers who pushed west.

From the air, Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR) may appear to have four runways. Well, it used to. Now it has two and that is sufficient for us to come and visit. And, if you hear students on the radio, chances are they are students from the University of Nebraska at Kearney 🙂

  1. Alma and Red Cloud

11 Alma and Red Cloud symbols

Alma is another good location for bird watching. I should mention that this Nebraska Birding Trails website is a good guide to Nebraska’s bird-watching.

Although the aerial picture of Alma Municipal Airport (4D9) may show a turf runway, their runway is actually paved and very newly paved, actually.

Have a seaplane or an amphibian? Bring it to Alma! They have Nebraska’s only seaplane base – Harlan County Lake (H63).

Side note: Just east of Alma is Red Cloud and the Red Cloud Municipal Airport (7V7) (not pictured on graphical route). The town is the home of Willa Cather and visited extensively by fans of her books on pioneer life.

  1. McCook and Imperial

12 McCook and Imperial symbols

This area had some serious clashes between Native American tribes back in the day. McCook had a WWII training airfield and Imperial is just a nice little farming and agricultural business town.

The former McCook Army Air Field was activated on April 1, 1943 and it is seven miles north and three miles west of McCook. It was one of 11 U.S. Army Air Forces training bases in Nebraska during World War II. It includes three 150 by 7,500 foot concrete runways, five hangars and barracks for 5,000 men. McCook provided final training of heavy bomber crews for the B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and Boeing B-29 Super Fortress. Today, though, the land is owned primarily by farmers and the Nebraska Bureau of Land Management. Most of the concrete runways have been removed except for a 20′ strip on the E-W and SW-NE runways. About a dozen World War II-era buildings still exist at the former airfield in various states of deterioration including all the hangars. You can find it in google by typing “McCook Army Air Base Historical Marker.”

Figure 5. General Location of the McCook Army Air Field

Figure 5 General Location McCook Airfield

Source: Google Earth

Figure 6. McCook Army Air Field

Figure 6 McCook Airfield

Source: Google Earth

Figure 7. McCook Army Air Base Historical Marker

Figure 7 McCook Historical Marker

Source: Google Earth

The McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport (KMCK) and the Imperial Municipal Airport (KIML) are your gateways to the area.

  1. North Platte

13 North Platte symbols

From the 7th floor of the Golden Spike Tower you can see the largest rail switching yard in the country. Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. Named in honor of former Union Pacific President Edd H. Bailey, the massive yard covers 2,850 acres, reaching a total length of eight miles. The yard is located in the midst of key east-west and north-south corridors, on the busiest freight rail line in America, making it a critical component of Union Pacific’s rail network.

The Buffalo Bill State Historical Park is also in North Platte. Col. Wm. F. Cody (better known as Buffalo Bill) built his North Platte home during the heyday of his famous Wild West Show. Cody owned some 4,000 acres and, in 1886, built the large Second Empire mansion at a cost of $3,900. Sixteen of his acres became a historical park in 1965 where you can see his house, barn, and much of his memorabilia. In addition, Nebraskaland Days is held there for almost a week every early summer with rodeos, parades, concerts, etc.

The Norte Platte Regional Airport Lee Bird Field (KLBF) is the airport you want to fly into. The airport has an onsite restaurant called the Lincoln Highway Diner.

  1. Sidney

14 Sidney symbols

Sidney, Nebraska is the birthplace of Cabela’s outfitters. Go see where the dream of the Cabela family began and take in the whopping 85,000 sq ft of outdoor supplies and a museum-quality taxidermy kids love.

And if you want to take a short detour, the town of Porter is about 10 miles west of town and has the only “Duckpin Bowling Alley” west of the Mississippi River.

I am told the Sidney Municipal Airport / Lloyd W. Carr Field (KSNY) is a very nice airfield with a new pilot/passenger lounge and enthusiastic airfield staff. I believe it in Nebraska…

  1. Scottsbluff

15 Scottsbluff symbols

This is a very picturesque part of the state and most of what is mentioned below can be seen from the air as well as from the ground for two different perspectives.

The Western Nebraska Regional Airport / William B. Heilig Field (KBFF) is just east of town. The airport has an onsite restaurant called the Flight Deck Restaurant & Lounge.

Stretching 300 feet into the sky, the Chimney Rock National Historic Site served as a landmark for travelers heading west throughout history. Not only did Oregon Trail travelers use it, but those on the California Trail and Mormon Trail did as well. Chimney Rock is southeast of town by about 25 miles.

The Scotts Bluff National Monument is just on the other side of town from the airport. Towering 800 feet above the North Platte River and rich with geological and paleontological history as well as human history, Scotts Bluff also served as a landmark for peoples from Native Americans to emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails to modern travelers.

The town of Mitchell is just northwest of there and is home to the Brown Sheep Company which spins world famous yarn on a family farm.

  1. Alliance

16 Alliance symbols

Alliance is a railroad town and has a large BNSF rail switching yard.

The perplexing but very cool “Carhenge” is found just outside of town. There’s a lot of flat land in Nebraska that seems to stretch for endless miles. That just means there are a lot of places to do some weird things. One of those weird things is Carhenge, made of 38 old cars buried partially in the ground, reminding viewers of the mysterious Stonehedge found in England.

The Alliance Municipal Airport (KAIA) was a WWII Army Airfield Base where they trained glider pilots among others. The “Ghost Bomber,” a lost B-25 from the Cold War, can be seen east of the field.

KAIA was 2013’s host of the annual Nebraska State Fly-in.

  1. Chadron

17 Chadron symbols

East of town is the Museum of the Fur Trade, home to the only museum in the world that showcases the fur trading industry. It has fantastic displays of Native American artifacts, Fur Trapper tools and garb as well as an impressive display of firearms used during this period of the country’s history.

This is a gateway to the Black Hills with very hilly picturesque terrain.

Travel southwest for 30 miles via car from Chadron to visit the Fort Robinson State Park, an old Cavalry Fort. It one time housed “Buffalo Soldiers” who participated in frontier battles and it offers lots of attractions, including jeep and horse-drawn tours, stagecoach rides, hiking, biking, equestrian trails, and swimming among other things.

West of town and just north of the Ft Robinson State Park is the Toadstool Geological Park and Campground, in an area known as Nebraska’s Badlands. I hear it looks like another planet and is worth a visit. The spectacular rock formations and unusual examples of the effects of water and wind over millions of years make the Toadstool Geologic Park Trail Hike a definite “Must See” on any Western Nebraska trip.

The Chadron Municipal Airport (KCDR) is a good 5 miles west of town.

  1. Valentine

18 Valentine symbols

Valentine is on the Niobrara River and has some of the best scenery in the state both along the river and south of town into the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.

West of Valentine are the towns of Gordon and Rushville. There was a grassroots movement to build approximately 16 miles of the “Cowboy Trail” which is found in other parts of the state and is a repurposed rail bed.

The Miller Field Airport (KVTN) is Valentine’s airport. A leg from KAIA-KVTN or vice versa takes an aircraft over the heart of the Sandhills.

  1. Broken Bow and Ord

19 Broken Bow and Ord symbols

A southeast heading from KVTN gives you the option of:

  • Broken Bow, which is another great Nebraska community and home of the Kinkaider Brewing Company, or
  • Ord, which is home to the Scratchtown Brewing Company and an airport dedicated to Evelyn Sharp, one of Nebraska’s best-known aviatrix during her eight year career as flight instructor, airmail pilot, and ferry pilot.

For a list of other breweries (and even wineries), visit http://dataomaha.com/media/brews/, http://visitnebraska.com/destinations/search/see_and_do?by_interest=Wine+%26+Beer, or http://www.nebraskawines.com/locations/.

Now, remember, no drinking and flying!

The Broken Bow Municipal Airport / Keith Glaze Field (KBBW) airport is just north of town.

The Evelyn Sharp Field Airport (KODX) offers two runways: a 4,700 ft concrete runway and a 2,000 ft turf one.

For planning purposes… KBBW is just southwest of KODX.

  1. Norfolk and Columbus

20 Norfolk and Columbus symbols

Norfolk was the birthplace of Johnny Carson, the American television talk show host and comedian.

The Norfolk Regional Airport / Karl Stefan Memorial Field (KOFK) is one of the larger airports we are highlighting in this Air Trail. The 2012 Nebraska State Fly-in was held at the KOFK airport. Keep in mind the Norfalcon Radio Control Club has a Remote Control (RC) airfield just south of the Norfolk airport.

Figure 8. Location of the Norfalcon Radio Control Club

Norfalcon Radio Control Club at KOFK

Source: Google Earth

Just 32 miles south of Norfolk is the town of Columbus, on confluence of the Loup River and North Platte River. Columbus is the birth place of Andrew Higgins, who designed the Higgins Boats used in the Normandy Landings.

The Columbus Municipal Airport (KOLU) is a very active airfield with aircraft restoration. Paul Muhle, a previous Oshkosh grand champion winning builder, has his shop there.

Topography

In its entirety, the state of Nebraska has a far more dynamic topography than one would expect. While it may fit the mark of a “fly-over state” from FL350, it reveals at least four different types of terrain that stand out to those of us at lower altitudes.

The Eastern part of the state starts with bluffs along the Missouri River that turn into the rolling hills of the “Bohemian Alps” west of Lincoln. If one flies north or south along the western edge of those hills you can see where the edge of an ancient glacier once flowed (and flattened the middle part of the state).

The mid-portion of Nebraska is flat plains; however, there are numerous rivers running through the entirety of the state which are interesting to follow. Prominent rivers throughout the state are the Niobrara River, multiple branches of the Loup River, the Elkhorn River, and the Republican River. The biggest and most prominent of all is the North Platte which spans the length of the state and has centuries of unique frontier history.

The Sandhills territory starts about the midway point through the state, with hundreds of bodies of water filled by the Ogallala Aquifer. Airfields are few and far in between in this portion; however, if viewed from a car, boat or airplane, this area is spectacular and worth transiting as its own attraction.

The Western portion (Panhandle) has the greatest amount of hills, bluffs, and the beginnings of mountainous terrain. Whether flown from east to west, or west to east, the Panhandle of Nebraska is a striking beginning or end of an enjoyable air tour of this great state.

Additional Sources and Information

Nebraska’s Tourism website has plenty of additional tourism/things to see/things to do information you can review before your trip. You can also request a printed “travel guide” from there. Each year the state promotes different tourism destinations via a passport book. You can download it via an app and collect stamps along the way for a chance to win some prizes!

Not sure how exactly you are going to get around once on the ground at some of these locations? Looking for ways to bring a bike or canoe with you? Take a look at this blog I recently published for some ideas.

Have Additional Time?

The “Friendly Airports and Helipads in the AOPA Central Southwest Region” blog covering NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE and IA has a list of those airports that have an on-site restaurant, aviation museum, camping, and/or aircraft viewing area, etc that you may consider stopping at on your way to/from Nebraska.

People and Organizations to Thank

I personally want to thank Ronnie Mitchell, Director of the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics, Rod de Zafra, Pilot and PIREPS Editor for the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics, Jenn Gjerde, Public Information Officer, the Nebraska Tourism Commission, and Tom Winter for their knowledge, time, suggestions, and overall help with this particular Air Trail.

New Mexico True Trails – Route 66 National Scenic Flyway

(Editor’s Note: If you are using something other than Internet Explorer, you may not see all figures)

NM Route 66 symbol

The legendary Route 66 National Scenic Byway, connecting Chicago with Santa Monica, enters New Mexico across a vast, sunlit prairie before meandering through rocky outcrops, quiet streams and adobe villages. Along the route, the high desert landscape is both austere and sublime, its red-hued cliffs dropping off into immense llanos or pine-wooded hills and valleys. Motels and 1950s diners with restored neon signs line portions of the Route 66. This “Scenic Flyway” is a flying version of the famous National Scenic Byway as designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

The National Forest and the National Parks Service have considerable land holdings in New Mexico and along historic Route 66. They include hiking trails, campgrounds, monuments, picnic areas, and scenic roadways.

One unique and historic part of this Scenic Flyway is the 1920’s air corridor across New Mexico that generally followed the Santa Fe Railroad tracks to Gallup, and on into Arizona. By 1929, this route became part of the Midcontinental coast-to-coast airway, developed for passenger service by the fledgling Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) company, with Charles Lindbergh as the head of its technical advisory team.

In an era before radar, pilots depended solely on ground-based landmarks and road maps for guidance. The first airway navigation system was developed in the mid-1920s for airmail service, initially by the Lighthouse Service of the Department of Commerce. On the early mail routes, these sites, with 51-foot beacon towers, were spaced every 10-15 miles for night navigation. For daytime flight, the design included concrete arrows at airway beacon sites. Federal emergency landing fields were also located every 40-50 miles as terrain would allow.

Soon, airline mergers and new radio navigational aids led to realignment of the TAT airway route, with several of its concrete day arrows left behind on lonely hilltops. Dating from 1932, there are two arrows at auxiliary airfields plus eight more at isolated airway beacon sites across New Mexico, from Texas to the Arizona border (a few others are now gone). This route will take you over some of those TAT arrows and you will also have a chance to visit one of those restored beacon sites in person. The Cibola County Historical Society / Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum provided the names and locations (with exact coordinates) of the identified and still existing beacons and arrows in this document and some of them are also included below.

The following figures help give you a visual of the proposed route and stops.

Figure 1. Route Overview

Figure 1. Route Overview

Figure 2. First Half of the Route (East to West) (see reference to locations in Figure 4)

Figure 2. First half of route

Figure 3. Second Half of the Route (East to West) (see reference to locations in Figure 4)

Figure 3. Second half of route

Figure 4. References to Locations on Previous Sectionals

References

Or, for easier reference, you can view the route in a screenshot of ForeFlight.

Figure 5. Route on ForeFlight

ForeFlight overview

Source: ForeFlight

Keep in mind some of these airports may not offer fuel. Please plan accordingly! You may also want to pack a set of tie downs for your aircraft.

If you decide to do part or the entire route and use social media, we would love for you to use #Route66 as a hashtag.

Fly safe, fly often! Enjoy this Scenic Flyway!

Legend

A few symbols have been added throughout the route to make it easy for readers to identify the facilities and activities each airport/area has at a quick glance.

Figure 6. Symbol Legend

Legend

Flight Planning Resources

Always remember to use current charts and always check notams prior to departure.

Google Earth may be a great tool for you to become familiar with the location of certain things, especially TAT arrows, before embarking on your flight. However, keep in mind Google Earth images may not always be recent. This is an example of the format you should use in Google to enter coordinates: 35° 03’ 22.28” N, 106° 47’ 39.86” W.

If using ForeFlight for flight planning and as your Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) in the aircraft, this is an example of the format you should use to enter coordinates: N35032228/W106473986 (same coordinates as above but with a pretty different format).

Also remember that ForeFlight has different map features that may be helpful to you as you are looking for landmarks in addition to the typical “U.S. VFR sectional” or “U.S. IFR (low)” we use, such as:

  • World map
  • Terrain map
  • Street map
  • Aerial map

Other flight planning tools may have similar capabilities.

Safety Resources

It is always good to review best practices and tips when flying around mountains. Subjects like density altitude, turbulence, or terrain really become a player in this type of flying. Here are some resources on the topics:

If you have never flown around mountains, you may also want to consider taking a “mountain flying” course. The New Mexico Pilots Association (NMPA) offers one every year, normally in September, in Santa Fe.

Most locals fly early in the morning on hot summer days.

Route (east to west) (from Texas to Arizona)

  1.  Glenrio. In the route as a fly over point only.
  2. San Jon. In the route as a fly over point only.
  3. Tucumcari (KTCC)

Route 1

Due to construction over the years, it is unclear if there was ever a Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) arrow at the Tucumcari airfield; however, Clovis was the terminal and transfer between planes and trains. The beacons between Clovis and Albuquerque were relocated to the Amarillo-Tucumcari-ABQ alignment when the plane-train service ended in 1930-31 and the four-course range (radio beam) was established. Except for airfields, no concrete arrows were built that late. Tucumcari, a city airfield, apparently did not have one on the new route, while the two isolated Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) fields did have arrows on the 1932 Los Angeles-Amarillo Airway airfields, numbered as Cuervo LA-A 81B and Anton Chico LA-A 78A. This is similar to the 1929-1930 southern border airway, which has arrows only at landing fields.

The Cuervo CAA Intermediate Airfield (you can still see the runway marker circle) and associated arrow (site LA-A Site 81B) can be found at 35° 06’ 25.32” N, 104° 24’ 29.09” W.

Figure 7. General location of the Cuervo CAA Intermediate Airfield and Arrow

Figure 1

Source: Google Earth

Figure 8. Arrow and Runway Marker Circle at the Cuervo CAA Intermediate Airfield

Figure 2

Source: Google Earth

As an anecdote, nearby Conchas Lake Seaplane Base (E61) is the only seaplane base in the state. There is also a 4,800 ft airstrip near the shore of the man-made reservoir. From the Pilot Getaways magazine, Fall of 2000: “The large lake you see in the middle of New Mexico’s barren desert is not a mirage. Camping, fishing, hiking, and tranquility are the best aspects of Lake Conchas. Enjoying a 15-mile long lake after a short flight is a wonderful treat for pilots in a land-locked state.”

4. Santa Rosa (KSXU)

Route 2

Land on part of the original Route 66! Santa Rosa’s runway 08 is an old stretch of Route 66. In the mid-90s, a group of volunteers painted a Route 66 logo on the centerline of the runway; however, with post resurfacing and runway work, unfortunately that logo was covered.

The original, pre-1937 alignment of Route 66 ran south of Interstate 40. However, it cannot be followed now because part of the road is on private land and another section is now part of the runway at the Route 66 Municipal Airport.  The post-1937 alignment follows US Hwy 54 and the I-40 Business Loop.

The picture below shows the alignment of the runway with the main road though town and the old roadbed beyond the airport to the east.

Figure 9. Santa Rosa Airport and Surroundings

Figure 3

Source: Dick Perry

Santa Rosa’s main attraction is unique: the Blue Hole, an 80-foot-wide, 80-foot-deep artesian well filled with water so crystal-clear that it draws scuba divers from all over the western states to practice their underwater techniques here. The water of the Blue Hole, at around 61°F, is too cold for casual swimming but, in the summer heat, it’s a great place to cool your heels.

The Blue Hole is well signed at the end of Blue Hole Road, a half mile south of old Route 66; for purists, Blue Hole Road is old, old Route 66, since it formed the early (pre-1937) alignment of the Mother Road across Santa Rosa, the rest of which is used as a runway at the city’s airport. East of here, running along the south side of I-40, one of the oldest stretches of Route 66 is only partly paved and best done in a 4WD or on a mountain bike. Here you get an indelible sense of what travel was like in the very early days, when less than half of the route’s 2,400-odd miles were paved.

The arrow at the Anton Chico CAA Intermediate Airfield (site LA-A Site 78A) can be found at 35° 08’ 9.10” N, 105° 05’ 5.15” W.

Figure 10. General location of the arrow at the Anton Chico CAA Intermediate Airfield

Figure 4

Source: Google Earth

Figure 11. Arrow at the Anton Chico CAA Intermediate Airfield

Figure 5

Source: Google Earth

Sub route A – Original Route

A1. Moriarty (0E0)

Route 3

The Moriarty airport has a CAA beacon tower and station house from the 1932-64’s Otto airfield.

Moriarty boasts some of the finest year round soaring conditions in the United States, including 15 knot thermals to 22,000 ft, mountain wave to 34,000 ft, and orographic lift off the Manzano, Sandia, Ortiz, and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges. Many flights in excess of 300 miles are recorded each year.

Whether you are novice or an expert glider pilot, either one of these groups would be happy to show you around:

  • Sundance Aviation is a commercial glider operator. Check out their inspiring video!
  • The Albuquerque Soaring Club (ASC) was established in 1960, has approximately 80 active members, and owns two Piper Pawnee tow planes and four club gliders.

Gliding is such a big part of Moriarty that they also have a museum dedicated to soaring – the U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum.

A2. Sandia East (1N1). In the route as a fly over point only; however, feel free to stop in.

To KAEG via Tijeras (VFR checkpoint) OR via the Pumping Station (VFR checkpoint)

Sub route B – Later Route

B1. Las Vegas (KLVS)

The now-retired Southwest Aviator magazine wrote a nice story on Las Vegas, New Mexico back in March/April of 2004 covering its tourist appeal as well as its aviation history. While most of its information still applies, keep in mind it is from 2001 so some of the phone numbers and airport information, for example, may be different now.

The Santa Fe Trail travels from Las Vegas to Santa Fe via San Miguel del Vado, Pecos Ruins and Glorieta Pass.

B2. Romeroville. In the route as a fly over point only.

B3. San Jose. In the route as a fly over point only.

B4. Pecos Pueblo.

Route 4

The Pecos National Historical Monument has visually stunning ruins and was one of the largest of all pueblos just prior to the arrival of the Spaniards.

B5. Santa Fe (KSAF)

Route 5

Santa Fe sits at the base of soaring Sangre de Cristo Mountains in central New Mexico. Founded as a Spanish colony in 1610, Santa Fe embodies a rich history and a melding of Native American, Spanish, Hispanic, and European cultures. It is renowned for its pueblo-style architecture, colorful markets, traditional and contemporary art, amazing cuisine, and unparalleled outdoor adventures. Santa Fe is ranked as the #1 Cultural Getaway by Travel+Leisure, Best High Altitude City by National Geographic, and Reader’s Choice Best Shopping Cities in the World by Condé Nast Traveler.

From the Pilot Getaways magazine, Fall of 2001: “Something magical in the light of Santa Fe has attracted a vibrant artistic community to this town on a New Mexico plateau. Here pueblo Indians continue their traditional lifestyle while a modern culture thrives. Exotic and beautiful, it is a place you should explore on foot, wandering the Farmers Market and galleries. Fall is the perfect time to avoid the crowds and enjoy the changing landscape.”

“Santa Fe Municipal Airport (KSAF) – with its charming terminal building, new-Mexican flair café, and exceptional Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) – is the gateway to a world-class, must stop destination along the Route 66 Flyway.” – Cameron Humphres, Santa Fe’s Airport Manager.

With all that it has to offer and 320 sunny days per year, Santa Fe is a magical, exuberant, colorful, world-class destination.  Come see for yourself why Santa Fe is known as “The City Different.”

There are many things to see and do in its historic downtown. For more information, visit: http://santafe.org/.

And, while in Santa Fe, you may want to visit the “Oblique Views: Archaeology, Photography, and Time” exhibit at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. It tells the story of the Southwest through the aerial photographs of Charles and Anne Lindbergh and Adriel Heisey.

B6. Switchback Hills at “La Bajada” Hill

Route 6

La Bajada Hill is considered the dividing point between the Rio Arriba (upper river) and Rio Abajo (lower river). Travelers on the Camino Real could take this route to reach Santa Fe, which became part of Route 66’s pre-1938 alignment. Barely 1.5 miles long through though volcanic rock, the old road on La Bajada Hill included 23 hairpin turns and was famous for overturned wagons and boiling radiators. It was so steep that gravity-fed tanks had to take it in reverse. In 1932, a new road up the escarpment was laid out slightly to the east and later widened into I-25. La Bajada means “the descent.”

Figure 12. Switchback Hills

Figure 6

Source: Elizabeth Hunke

      5. Coronado Historic Site (along Rio Grande River)

Route 7

The Coronado Historic Site is an archaeological dig in the 1930s uncovered the foundations and several Kivas (one restored that visitors can descent into). The views along the Rio Grande and of the Sandia, Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains from the site are spectacular. There is campground available.

6. Albuquerque (KAEG)

Route 8

Gemit Paulsen said it well in the intro of the “Albuquerque – An Exciting Blend of Cultures” article he wrote for the Southwest Aviation magazine:

“Four centuries of history can’t be wrong. Abundant natural beauty, a year-round mild climate, and the subtle blending of the many cultures that comprise its history make Albuquerque, New Mexico an exciting destination well worth exploring.”

Two aviation magazines covered Albuquerque’s “to do’s” and history well:

  • The Southwest Aviator magazine did a story on Albuquerque’s history and local sights back in March/April 2002.
  • From the Pilot Getaways magazine, dated September/October 2014: “Albuquerque has been the location for AMC’s popular show Breaking Bad, but the real city defies the stereotypes seen in the show. Set in the shadow of the beautiful Sandia Mountains, and with the Rio Grande running through it, Albuquerque makes a wonderful—and safe—weekend getaway. As Managing Editor Crista Worthy explains, visitors can start with Petroglyph National Monument, which begins right across the street from Double Eagle II Airport. In the monument, you can view hundreds of ancient petroglyphs and hike to several volcanoes. Outdoor enthusiasts can also hike or bike the Sandia Mountains, where they’ll enjoy cool breezes and expansive views of the valleys below. Or go for a jog beside ancient, tree-line acequias (irrigation ditches), which residents still use to irrigate their locally grown crops. Every October, fans of hot-air ballooning flock to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest. You’ll feel pure joy when you watch about 600 colorful balloons ascend into the blue sky or when you watch the evening Balloon Glows. Pilots can take a tour of the Eclipse jet factory to see cutting-edge technology right on the assembly line. Albuquerque has plenty of upscale shopping and art galleries, as well as authentic Indian jewelry and art, all over town. You’ll want to try authentic New Mexican cuisine while you visit. When it comes to chiles, New Mexico takes them seriously. Even their state question is: “Red or green?” This refers to what type of chile sauce you’d like. If you can’t decide, just order it “Christmas” style, and get both! Accommodations range from upscale eco-hotels downtown with hopping nightlife and rooftop bars to cozy B&Bs and even an historic farmstead designed by a legendary architect in his signature Pueblo Revival style. Like so many others who visit, we bet you’ll fall in love with this place!”

The Matador Network lists “The Luz Trail” as “one of New Mexico’s Most Spectacular Hikes.” It is an incredibly popular but difficult trail. Found on the west face of the Sandia Mountains, right on the edge of Albuquerque, La Luz Trail climbs eight miles to either the crest of Sandia Peak or over to the Sandia Peak Tramway. It is a rough hike intended for the fit, gaining nearly 4,000 feet on an impressively steep grade, and for most of the year the dry air will literally suck the moisture from your body. Take plenty of water with you. One of the best things about this climb is the experience of crossing multiple climatic zone and ecotones, which means rapid flora and fauna changes as you gain elevation. Oh, and then there’s the view. Not only is the city below impressive, you get to see all the surrounding mountains from up high: Mount Taylor to the west, the Sierra Ladrones in the south, and the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo mountains to the north.

The Double Eagle II Airport (KAEG) has an on-site restaurant, the Bombing Range Café, with wonderful views of the airfield. The old Southwest Aviator magazine did a story on it back in 2004 when it was called The Prop Wash Café.

Want to camp? You may do so at the Enchanted Trails campground close to KAEG.

Albuquerque features more than 400 miles of on-street bicycle facilities and multi-use trails. The Paseo de la Mesa Trail runs right by the Double Eagle II airport. And, of course, you can always create your own route. Here is one that stopped at the Double Eagle II airport a group under the New Mexico Touring Society organized on February 6, 2016.

The Petroglyph National Monument is a nationally protected 17 mile escarpment left from volcano activity hundreds of thousands of years ago. There are over 15,000 petroglyphs created sometime between 1300 and 1600. This is a good place for hiking.

Albuquerque has both a downtown and an Old Town (historic downtown). For more information on things to see and do there, visit: http://www.visitalbuquerque.org/.

Most people associate Albuquerque with balloons and rightfully so as the city has a long standing history with the aeronautical activity:

  • The Albuquerque Balloon Museum is a good place to visit and learn about the city’s ballooning history.
  • Held every year, Balloon Fiesta is Albuquerque’s most popular festival. It is normally held in October although their website can always confirm it. Going to the 2016 AOPA Regional Fly-in in Prescott, AZ on Saturday, October 1st? The 2016 Balloon Fiesta starts that same day so you may want to consider stopping in Albuquerque on your way back for that! Beautiful balloons of all colors will be flying over.
  • But, if you’re not there during Balloon Fiesta, you can just about see a balloon on any particular nice morning (early morning, that is!).

West of Albuquerque, several arrows remain from the 1929 TAT Midcontinental Airway route; however, these gray TAT concrete arrows can be difficult to spot on the desert floor.

The first arrow site is Beacon TAT 76 (9-Mile-Hill Beacon LA-A 68) at 35° 03’ 22.28” N, 106° 47’ 39.86” W. It is on the mesa just south of I-40. Note, this site is under KABQ’s Class C airspace and just south of KAEG’s Class D airspace.

Figure 13. General Location of TAT Site 76

Figure 7

Source: Google Earth

Figure 14. Arrow at TAT Site 76

Figure 8

Source: Google Earth

The Rio Puerco Valley Beacon is TAT Site 75 and can be found at 35° 01’ 49.75” N, 106° 58’ 34.53” W. It is just north of Interstate 40 and east of a dirt road, soon after flying over the Route 66 Casino Hotel and Travel Center.

Figure 15. General location of TAT Site 75

Figure 9

Source: Google Earth

Figure 16. Arrow at TAT Site 75

Figure 10

Source: Google Earth

      7. Las Lunas

Route 13

TAT Site 74 is on a low mesa rim. The easy-to-see visible feature to help you find it is the junction of I-40 and NM Hwy 6, about a mile west of the arrow. The coordinates are 34° 59’ 05.13” N, 107° 08’ 56.22” W.

Figure 17. General location of TAT Site 74

Figure 11

Source: Google Earth

Figure 18. Arrow at TAT Site 74

Figure 12

Source: Google Earth

      8. Laguna Pueblo and Acoma

Route 13

To respect Native American culture, please avoid low flying over Laguna and Acoma (also known as Sky City).

Laguna Pueblo is the largest Keresan-speaking pueblo. Historians believe the ancestors of the pueblo have occupied the Laguna homelands since at least A.D. 1300. For more information, visit: https://www.newmexico.org/laguna-pueblo/ and http://www.lagunapueblo-nsn.gov/.

Acoma, believed to have been established in the 12th century or even earlier, was chosen in part because of its defensive position against raiders. It is regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Both the mission and pueblo have been designated as a Registered National Historical Landmarks. For more information (including tour information), visit: https://www.newmexico.org/acoma-pueblo/ and http://www.acomaskycity.org/home.html.

Enroute to Grants-Millan (KGNT) From Laguna Pueblo

Route 13

Two miles northwest of Seama, TAT Site 72 (also called Seama Mesa) sits south of Flower Mountain, not far from Interstate 40. The coordinates are 35° 02’ 55.4” N, 107° 32’ 46.1” W.

Figure 19. Location of TAT Site 72

Figure 13

Source: Google Earth

TAT Site 71 (also called Anzac Mesa) is located on a small mesa above the lava flows in the valley of the Rio San Jose, Rte. 66, and the Santa Fe tracks. This arrow was a key turning point to follow the TAT airway and railroad west to Gallup. It is a mile northwest of the abandoned Acomita Intermediate Airfield (1932-52) and its radio range navigational site. The coordinates are 35° 03’ 39.73” N, 107° 43’ 31.53” W.

Figure 20. General Location of TAT Site 71

Figure 14

Source: Google Earth

Figure 21. Arrow at TAT Site 71

Figure 15

Source: Google Earth

      9. Grants-Millan (KGNT)

Route 12

The Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum at the KGNT airport honors those pioneer aviators who crossed the West along the 1929-era Los Angeles-to-Amarillo segment of the Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) route. You can see Beacon LA-A 62, complete with a painted tower and corresponding generator shack, at the museum.

El Malpais National Monument was formed by millions of years of volcanic activity. The lava flows have created a unique, beautiful and eerie landscape. The 115,000 acre monument is also known for its archaeological sites.

The Matador Network lists the “Zuni-Acoma Trail” as “one of New Mexico’s Most Spectacular Hikes.” “For over 1,000 years, the pueblos of Zuni and Acoma were connected by a 75-mile trail traversing some of the roughest territory in the Southwest. Today, eight miles of this ancient trail remain in El Malpais National Monument, and it is still peppered with the rock cairns, and ceramic debris left by the region’s original inhabitants. For experienced hikers, eight relatively flat miles may seem like a walk in the park. But be warned: This is a serious adventure that will take about six hours one way. The Zuni-Acoma Trail crawls over rugged lava flows and frequently disappears — it’s marked in many places by nothing more than simple rock cairns. Located 16 miles south of Interstate 40, the western trailhead begins on NM-53. The eastern trailhead can be found on NM-117. Carry plenty of water, wear solid, reliable boots, and above all…enjoy.”

Enroute to Gallup (KGUP) from Grants-Millan (KGNT)

Route 13

TAT Site 69 (also called Prewitt) was another key turning point for TAT to follow the Santa Fe Railroad route up toward the Continental Divide and Beacon TAT-68. This may have been a 75-foot tower. The coordinates are 35° 21’ 45.25” N, 108° 02’ 45.70” W.

Figure 22. General location of TAT Site 69

Figure 16

Source: Google Earth

Figure 23. Arrow at TAT Site 69

Figure 17

Source: Google Earth

TAT Site 68 (also called Continental Divide) may be hard to spot due to several adjacent structures, and the vegetation growth around the tower site. The coordinates are 35° 25’ 36.67” N, 108° 18’ 11.60” W.

Figure 24. General location of TAT Site 68

Figure 18

Source: Google Earth

Figure 25. Arrow at TAT Site 68

Figure 19

Source: Google Earth

TAT Site 67 (also called ChurchRock Rd / Ft Wingate) is the last confirmed TAT arrow in western New Mexico, although another is rumored to have been just west of Gallup. At this beacon site, right next to Old Route 66, the generator shed was destroyed when I-40 was constructed. The coordinates are 35° 31’ 45.83” N, 108° 36’ 23.10” W.

Figure 26. General location of TAT Site 67

Figure 20

Source: Google Earth

Figure 27. Arrow at TAT Site 67

Figure 21

Source: Google Earth

      10. Gallup (KGUP)

Route 14

Gallup is known for its trading posts where one can buy and sell Native American jewelry, clothing, pottery, carvings, art, etc.

From the Pilot Getaways magazine, November/December 2010: “Gallup is often called the Indian Capital of the World, and if you love Native American arts, you will absolutely love this place. Indian artists from the Navajo, Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, and Santo Domingo Pueblos bring their finest creations to the authentic trading posts here. Step inside one of these trading posts and be blown away by the sheer quantity of turquoise, pottery, and rugs. As Technical Editor Crista V. Worthy explains, the staff will be happy to give you a tour into their vaults where many Indians store their most precious possessions. You can buy with confidence, knowing exactly where and by whom a piece of jewelry was made, and perhaps even learn a bit about the artists themselves. Downtown Gallup bustles with local activity and diversity. Savor authentic Southwestern cuisine at low prices. Visit the historic El Rancho Hotel with its Western and film memorabilia, and then take a few side trips. The countryside is loaded with national monuments, including the fantastic Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Make a visit to the nearby Zuni Pueblo and meet local artists in their studios. December brings the Red Rock Balloon Rally, with upwards of 200 hot air balloons filling the skies, as well as parades, dancing, and other activities. In August, come for the Intertribal Ceremonial, where Indians from tribes all over the U.S. converge to show off their finest clothes, dances, jewelry, and other arts.”

Pilot Getaways’ Spring of 1999 magazine mentions flying into Gallup Municipal Airport (KGUP). “Following the interstate keeps aircraft away from rough terrain. Gallup Municipal Airport (GUP) is stretched out along the south side of Route 66, about a mile south of Interstate 40. For VFR arrivals from either east or west, it is easy to find; simply follow the interstate and look for a runway parallel to your flight path. If you’re having difficulty spotting the airport, look for Highway 666, one of the few major highways branching off towards the north, just east of the airport. Flying in the pattern at GUP is deceiving because the terrain underneath the pattern is higher than the airport elevation of 6,469 feet; you will tend to be high when coming in for landings. Be aware that there may be substantial loss of performance due to the elevation and high temperature.”

KGUP has an on-site restaurant called Badlands Grill. They are known for their steaks.

Side Trip to Ramah

Route 15

Mystic Bluffs (NM56) is a privately owned, private use airport (except for one weekend a year when everybody is invited to their annual fly-in/camp-out) so remember to ask for permission prior to landing and operate at your own risk. However, even if not landing, it is still a very beautiful area to explore from the air.

A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of a sandstone bluff made, El Morro (the headland) National Monument was a popular campsite for hundreds of years.

All of New Mexico provides wonderful hiking opportunities; however, water is scarce in certain areas. Depending on the season and year, you can hike to waterfalls and find canoeing opportunities around Ramah.

Refer to another blog titled “3rd Annual Backcountry Fly-in at the Beautiful Mystic Bluffs (NM45) in New Mexico” for more information and pictures of NM56.

11. Manuelito. In the route as a fly over point only.

Have Additional Time and Coming From or Going To the East/Northeast?

Route 16

The AOPA Central Southwest Regional Page covering NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE and IA has a blog on “friendly airports and helipads” with a list of those that have an on-site restaurant, aviation museum, camping, and/or aircraft viewing area, etc that you may consider stopping at on your way to/from the Route 66.

Sources for Additional Information

The New Mexico Department of Tourism has a link with information and a video about the “Route 66 National Scenic Byway” on their website.

The New Mexico Route 66 Association has a wonderful website with all the information you can possibly need regarding Route 66 as it travels through New Mexico.

Not sure how exactly you are going to get around once on the ground at some of these locations? Looking for ways to bring a bike or canoe with you? Take a look at this blog I recently published for some ideas.

People and Organizations to Thank

Several people and organizations have contributed information to the creation of this Flyway. Their knowledge, time, and efforts for the benefit of all pilots and passengers are highly appreciated:

  • Steve Summers, Director of Aviation, New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT)
  • Joyce Woods, Vice President of the New Mexico Pilots Association (NMPA) and AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer for KAEG
  • Steve Owen with the Cibola County Historical Society at the Grants-Milan Airport
  • Cameron Humphres, Airport Manager for KSAF
  • Elizabeth Hunke and Dick Perry for their pictures
  • Pilot Getaways magazine
  • Sometimes Interesting
  • Zhanna’s Beacon Survey Station Database

 

 

 

“Flying Oz,” the Ozarks Air Trail!

(Editor’s Note: If you are using something other than Internet Explorer, you may not see all figures)

Rugged beauty, stunning vistas, secluded cabins and B&Bs, unique lodging options, cute towns, camping, sparkling rivers to canoe or kayak, lakes for different water activities, waterfalls, fish-filled lakes and rivers, hiking and biking trails, off-roading trails, horseback riding trails, zip-lining, fly boarding, golfing, museums, awe-inspiring caverns, shopping, interesting history… the Ozarks offer enjoyable and fun year-round adventures and activities and available to pilots with average to above average skills.

The Ozarks, covering portions of three states (Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma), truly have it all, including great fly-in options! This road map shows what is considered “the Ozarks.”

Figure 1. Byrd’s Backcountry Airstrip.

Source: Zen Boulden.

Legend

A few symbols have been added throughout the route to make it easy for readers to identify the facilities and activities each airport/area has at a quick glance.

Figure 2. Symbol Legend.

Route

The Ozarks provide a stunning backdrop for a long vacation or some weekend getaway fun – your choice! We have developed a route that includes activities and airports for pilots and travelers of all ages and interests.

We have chosen nine different stops with two of the stops having multiple airports to choose from. We have included a mixture of community and backcountry airstrips, paved and non-paved runways, public and private airports… to ensure there is something for everybody based on pilot skills and experience and aircraft capabilities. Keep in mind some of the private airstrips may require prior permission from the owners. Fly at your own risk – you are Pilot in Command!

The following figures help give a visual of the entire route.

Figure 3. Route Overview.

Figure 4. First Half of the Route (see references to locations in Figure 6).

1st half of the route_final

Figure 5. Second Half of the Route (see references to locations in Figure 6).

2nd half of the route_final

Figure 6. References to Locations on Previous Sectionals.

Or, for easier reference, you can view the route in a screenshot of ForeFlight.

Figure 7. Route on ForeFlight.

ForeFlight screenshot_final

Source: ForeFlight.

You can start/stop this route from any airport and fly it in any order or direction you prefer.

Keep in mind some of these do not offer fuel. Please plan accordingly!

You may also want to pack a set of tie downs for your aircraft.

If you decide to do part or the entire route and use social media, we would love for you to use #OzarksAirTrail as a hashtag.

Fly safe, fly often! Enjoy the Air Trail!

Grand Lake, OK

Grand Lake has three wonderful airports (1K8, 3O9, and KGMJ) for you to choose from:

  • Grand Lake Regional (3O9) in Monkey Island: The Landings on Monkey Island community, as they call it, offers direct home access by land, water or air. This airport has not one, but two, on-site restaurants. Market and Grill is in the FBO alongside a convenience store, a gas station and a car wash. Aqua Bar & Grill is down in their marina, on the water. There, you can also rent a boat or jetski. Sangri La Resort offers championship golf and it’s only a mile away.

Grand Lake and the Neosho River are great places for you to obtain a seaplane rating or exercise it, if you already have one. Steve Robinson with Grand Seaplanes, LLC would be happy to offer some training in his Lake Amphibian. He normally operates between his house on the lake (where he ramps his aircraft), 1K8, and KGMJ.

Nearby Disney, OK is known among 4-wheelers. There is world class off-roading and “jeeping” below the Pensacola Dam. Hogan’s Off Road Park, as an example, is a campground that offers 25 miles of woods trails, a rock crawling area, as well as some deep mud pits and swimming holes.

The Grand Lake State Park has several smaller parks that are located near the Pensacola Dam and around the lake.

Looking for other things to do and see once there? Visit http://www.travelok.com/grove for plenty of options.

Bentonville, AR

Northwest Arkansas has quite a variety of airports to choose from but Bentonville Municipal Airport/Louise M Thaden Field (KVBT) really stands out as a friendly GA airport that is trying its best to offer everything any pilot could ask for. The City of Bentonville offers a courtesy car and the FBO, Summit Aviation, can offer you a bike to ride, shuttle you, or line up a car. Summit also offers backcountry flying and tailwheel training and instruction!

KVBT has an “outdoor pilots lounge” on the Northeast corner of the airport, just south of Lake Bentonville. Relaxing, fishing and picnicking are encouraged. Camping is also an option.

Figure 3. “Outdoor Pilots Lounge” at KVBT.

Source: Yasmina Platt.

Highlights:

Ozark, AR

Since 1982, Byrd’s Adventure Center at Byrd’s Backcountry Airstrip Airport (51AR) has been “the leading off-road and ATV park in Arkansas and one of the top canoe, kayak and raft rental services on the wild and scenic Mulberry River, surrounded by the Ozark National Forest.” It’s a great place to fish, hike, or just simply relax!

But, that’s not all. Byrd’s Adventure Center features two grass runways on 800 private acres. The primary 1,900’ 07/25 runway is suitable for many single-engine airplanes.  Landing to the west and departing to the east (conditions permitting) is recommended and pilots are encouraged to monitor 122.8. All pilots and aircraft are welcome; however, the Center does recommend some mountain flying experience (see above, under KVBT) as gusty conditions can create turbulence along the runway.  The secondary runway, 1,200’ 17/35, accommodates short field oriented aircraft and pilots.  With an electric line at the south end and a line of trees and a sharp elevation increase on the north end, creative approaches and departures are required.

If you are the camping type, bring your gear! Primitive camping is offered with access to a large heated shower house. If you’re not… no problem! Cabins are available as well. The Center also has a year-round store and a riverfront restaurant normally open, Friday, Sat & Sunday, from March to December. Byrd’s hosts fly-ins every spring and fall so you may want to time your trip with one of their fly-ins.

If you plan ahead and give them a call, they may also be able to arrange letting you use a courtesy car during your stay.

(Note: The airport ID was assigned for this airport in May/June of 2016 so it may not appear in all GPS databases yet. The coordinates are: latitude 35 40’ 37” N; longitude 93 43’ 59” W)

Berryville and Eureka Springs, AR

In 1930, the City of Eureka Springs purchased land for a landing strip. This is now the Carroll County Airport (4M1). Another airport, the Lake Lucerne Airport, was also built in 1930 but, unfortunately, it closed about 30 years later for housing. To learn more about Eureka Spring’s aviation history, visit http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=835.

(Note: 4M1 is scheduled to close on June 13, 2016 for approximately 2 weeks to resurface the runway! Always check notams prior to departure!)

It’s only a 9 mile drive between 4M1 and Eureka Springs via a scenic but winding road (highway 62) that takes about 15-20 minutes to drive. In fact, they say that the roads to Eureka Springs are some of the best touring roads in the U.S. The airport has a half a dozen courtesy cars available for pilots and crews to use.

The historic town has plenty of cute shops, galleries, spas, restaurants, etc to explore. Looking for more things to do and see once there? Visit http://www.eurekasprings.org/ and http://www.eurekaspringsonline.com/ for some more suggestions.

Looking for unique lodging options? Try a safari lodge or a tree house at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge or maybe a castle, cave or hobbit at Estree Houses.

Shell Knob, MO

7 Shell Knob

Hungry? The restaurant at the Turkey Mountain Airport (MO00) is a good place to stop in. They usually have a fly-in every month also. Note this grass strip is a private own, private use airport so you will need prior permission from the owner to fly in. FMI and to find the owner’s contact info, visit: http://www.turkeymountainairport.com/.

(Note: This restaurant is undergoing renovations as of June of 2016 and its reopening date is unknown!)

Branson, MO

8 Branson

While Branson has several different airports to choose from, M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (KPLK) is the closest airport to town. It is also the airport a Southwest Airlines B737 crew confused for the Branson Airport (KBBG) back in 2014.

Branson’s 76 Country Boulevard is famously lined with theaters, which once hosted mostly country music performers but today present diverse entertainment. Also along the strip are Silver Dollar City, an 1800s-themed amusement park with live music, the landmark Marvel Cave, Dolly Parton’s Wild West-style Dixie Stampede dinner theater, and numerous shopping opportunities at area malls. New attractions in 2016 include the Branson Ferris Wheel and Fritz’s Adventure.

So, Branson is a good place to eat, visit a museum, enjoy an attraction, or take in a show: magic, rock ‘n’ roll, country, family harmonies, comedy, dinner shows, gospel… You name it, they have it!

Prefer to stay away from the hustle and bustle of town? You can also golf, hike, horseback ride, zip-line, or enjoy the many water activities at one of their three beautiful lakes: Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, or Lake Taneycomo.

  • Table Rock Lake is a world-class spot for boating, fishing and swimming.
    • Table Rock State Park features a modern campground, a full-service marina, trails, picnic areas, etc.
    • The State Park Marina is a great place for lake activities, anything boating to scuba diving.
    • Want to try a different type of flying activity? You may want to try para-sailing or the newer fly boarding.
    • Just want to enjoy the lake and relax? Sure! You can even rent a houseboat.
  • Bull Shoals Lake offers a variety of activities including hiking, hunting, fishing, and water sports such as swimming and boating.
  • Lake Taneycomo has clear cold waters which provide some of the finest trout fishing available anywhere in the world!

The Missouri Division of Tourism’s website has a good website with more ideas.

Lakeview, AR

9 Lakeview

Gaston’s White River Resort is renowned as mid-America’s premier trout fishing destination, famous for its record rainbow and brown trout. Pilot Getaways’ Summer 2003 magazine couldn’t have said it better. “Known as one of the leading trout fishing resorts in the Ozarks, Gaston’s offers lodging, dining, and activities right next to your tie down on its 3,200-ft. grass strip. Rise at 7am for a misty morning guided float trip, or head out fly fishing on your own… a 20-foot Johnboat is included with your stay. You’ll also find tennis, swimming, and great hiking not far from your cabin. Gaston’s is a fisherman’s paradise any time of year.”

The airstrip (3M0) has a 06/24 runway with their own Bermuda grass and is open to everyone. They encourage everybody to use 122.8.

Their restaurant is normally open from around Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving weekend. You can try some of the freshest trout or go for a steak.

You can camp, if you want, but “enjoying the great outdoors at Gaston’s is by no means, roughing it.” They offer cottages and a lodge.

If you have never fly fished before or if you would like to improve your skills, they also offer classes with one of the most knowledgeable fly fishing guides on the White River.

The Bull Shoals-White River State Park is just 7 minutes away by car. The visitor/education center is named in honor of James (Jim) A. Gaston, owner of Gaston’s White River Resort. Its observation tower affords a sweeping view of the White River, Bull Shoals Dam, and Bull Shoals Lake. Interpretive exhibits are featured throughout the lobby, theater, gift ship and exhibit hall.

Lake of the Ozarks, MO

10 Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks is the No. 1 recreational lake, according to USA Today.

Lake of the Ozarks has three wonderful airports (KOZS, K15 and KAIZ) to choose from depending on what you are intending to do or where you are intending to go once there:

Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the largest in the state park system, contains natural areas ranging from rugged, wooded areas to delicate cave formations and more than 80 miles of lake frontage. In addition to hiking and backpacking trails, the park has three equestrian trails (guided rides are available from Hayburner Ranch) and two mountain biking trails. An aquatic self-guiding trail marked with buoys on the Grand Glaize Arm of the lake is designed for boaters interested in learning about features along the shoreline. On the south end of the park is Ozark Caverns, best known for a deposit called “Angel’s Shower,” a never ending shower of water that seems to come out of solid rock. With lantern in hand, visitors can view sleeping bats, bear claw marks and the speleological wonders as the first explorers did.

As a water-based park, the park also offers excellent opportunities for water recreation. Two free public swimming beaches include bathhouses and shady picnic areas nearby. Public Beach #1 also offers canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals.

Camping facilities, ranging from primitive to electric hookups, are available year-round and include modern restrooms, laundry facilities and dumping stations.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park has won numerous awards and contains castle ruins that attract people from all over the country. According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, “imposing architecture and breathtaking scenery combine to make Ha Ha Tonka State Park one of Missouri’s most treasured spots. Located on the Lake of the Ozarks, the park features the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle built by a prominent Kansas City businessman high atop a bluff. More than 15 miles of trails traverse the park, leading visitors to sinkholes, natural bridges, caves and down to the lake.”

If you have never been in a helicopter, the Lake of the Ozarks may be a good place to do it. Lake Ozarks Helicopters, Inc. offers six different routes around the lake during the warmer months of the year.

For more things to see or do while there, visit http://www.funlake.com/ and https://www.visitmo.com/lake-of-the-ozarks.aspx.

Miller, MO

14 Miller

Hungry? The Hangar Kafe at the Kingsley Airfield (MO9) is a great place to have a hamburger. MO9 is a flat grass strip right in between the Grand Lake Area and Lake of the Ozarks. They also have live music most Friday and Saturday nights during the summer months. FMI: https://www.facebook.com/Hangar-Kafe-172233816266197/.

Like the thrill of skydiving? The Ozarks Skydive Center is based at MO9.

Have Additional Time?

You can explore Petit Jean (KMPJ), Plane Crazy USA at River Bend Aero Ranch just east of Mena, or Hot Springs (KHOT) in Central/Southern Arkansas on your way to/from the Ozarks.

Petit Jean, AR

15 Petit Jean

The Petit Jean State Park is Arkansas’ first state park. It is an “Arkansas icon, a state natural and historic treasure that has welcomed travelers over the decades.”

From Pilot Getaways’ March/April 2005 magazine: “Camping just steps from your airplane is a dream for many. Mix in great fishing and hiking, plenty of wildlife, and a spectacular night sky, and you might think you really are dreaming. But—pinch yourself—this is Petit Jean, one of Arkansas’ best-kept secrets.”

There are more than 20 miles of hiking trails in Arkansas that will lead you through Petit Jean’s natural and historic resources. Walk to the spectacular 95 foot Cedar Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Arkansas, meander through ancient geology on the Seven Hollows Trail, or enter Rock House Cave and view ancient pictographs.

The Petit Jean State Park Airport (KMPJ) has five tent sites with electricity and water. But, if camping is “not your thing,” the Mather Lodge is a great place to stay with 24 guest rooms and several cabins. The lodge also has a restaurant.

Plane Crazy USA at River Bend Aero Ranch, AR

16 Plane Crazy USA

Located in Polk County, just nine miles east of Mena, this private airstrip provides a 3,300 ft. North/South grass landing strip in the Ouachita Mountains and on the banks of the Ouachita River, making it a very scenic and unique field from which to fly.

Spend a night or a week. They have hookups for RVs, plenty of space for tent camping, and a three bedroom and two bath cottage.

You can canoe, kayak or fish on the Ouachita River (they can provide a canoe and shuttle service), hike or bike on several trails, horseback ride on trails in the National Forest, visit the nearby Wolf Pen Gap ATV trails, take a drive on the Talimena Scenic Drive, visit the Queen Wilhelmina State Park, or stroll through Mean’s downtown and many shops. Restaurants are available in downtown Mena or just a mile down the road at the Cherry Hill Store.

Note this grass strip is a private own, private use airport so you will need prior permission from the owner to fly in. FMI and to find the owner’s contact info, visit: http://www.planecrazyusa.com/.

Hot Springs, AR

17 Hot Springs

From Pilot Getaways’ Winter 2003/2004 magazine: “For centuries, a valley in the Arkansas Ouachitas mountains has been the focus of pilgrimages for “the cure” for life’s ailments. Even in this age of high-tech medicine, hot mineral waters from 47 unique thermal springs are sought out by folks who find magic here. If soaking in 4,000-year-old thermal water sounds good, file a flight plan to Hot Springs, Arkansas, otherwise known as Spa City. Hot Springs is a quaint and quirky Victorian town with a fascinating history that includes warriors, gamblers, mobsters, and a recent U.S. President.”

The Memorial Field Airport (KHOT) is the town’s airport and has a courtesy car for quick errands.

Highlights:

  • You can access the Hot Springs National Park from the middle of town. Hiking, picnicking, camping, and taking a bath in one of the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row is all available.
  • The Oaklawn has well-known horse races from January to April every year but they also offer Vegas-style games all year around.
  • You can get awesome views of the area from your aircraft; however, you can also go up to the 216-foot high Hot Springs Mountain Tower for a different perspective.
  • Magic Springs and Crystal Falls, Arkansas’ only amusement park
  • Hotels, resorts, bed & breakfasts, camping, cabins, houseboats… there are all kinds of lodging options.

For more information, visit http://www.hotsprings.org/.

Other

18 Other

In addition, the AOPA Central Southwest Regional Page covering NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE and IA has a blog on “friendly airports and helipads” with a list of those that have an on-site restaurant, an aviation museum, an aircraft viewing area, allow camping, etc that you may consider stopping at.

Looking for other fly-in destinations, air trails, air tours, or flyways in the region? Take a look at AOPA’s Central Southwest Destinations page.

Additional Sources and Information

The tourism offices of each of the three states have wonderful websites with plenty of additional tourism/things to see/things to do information:

In addition, the “Arkansas Wild” magazine published an article titled “Explore Ozark Backcountry Aviation” in their Fall 2015 edition, (pages 30 – 40).

Not sure how exactly you are going to get around once on the ground at some of these locations? Looking for ways to bring a bike or canoe with you? Ask the specific airport and take a look at this blog I recently published for some more ideas.

People and Organizations to Thank

Several people and organizations have contributed information to the creation of this Air Trail. Their knowledge, time, and efforts for the benefit of all pilots and passengers are highly appreciated. Special thanks to:

  • Chad Cox, Walton Family Foundation
  • Dave Powell, Owner, Summit Aviation at Bentonville Municipal Airport/Louise M Thaden Field (KVBT)
  • Chip Gibbons, Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer, Bentonville Municipal Airport/Louise M Thaden Field (KVBT)
  • James (Jim) Morris, Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer, Grand Glaize-Osage Beach Airport (K15)
  • Jere Brown, Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer, Camdenton Memorial-Lake Regional Airport (KOZS)
  • Airport managers and owners of all the airports listed

Ground Transportation Options for Pilots

“I’ve flown into an airport, now how do I get around on the ground?” Well, there are many options. Here are some that come to mind:

Courtesy Cars

Airport courtesy cars or airport crew cars are meant to be used for a short period of time, normally 2-3 hours. They are meant to be used for things like grabbing a quick bit to eat, picking up or dropping off something or somebody, or checking out a nearby store or museum quickly.

A pilot by the name of Glenn Brasch has compiled some of this information for us in the form of an app titled, appropriately so, “Airport Courtesy Cars.” It is available for free for both Apple and Android products in the iTunes or Google Play stores respectively.

The AOPA Airports resource can also help you determine if they have one or not. If they have one, it should appear under the “services at this airport” section of each individual airport listing as shown below:

Figure 1. Sample “courtesy car” listing on AOPA Airports.

Source: AOPA.

However, it is always a good idea to call the airport or FBO ahead of time to double check that they still have it and note that these are always “first come, first served” so, just because they have one available, does not mean it will be available right at the time you need it or expect it.

Rental Cars

This is always a great option. You can have a vehicle when you need it, for as long as you need it.

AOPA offers rental car discounts to its members and, in fact, you can even use our website to compare and book your next rental car.

Car Service

Every town seems to have at least one taxi or limo provider (even if it’s just one guy driving an old cop car). The airport/FBO can provide you with that information or a quick Google search may too.

In addition, newer options such as Uber, Lyft or Get Me may be available. The best way to know is to check their website or to download their app.

Public Transportation

Some city’s public transportation may reach their airport. Again, the airport manager or FBO may be best equipped to help you with this option.

Bicycles

It seems like more and more cities are catching on the “biking trend.” Some are investing in biking trails, some are working with bike rental providers (such as B-cycle to install biking stations, and others have courtesy bikes in addition to courtesy cars. I personally love this.

And, just like you may carry your own chair, table, tent, cooler, or grill in the aircraft, why not bring your own bike? Some aircraft make it easier to carry them than others. The canopy-type aircraft for example, such as Grummans, seem to make it easier because you have a bigger opening to get it through. If only two of you are traveling, you may also consider taking out the back seats. They occupy unnecessary space and add extra weight.

Figure 1. Bicycle in the back of a Grumman Cheetah.

Source: Yasmina Platt.

Some bikes are easier to carry than others, too. You may consider getting folding bikes for flying trips. A google search will show you several options. And some of the aviation suppliers also sell these.

Canoe/Kayak

Fishing at your destination? Floating down a river? Or maybe rafting? How about just simply taking a relaxing paddle around a lake? An inflatable canoe or kayak may be a good option for you to bring with you in the aircraft. My husband and I have two of them. They have proven handy for more reasons than just bringing them flying with us. They also occupy less space in the garage or closet. J

AOPA’s Pilot Gear Store

And, don’t forget that AOPA’s Pilot Gear store has some great gear options for many occasions: rainy days, cold days, beach days, hiking, picnicking, golfing, etc.

Oh, flying is so fun! and it also allows us to reach and enjoy some of our other hobbies, too.

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

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

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

National Issues and Initiatives

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

State and Local Issues and Initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

Louisiana Speaker Kleckley

Louisiana Speaker Kleckley

Aviation Days at the Capitol

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

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

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

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

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

With Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

State Aviation Caucuses

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

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

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

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

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

Aviation Proclamations

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

Member Engagement and Outreach

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

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

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

 

(in collaboration with Elizabeth Tennyson)

The 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour

What does 530, 145, 172, 9.8, 10, 10, 4, 35, 30, 800 mean?

How does…

  • flying about 530 nautical miles

  • which, in a 145 hp Cessna 172, equated to about 9.8 Hobbs hours to

  • 10 airports

  • in 10 different cities

  • around Kansas

  • in 4 consecutive days

  • in formation (at times) with 35 other pilots and 30 aircraft

  • all in a goldfish pattern while

  • learning more about general aviation in the state,

  • explaining to locals the value of their airport and

  • reaching out to over 800 potential future aviators

…sound? Yup, that’s what the 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour consisted of. 😉

What a busy but fun time for Jim Pinegar, AOPA’s Vice President of AOPA’s Insurance Services, and myself!

2015 Air Tour logo

Very appropriate!

Very appropriate!

This year’s Fly Kansas Air Tour started on Tuesday, September 29 and ended on Thursday October 1, 2015. As a bonus, a brunch at the historic 07S – Beaumont Hotel was added for Friday, October 2nd and EAA Chapter 88 scheduled their annual fly-in in KEWK – Newton on Saturday, October 3rd and a lot of Air Tour pilots attended it as well. Jim and I did not make it to Beaumont but Jim did attend the Newton fly-in with his wife and two kids.

2015 Fly Kansas Air Tour's goldfish route

2015 Fly Kansas Air Tour’s goldfish route

This year’s Air Tour started in Wellington (KEGT), as it did last year.

Sunset flight between Wichita and Wellington on Monday night

Sunset flight between Wichita and Wellington on Monday night

The City of Wellington puts a great deal of effort into the start-up with several of the elected officials (including the Mayor, an airport supporter herself), the High School band, lots of local kids, several sponsors, etc. An Air Bike, flying overhead with smoke on prior to landing, was the hit of the stop.

Team AOPA

Team AOPA

Air Bike

Air Bike

Start of the 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour at KEGT

Start of the 2015 #FlyKansas Air Tour at KEGT

The City, after the request of and help from Patrick Hamlin (local instructor and KEGT’s airport manager), has started offering aviation/flying as an elective to their high school students this semester. We got a chance to meet all nine of the students and both Jim and I were really impressed with their knowledge, especially since they have only been in the program since mid-August. When we were showing Jim’s Cessna 172 to three of the girls, we were surprised with the great questions they asked: What class airspace is this airport? When you do the weight and balance, how do you measure the formula… weight x arm = moment? Is this the VSI (pointing at it!)? The plan is for them to take the private pilot written exam in December before the semester is over! 🙂 We gave them all applications to AOPA’s free AV8RS program and followed up with them via e-mail regarding scholarships. Are you based in or near Wellington and want to take these kids flying? Better yet… are you going to a nearby fly-in and have room for one more? Send me an e-mail and I’ll put you in contact with Patrick!

Students from Wellington HS learning about Jim's C172

Students from Wellington HS learning about Jim’s C172

Formation flying with a Cessna 175

Formation flying with a Cessna 175

From Wellington, we were off to KPTT – Pratt (kind of cool for a Platt, ha!). Most of us were surprised and pleased to visit the All Veterans Memorial Complex and learn the history of the airfield as an Army B-29 base during World War II.

ALL Veterans Museum Complex

ALL Veterans Museum Complex

We connected and shared our passion for general aviation with hundreds of students of all ages in Dodge City (KDDC). While most of the older ones seemed only interested in the cost of aircraft at first (even though they had no concept of cost or money), we were able to instill in them more useful information than that as well.

Introduction of Air Tour to Dodge City students

Introduction of Air Tour to Dodge City students

Dodge City students learning about a Cessna 150

Dodge City students learning about a Cessna 150

We were passed by faster aircraft (Apache, Eagle, Navion…) time and time again but we did not care… that’s the more air time and fun we had, right? “Life is a journey, not a destination!” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

We were passed by faster aircraft (Apache, Navion, Eagle…) time and time again but we did not care… that’s the more air time and fun we had, right? “Life is a journey, not a destination!” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The final destination for Tuesday was Liberal (KLBL) where we visited the Mid-America Air Museum. We could have spent hours going through their rich aviation collection and we also visited the cool FedEx B727 they have turned into a classroom/conference room where they are going to be starting STEM-based aviation classes for kids.

Lots of cool aviation memorabilia and aircraft

Lots of cool aviation memorabilia and aircraft

Very neat vintage setup

Very neat vintage setup

What's wrong with this picture? Too big of a windshield wiper for such a small windshield? Counterproductive?

What’s wrong with this picture? Too big of a windshield wiper for such a small windshield? Counterproductive?

With John Smith, our AOPA ASN Volunteer for KLBL

With John Smith, our AOPA ASN Volunteer for KLBL, in the B727 classroom

How cool is this? 1965 AOPA wings

How cool is this? 1965 AOPA wings

While we were able to “get the heck out of Dodge,” we got stuck in Liberal on Wednesday. Low IMC that lasted until about 1:30 pm prevented us from visiting Garden City (KGCK) and Shalz Field in Colby (KCBK). Hopefully we can make it up to them by visiting them during the next air tour.

Weather report at KLBL

Weather report at KLBL

After circumnavigating Dodge City on the way from Liberal to Hays due to continued low (to minimums or even lower) ceilings, we made it to Hays (KHYS). We took advantage of the weather to give Jim a good actual IMC training flight. I always enjoy being on top and he seems to be a fan now too.

VFR on top

VFR on top

Once in Hays, we visited the RANS aircraft factory. We all enjoyed Randy’s (founder, entrepreneur, owner, President, and designer) tour. It’s impressive to go through a factory where you can see innovation and engineering in process. Randy has sold a combination of about 5,000 airplanes and airplane kits to all corners of the world and he is still working on a few more designs. Keep an eye out for a 4-seater in the near future! Jim and I were lucky to get to know Randy and his wife Shelly more during dinner. Did you know RANS started as a bike company? Does that sound familiar? Bikes and airplanes? Yup, the Wright Brothers started with a bike shop also. Randy says both have a lot to do with each other: aerodynamics, light weight  and durable materials, maximum performance, cutting edge technology…

20150930_165120

A lucky builder will soon be getting this RANS 7 Courier in the mail 🙂

20150930_173507

Kansas made!

Alan Core and Seth, a grandpa and grandson team from Iowa, flew the Air Tour and Seth wanted to leave with an airplane kit as a “good science project.” I say the young man will not only be a pilot but also an aircraft builder when he grows up and we need more of that!

20150930_164058

With Nathan Marcucci, KHYS’ ASNV and airport manager

Dinner at Gellas Diner & Lb. Brewing Co.

Dinner at Gellas Diner & Lb. Brewing Co.

Thursday started pretty chilly but the 4th graders at Blosser Municipal Airport (KCNK) in Concordia warmed all of our hearts quickly. They were beyond excited the entire time we were there, from arrivals to departures and everything in between. Selfishly, I felt like we had just as much fun with the kids as the kids did with us.

Kids cheering the aircraft arrivals

Kids cheering the aircraft arrivals

Steve Richard, AOPA’s Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer for CNK, and I taught “principles of flight” to the kids before taking them out to the airplanes where they put their new knowledge to work. I went over the four forces of flight, parts of an airplane, etc. and then Steve pulled a couple of interactive ideas from AOPA’s Parents and Teachers Handbook (PATH) to demonstrate aerodynamics. The kids loved it! I was not quick enough to capture some of the kid’s reactions with my camera but I will not forget one of the girl’s face when Steve and two volunteer kids did the “toilet paper” experiment. Her mouth was wide open and her eyes denoted excitement and surprise. Funny enough, I think some of the pilots went home after the tour and practiced those experiments themselves, haha.

Teaching principles of flight

Teaching principles of flight

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Demonstrating aerodynamics and building a human airplane

With Steve and Jim

With Steve and Jim

The kids were able to see, learn about, touch, and get in many different types of aircraft. Some even got to “fly” as Jaden Stapleton pushed down on his Eagle’s elevator simulating a takeoff for those at the controls.

Hard to tell who's having more fun: the kids or us!

Hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the pilots!

Fun selfie with our group of 4th graders after they all learned the aviation alphabet

Fun selfie with our group of 4th graders after they all learned the aviation alphabet

Jim and I were personally proud of Steve for organizing such a great stop for everybody. He really did a terrific job! One we may try to emulate in future years.

Concordia was very much K-State Country! The kids went crazy when they saw the K-State C172 taxi by for departure. “K-State, K-State, K-State” screamed the kids.

This link has a good time lapse video of our departures from Concordia.

It felt like “Helicopter Day!” at Freeman Field (3JC) in Junction City. The Fort Riley 1st Infantry Division Brigade brought several helicopters, from an Apache to a twin engine Chinook, and the local EMS operator had their air ambulance helicopter out on display as well. I personally enjoyed that stop since I intend to work on my helicopter add-on in the near future. I learned a bit more about helicopter flying and operations from the pilots and crew.

20151001_162952

Trying out all the helicopters

Parking area at 3JC

Parking area at 3JC

I never want anybody to need these type of services when, they are needed, they are the best!

I never want anybody to need these type of services when, they are needed, they are the best!

And, the bitter sweet moment came… we made it to our last stop: Emporia (KEMP).

Left downwind for KEMP

Left downwind for KEMP

The “Cook Boys” (Greg Thomas and Jason Wojteczko from K50 – Cook Airfield) won the aviator golf (flour bombing) contest. I guess all those thousands of skydives came in handy for Jason. He understands exactly when and how to drop the bomb.

Then we were off to some real golf as a networking activity. No luck getting the ball from the tee box to the hole but laughs were flowing! Most of us were swinging for the first time so we were happy to make it outside the tee box.

On Friday, a few went to Beaumont and the rest went home.

Lady aviators of this year's Air Tour

Lady aviators of this year’s Air Tour – higher than normal statistic! (left to right) Yasmina Platt, Tiffany Brown, Vicki Hunt, Star Novak (below), Pat Hockett, Phyllis Blanton, and Kari Lee.

We hope you can join next time as the Air Tour provides us with a great opportunity for comradery among the pilots and passengers, increasing aviation activity around the state, showing the local community the importance and economic impact of their airport, introducing our youth and others to aviation as both a hobby and a career, all while showcasing and learning about different aviation entities at different airports and reaching out to our members and ASN Volunteers among other things.

The comments from the parents and teachers involved were great.

Sample comments found on Facebook

Sample comments found on Facebook

No official word on whether or not there will be an Air Tour in 2016 since it takes a lot of work and commitment from many people, but keep your eyes open and your ears tuned in case there is one. The rumor is there will be one in 2017 and every other year after that.

Until then, fly safe and fly often!

Apache Fly-in/Camp-out/STOL competition in Rockdale, TX

This is the second backcountry fly-in I attend in two weeks. I warn you… it may be addicting… 🙂

However, this one was quite a bit different than the one at Mystic Bluffs, NM. Everybody was able to fly into this one: no elevation issues, no density altitude issues, no hills/mountains around, no runway length issues, not too remote… but still fun!

This is the first fly-in event at Apache Pass (4XA4) but they want to make it an annual event. All proceeds went to Rockdale Tiger Flight where a group of pilots teach High School students the skills necessary to build an airplane. Yeah!

After dodging a few rain showers on the flight from Houston, I arrived to 4XA4 on Friday afternoon with the idea of camping for the weekend. Since no one else camped Friday night, hubby did not come with me this time as he, too, had to work, it was still 80-90 degrees at night, and the ground was pretty hard for pitching a tent… I chickened out and took the motel route. Rainbow Courts was not a bad choice considering it is the oldest motel in Texas (and probably in the southwest) that is still in operation, according to Texas A&M University. I always enjoy unique places!

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Apache Pass is a historic river crossing on the San Gabriel River in Downtown Texas (yes, now you know there is such a town!). Owner Kit Worley has developed the property within the past 10 or so years and has two restaurants, an RV park, an airpark with three runways, hot showers, the longest “Indiana Jones type” suspension bridge, and event space for weddings, concerts, and other things.

The normally three-runway airpark was turned into a two-runway airpark for this event. The longer 3,000′ Runway 19R was used for normal departures and arrivals (with a right pattern) while the shorter 2,800′ runway 19L (with a left pattern) was used for Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft. The middle runway was used for aircraft parking.

For your future reference: Some pilots had a little bit of trouble finding the field because their GPS showed the airpark some miles away from it. If you plan on flying in for next year’s event (or on another day with Kit’s permission), I suggest you type in the coordinates or verify that your GPS coordinates for the airstrip are correct. They are supposed to be N 30.41.02, W 97.08.34. You can also do a VOR radial off of the Centex VOR: CWK, 042-degree radial, 27.1 miles.

4XA4

On a left base for rwy 19L at 4XA4

Even with the low ceilings both mornings, much needed scattered light rain on Saturday, high temperatures, and the Labor Day holiday, the event was successful. Over 70 airplanes, two helicopters and one gyrocopter flew in from all corners of the state.

This is a picture from Saturday morning. More airplanes arrived after this picture.

This is a picture from Saturday morning. More airplanes arrived after this picture was taken.

An MD-500 and this Brantly B-2 were the two helicopters who flew in.

An MD 369E and this Brantly B-2 were the two helicopters that flew in.

Hands down the cutest airplane on the field! :)

Hands down the cutest airplane on the field! I hear she is friends with Dusty 😉

While there, I had the wonderful opportunity of flying in two of the STOL aircraft 🙂 I’m still smiling when I think about it. Scot Warren let me try his Carbon Cub and Phil Whittemore took me in the only SQ-2. Those were the shortest takeoffs and landings I’ve ever been involved in. Wow! Everything looks like a runway for those two.

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Flying the Carbon Cub from 4XA4 to Cameron Municipal Airpark (T35) for some avgas

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Scot and I in his Carbon Cub. http://warrenaircraft.com/

Almost hovering in Phil's SQ-2

Almost hovering in Phil’s SQ-2

The STOL competition was on Saturday afternoon and it got pretty competitive! Each pilot flew four times: two for a normal STOL takeoff and landing and two for a STOL takeoff and landing with an obstacle.

Of course pilots flying under the obstacle’s height or landing prior to the first barricades were automatically disqualified.

It was quite fun helping measure the distance between lift-off and the beginning of the runway and full stop and the beginning of the runway. It reminded me of my times at National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) competitions when we would compete in all kinds of flying and ground activities.

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Shooter’s license plate, of http://www.stolaircraftmagazine.com/

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Ken coming in in his Piper Cub

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Scot touching down after clearing the obstacle

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Phil in his SQ-2 performing one of his short take-offs

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But the landings are even more impressive with that super high angle of attack

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Some of the STOL pilots and Jimmy Gist, the airboss (right)

Well, it was all fun times until it was time for me to go home. Everything seemed fine with the Archer I fly (pre-flight, run-up, etc) until immediately after take-off when the engine started sputtering and coughing. I immediately run my memorized emergency checklist (unfortunately, no time to actually read the checklist that low and slow and without help from another person!). Everything was where it was supposed to.

I thought maybe it was a little bit of water going through the fuel line (since we had had dew both mornings and the airplane was not parked completely level) and that it would clear and I could continue on my way but… on my turn crosswind to downwind (I wanted to gain some altitude immediately over the airfield before heading out home just in case…), the engine sputtered some more and I ended up with partial, intermittent power. It was time to set it back down. It’s funny how quickly all your continued training comes in and you remember “keep calm and fly the airplane!”

A visual inspection of the engine did not indicate any problems; however, another run-up did show that I was getting partial power (max 1900 RPM) with the throttle all the way to the firewall even though the magnetos and the carb heat were both fine and smooth. We eliminated all the “could be’s and could have’s” we knew to given the limited engine instrumentation this airplane has but we could not identify the issue.

Ground run-up

Ground run-up after the incident

I left the aircraft at 4XA4 and came back with my mechanic on Tuesday to evaluate and fix the situation. He determined that something, unidentified, got in cylinder 3 and caused damage to the piston head as well as its two spark splugs. The mechanic believes it was probably a short time event based on the very minor damage and I would concur as I had no indication of any problems until takeoff. Whatever it was must have entered the cylinder, bounced around a bit, and left through the exhaust.

Bad spark plugs

Damage caused to the spark plugs on cylinder 3

So, the mechanic fixed it all good, we have now all learned another lesson, and it’s back to flying condition. 🙂

You can find me (and the Archer) in Addison and Fort Worth this weekend! I’ll be there for the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Migration and the Fort Worth Alliance Airshow.

Interested in attending other similar events in Texas? Look for 1) the Texas STOL Roundup in Llano, 2) the Under-the-Wire Fly-in in Louise, 3) the Ranger’s Old School Fly-in/Camp-out in Ranger, 4) Critter’s Lodge, and 5) the Flying M Ranch Fly-in/Camp-out in Reklaw, TX.

 

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

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

Location of Mystic Bluffs

Location of Mystic Bluffs

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

Gliders at 0E0

Gliders at 0E0

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

Close to Gallup

Close to Gallup

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

Our tent

Our tent

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

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

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Cute airplane cookies

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

Full ramp of beautiful birds

Full ramp of beautiful birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native American ruins

Native American ruins

The Falls

The Falls

Panoramic of Ramah lake

Panoramic of Ramah lake

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

Organizers (2)

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

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

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

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Activity in Central SW Region

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signal Peak

Guadalupe Mountains and Signal Peak

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

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

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

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

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

El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ enroute to Scottsdale

El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ enroute to Scottsdale

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

KPHX and downtown Phoenix

KPHX and downtown Phoenix

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

Left downwind for 21

Left downwind for 21

Base to final, runway 21

Base to final, runway 21

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

Sedona 2

Sedona and KSEZ on the right

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

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

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

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

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

Near Bagdad, AZ

Near Bagdad, AZ

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

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

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

LA's smog?

Los Angeles smog?

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

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

Corona 2

Unique self-serve fuel tanks in Corona

Corona 3

KAJO’s “The Bench”

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

Approaching CA's coastline

Approaching CA’s coastline

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

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

"Pilot" scuba gear

“Pilot” scuba gear

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

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

One of the crabs and garibaldi fish

Catalina's bay

Avalon Bay

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

Avalon's panoramic

Avalon’s panoramic

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

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

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

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

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

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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!)

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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

Other

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. 😉

Summary

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.

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