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Category: GA community (page 1 of 14)

If you Build it, They will Come.

Determination, passion and connection in the heart of the Rockies.

Amy Helm became the airport manager of Glenwood Springs Airport [KGWS] in April of 2017 after interviewing and presenting a petition with the signatures of 60 local pilots who supported her candidacy. The daughter of a private pilot, Amy didn’t set out to be an airport manager, but nonetheless she has devoted her time, determination and passion to this Colorado airport nestled in the heart of the Rockies.

Amy Helm

Amy loved aviation as long as she can remember. She worked at Glenwood Springs Airport in high school and earned her pilots license there. After college and fulfilling some wanderlust, she returned to Colorado wanting to get a job as a back-country pilot. As is often the case, Amy soon discovered that she needed to learn about maintenance and repair in order to pay for her flying. She received her A&P and after completing a stint as an apprentice, she moved to SE Alaska working as a mechanic for a bush pilot. The next stop on her grand circle tour was Juneau Alaska where she earned her IA and worked as a helicopter mechanic for Coastal Helicopters.

Amy and I talked about the qualities of character it takes to be a pilot, mechanic and airport manager. I asked her if her job is hard. She laughed and said, “There are days that are hard, and there are days that are a lot of fun.” Amy said that the number one factor in both her work as a mechanic and an airport manager is determination. Anyone who has volunteered at an airport knows a lot about determination. At Glenwood Springs it took two separate work parties and 30 volunteers to get the airport back in tiptop shape for visitors.

Development has encircled their airport with housing tracts on both sides. Over the years there have been threats to the airport from developers. Thus Amy’s first tasks as the new airport manager were to spruce the place up, replace worn signage, increase community awareness, and start planning on a community aviation expo. The first event was very successful giving 150 airplane rides, hosting 500 people in attendance, over 30 types of airplanes and helicopters on static display for the community to walk around, sit in, ask questions about and  a vendor display. The second annual event will be held August 18th, 2018.

Glenwood Springs is a tourist destination with skiing, skydiving, white water rafting, climbing and of course the world’s largest hot springs pool. Camping on the airport grounds is allowed. Although the fourth oldest airport in the country Glenwood Springs Airport does not receive FAA grant money, nor any funds from the City of Glenwood Springs. Funding for the airport is based solely on donations, fuel sales, tie-down and hangar income.  Amy and I spent some time talking about mobilizing pilots and promoting General Aviation to communities.

Call to Action

Pilots are “do something” people. Fly the airplane; don’t let the airplane fly you. We all are airport, and airplane, lovers. When it comes to your local airport,  think small and big; local level, community-based. How can your airport serve your community in non-aviation needs? Perhaps a space for community meetings, a host of a canned food drive, or a fund-raiser for the local humane society. With our home airports,  step up, raise your voices and let your opinions be known. This might mean speaking in front of the airport board, or county commissioners. Use your local airport as a resource. Bring the community inside the fence. Be able to tell the truth. If someone wants to do something unsafe at an airport, speak up. Be on guard for encroachments, misapplications of directives, and oppressive policies. The second level of involvement is in between micro and macro, it is the state level. Are you involved with your state aviation association? Do you know who your regional director for AOPA is? Do you have a Representative or Congressman from your state on the GA Caucus? Have you thought about becoming involved with aviation at the state or regional level?

If you Build it, They will Come

In order to promote General Aviation define it for the non-flying public effectively.  It is very important to be positive and focus on the ways that G.A. helps our communities and our citizens.  When I meet someone at an event I ask if they are a pilot, or know a pilot.  If not a pilot, I ask if they ever wanted to learn how to fly.  If yes, have they made steps toward learning, and if not, why not?   Even those folks who do not wish to become pilots would benefit from knowing how General Aviation affects them on a daily basis. Here are some ideas you might try at your home airport:

Oceano Airport Salute to Veterans May 11-12th, 2018

Toys for Tots

Airport Day Fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly-In Movie Night is always a big hit. All you need is a large screen, projector, sound system and popcorn. Toys for Tots is a great feel-good event that will benefit the children in your local area. Take a page out of Amy’s playbook and have an Airport Appreciation Day. Young Aviator Camp: Approach your local YMCA, Parks and Recreation, or Boys and Girls Club and ask about putting on a day camp for children.  Most airports have a green space, campground or empty hangar that can be used as a classroom area. Topics could include: What is General Aviation? Fundamentals of Flight, Basic Navigation, Mechanics, How to Become a Pilot, Careers in Aviation, and Charitable Flying. Young Eagles: EAA chapters have a tremendous amount of impact on the youth in our local communities when they hold a Young Eagles day. Public Radio and Television: Those of us in GA oftentimes overlook public radio and television, yet they are constantly on the look out for community-based stories.  Why not contact your local station about an upcoming event at your airport?  4-H Aero, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts: Both Boy and Girl Scouts have merit badges in Aviation.  Why not offer a daylong workshop to help the kids get their badges? Service Club Speaker: Why not talk with your local service club, or chamber of commerce about using YOU as a speaker?  This is a perfect opportunity to talk with a captive audience about the value of general aviation and general aviation airports. Emergency Responder Appreciation Event: Each of our communities have unsung heroes. Why not have a pancake breakfast, spaghetti feed, or burger fry and invite your local ambulance, search and rescue, law enforcement pilots, fire fighters and other emergency responders.  School Assemblies: Elementary schools have requirements about science education.  Aviation falls into that category.  Why not talk with your local principal about doing a fundamentals of flight assembly for your local school?  You could have RC models to illustrate lift, thrust, drag and gravity.  End your presentation with ways that the children can come to your airport. Remember children, bring their parents!

For many in the country the aviation season is beginning. We are making our reservations for Sun n Fun, or one of the four AOPA Regionals, or Oshkosh. But please remember to support our small GA airports which host events. Get your airport on the map like Amy has with Glenwood Springs. Host, volunteer, or attend a cool event. Invite your friends and more importantly your community. You will be rewarded with the joy of flight, connection with others, and keeping our airports vibrant.

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

The Bottom Line: We all started in the same place

I have always said about myself that I am a jeans and T-shirt girl. I can get dressed up and go to some pretty fancy events, but in the end, I just want to put my jeans on and go fly something. I have found that no matter the venue aviation lovers have more in common than not. It is through shared passion that we can inspire flight, protect airports and airspace.

Jolie Lucas with George Kounis, Editor & Publisher Pilot Getaways Magazine

On Friday night, I had the honor of attending the Living Legends of Aviation awards, which is a fundraiser for the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy. The gala, attended by 700 plus, was held at the Beverly Hilton hotel. To say that the evening was star studded would be an understatement. Both John Travolta and Harrison Ford played a part in recognizing this year’s inductees, among them pilots, astronauts, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.

Harrison Ford addressed the crowd about H.R. 2997, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act, which, in a six-year process, would in part privatize ATC. He described the bill as a “solution in search of a problem.” If passed the control of our air traffic system would be turned over to a 13 member private board, with the majority representing the airlines. The fear in privatization is resources being diverted away from smaller general aviation airports, and smaller commercial air carriers. Harrison stated, “less than 20 percent of airlines fleet has been upgraded to take advantage of ADS-B efficiencies. 1 percent of airlines are capable of using it, versus 80 percent of the general aviation fleet.” Our national air traffic system is the safest and most capable in the world. No matter what we are flying, we need to be on guard for dangerous legislation or power grabs.It might be easy to make an assumption that folks dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos are far removed from jeans and T-shirt grass-roots general aviation. But that assumption would be quickly debunked. A video package was created for each inductee; soon it became apparent that we all started in the same place, general aviation.

Time after time, each “Legend” stated that as a young child, while gazing skyward, they were mesmerized by aviation. How many of us can say the same? Almost all of us started in a piston single. Some of us made that type airplane our life-long love affair. Others moved to aviation in the military, commercial, law enforcement, performance, or space travel. The most important thing to remember is that we all started in the same GA place. One of the reasons I love attending the AOPA Regional Fly-Ins, Sun ‘n Fun or EAA AirVenture is the camaraderie. Whether talking to Mark Baker or someone who flew in a Cub, it doesn’t take long for a conversation to turn to “where is your home airport?” or “what do you fly?”

Some of you may know that in mid-November I earned my instrument rating [https://blog.aopa.org/aopa/2017/11/20/gotta-get-that-rating/]. Part of my commitment to my safety was the purchase of an IFR certified GPS and ADS-B compliant transponder. Then I had the daunting task of finding an avionics shop I could depend on for the install. A dear friend recommended Chris Tharp who owns Barber Aviation in Madera, CA. He said, “They are going to do everything in their power to do a great install and fix any ailments the airplane has.” On tap for my Mooney M20E was the installation of the GTX335 and 530W. I had never arranged an avionics install and was nervous. Chris was thorough and understanding in explaining the process to me.

Chris Tharp, owner, Barber Aviation

While owned by Lawson Barber, the shop was well-known in California as Beechcraft West. In 2008, Chris purchased Barber Aviation and in 2014 purchased the avionics arm of the business. The shop has 5 employees and is bustling with maintenance and repair as well as avionics. The atmosphere is quintessentially GA: hearty welcome, friendly and accommodating. I was given a detailed quote and an estimate of 5-7 business days for the installation. The avionics installer was Brandon Petersen. I am a communicator, especially when it comes to my airplane. I was thrilled that Brandon was able to send me photos and answered my questions during the process.

The work was done on time, and my next hurdle was getting from the event in Beverly Hills to the Central Valley of California. Again, GA to the rescue, I was able to hop a ride in a cool solid black Pilatus [PC12] from Fullerton. I jumped at the chance to fly that bad boy back to Fresno. The day was beautiful and it was fun to be flying over all the traffic in LA as well as the backup on I-5 from the 101 being closed in Santa Barbara due to the mudslides.Arriving in Madera I was met by Brandon and Chris. We went over the ins and outs of the install [pun intended]. While waiting for a finishing touch, Chris and I were able to talk about the state of general aviation. In his opinion GA in the United States is on an upswing. His business is seeing a 200% increase with the ADS-B work. He talked about business life on a GA airport, the challenges and the benefits. As a business owner myself I could relate to funding improvements to the business versus pulling a larger salary. Chris brought up ATC privatization and his opposition to it. He is concerned that GA will be left out by a committee stacked with commercial interests as well as the potential for small airports like Madera being overlooked. Even with those concerns, I was struck by his unwavering optimism for aviation, his employees and his shop.

Departing Madera IFR I had a thought; no matter whether dressed in sequins or 501’s we are all alike sharing a common passion for flying. The most important thing is that each of us contributes to making aviation safer, more efficient, and increasing our big, diverse, and passionate family.

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

FAA plans to decommission NDB’s at Glenallen, Mekoryuk and Noatak: User feedback requested

The FAA has issued Letters to Airmen outlining plans to decommission the Nondirectional Beacons (NDBs) at the Gulkana (GKN), Mekoryuk (MYU) and Noatak (WTK) airports.  In all three cases, the decommissioning’s are for navaids that have failed, and have been out of service for some time.  Even though they are non-functional, they serve as fixes that are part of the airway structure, or are components of instrument approaches.   If the removal of these navaids impacts your operation, please let the FAA know, using the contact information provided below.

Moving to Space Based IFR Infrastructure
While the FAA is moving to a space-based IFR system, NDBs in some locations are still serving not only as the basis for instrument approach procedures, but as anchor fixes for IFR airways.  Last year AOPA was part of an industry group that looked at the IFR Enroute infrastructure in Alaska.  Working with the Alaska Air Carriers Association, Alaska Airmen Association, National Business Aviation Association and other organizations, the group delivered formal recommendations to the FAA. The topics covered in the report were wide ranging including sections acknowledging the role NDBs play in the enroute environment, and expressed concern that some GPS based T-Routes have a much higher Minimum Enroute Altitude than the NDB-based colored airways. One of the recommendations called for the FAA to consider operator impacts before decommissioning any airway supported by NDBs.  Responding to a Letter to Airmen is one mechanism that the FAA uses to collect user feedback.

 

This specific working group was only tasked to look at the enroute infrastructure, but acknowledged that NDBs in some locations still serve an operational role in the terminal environment, which should also be considered before these stations are decommissioned.

User input needed
The FAA is struggling to move into the space-based, NextGen era, balancing the need to keep existing “legacy” systems in place, while obtaining funding to stand up new infrastructure.  AOPA and others are pushing FAA to expand the network of ADS-B ground stations in Alaska, to provide a “minimum operational network” across the state.  Decommissioning legacy navigation aids is one way to free up resources, but only after the operational needs of the users have been considered.  FAA is asking for our feedback on these three stations. If you fly to these areas, let the FAA know if removing these NDBs impacts your operations.  Please contact:

Mark Payne, NISC III contract support
Operations Support Group
Western Service Center

Phone:  425-203-4515

Email:    [email protected]

Please send copies to AOPA at: [email protected]

Links to the FAA Letters to Airmen:

Glenallen NDB OSGW-36 (003)

NANWAK NDB_DME OSGW-35 (003)

Noatak NDB Decommissioning OSGW-33

Increase Your Service Ceiling

Sunday was a great GA day for me. It started off as a Pilots and Paws rescue flight for a one-eyed cat named Gio. Since I was headed up to the San Francisco Bay Area, I thought I would contact my 96 year-old pen pal/friend William Mason [Army Air Corps Flight Instructor at Rankin Field [Tulare, CA] with my Dad, and brother to uber famous Sammy Mason] to see if we could meet up for a burger at the 29er Diner. The combination of a charity flight, using a friendly small airport and meeting with a WWII aviator makes for a perfect GA day.

As a recently minted instrument rated pilot I was excited to get a little “actual” with the smoke and haze from the horrible Thomas fire. I completed all my flight planning with Foreflight, Skyvector, and the NOAA site for weather… severe clear except for smoke in vicinity of departure airport, Santa Maria, CA. I filed the flight plan online and got an email from Foreflight that it was received by flight service [she thinks “What a rock star I am for using all this wonderful technology.”]

Originally Pilots and Paws had requested Santa Rosa Airport, which is a wonderful larger airport, but, as anyone who has flown with me to Oshkosh knows, I love to go to small GA airports and support more “mom and pop” FBOs. So I asked for Petaluma and received that as a final destination.

When I left the house in morning the sky looked like dusk instead of dawn due to the smoke. I could see that San Luis Obispo was clear, so I thought at most, I would be in the smoke [IFR] for a few minutes. Opening the hangar door I could see a fine layer of ash all over my airplane cover. As I loaded up the plane I looked out and saw the tiniest of tiny suns trying to burn through the smoke. [Gio was not able to make it to Santa Maria due to the high winds and turbulence in Riverside, but I decided to head north anyway.]

I got my taxi clearance and asked tower for my IFR clearance to Petaluma. The next bit of news was not so happy “6619U I have no IFR flight plan for you in the system.” Drat! I mentioned that I had even gotten an email confirmation. Hmmm. I let the lovely tower folks [really they are, no sarcasm there] know when I was done taxiing I would figure it out. Figure it out I did. Guess who filed the plan for a WEEK from today? Me, yup me. Duh. Luckily I had the routing, so no worries, got it put into the system. I departed on the obstacle departure procedure and up to the Bay Area. The smoke was maybe 800 feet above ground level… maybe. I was in the smoke, I mean in the smoke. Could not see anything, nothing but white. “Okay sister, this is what you are trained for, instrument scan, track the course, you can do this. Probably won’t be but a minute or two.” Yeah—no. Just under thirty minutes later I come out of the smoke right over the Paso Robles airport. I knew that my VOR tracking was not the best while in the smoke. I was disappointed that I sort of got flustered but I was able to just regain my composure and soldier on.

I flew up the Pacific coast and the CAVU day was spectacular. ATC was super busy and very helpful. I asked for the Bay Tour [as did about a hundred others] and was grinning ear to ear flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the San Francisco bay. After the tour and the photos, I turned to Petaluma [O69].

There were six other airplanes in the pattern at O69/Petaluma. There were a few students working the pattern, a Waco buzzing around, two helicopters practicing taxiing, and even another Mooney landing right before me. The fuel price is one of the best in the Bay Area/wine country. I taxied to a transient tie down and then struggled a bit to push Maggie back into the spot. Before I knew it a local named John was there asking if I needed a hand, which I gladly accepted.

We got on the waiting list for indoor seating at the 29er Diner and the next few hours were spent with Bill and his daughter. We got to enjoy a great lunch, catch up, talk about aviation and some of his glory days. Bill owned a Stearman for many years, which he flew across country with his wife.

When it was time to leave I made sure to check the date and time on my flight plan and hit “File”— voila it went through. I did get vectored in a way from ATC that reminded me of an old high school cheer “lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight.” The routing on the way home was offshore quite a bit. I don’t know about anyone else, but I swear I hear every single engine hiccup when I am over water. On the way home I was at 9000, and got a beautiful and enduring view of the sunset off my right side. I knew that the smoke would be formidable on the approach into the Central Coast. I descended down from 9000 to 8000, then down to 5000. Under the smoke it was black as night. I requested a precision approach from ATC. I thought it best to fly an approach I had practiced many times that took me right to runway 12.

Between the black of night, and the ash build up on the windscreen, and the general haziness from the smoke, the approach was challenging. I did have a little bit of an optical illusion just above the aim point. It was hard for me to tell how high I was above the runway to begin the flare. I should have maybe looked out the left window, but I didn’t. Landing was rock star– which is so wonderful. All in all I had an hour of actual.

We are so fortunate to have many ways to give back in service to others with our airplanes and airports. I try to remember all these aspects when I am planning a trip. Am I flying an empty airplane? Is that the best use of the space? Perhaps there is someone who would like to come along, or better yet a Pilot n Paws, Angel Flight, LightHawk or other charitable cause. What is your destination airport? Where will you be spending your dollars for fuel, lodging and food? The day cost me a couple hundred dollars in fuel. I look at this as money spent buying memories. That is really money well spent. I have the memory of my first flight into IMC, connecting with a WWII aviator, of wanting to help a little one-eyed kitty and of course being part of a great big GA family.

As this year comes to a close it is a good time to reflect on the past and look toward the New Year. Maybe 2018 will be the year you add that endorsement, or get your instrument rating, or get serious about buying into a club, or donate your time in service to others.

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Correcting Sectionals: You Can Help

Sectional Aeronautical Charts are a primary flight tool that allows us hop in an airplane, take off and fly cross-country, literally by looking out the window.  No VOR, GPS or other fancy navigation device required.  But this only works if the landscape we see outside matches features on the chart.  When significant changes on the landscape take place, we need to let the chart makers know, so they can update the charts—which they are happy to do.

What is a chart anyway?
A flight chart is a complex compilation of data and information pulled from a variety of sources, arranged in a spatial pattern that creates a scale model of the earth’s surface.  We are often focused on aviation specific information, such as radio frequencies, airspace boundaries, airport runway lengths and the like, and take the underlying terrain features for granted.  Yet one of the charts more powerful uses is enabling us—with appropriate training—to look at this two-dimensional image to establish our current position, find the next terrain feature along the route, and fly to it. Repeating this process can take us hundreds of miles, over places we have never laid eyes on before. All with no GPS or other electronic navigation or ATC controller.

Today, many pilots are using a GPS for primary navigation (myself included) and using the terrain features as a secondary confirmation.  When the electrical system fails, or GPS quits, having an accurate chart—and knowing how to read it—is pretty important.  As we fly, we need to be on the lookout for details that are misplaced, or have changed.  Here is an example of how that can work.

Case Study
Last summer a pilot from San Diego flew his Grumman Tiger to Alaska and proceeded to tour the state.  His extensive trip, over 23 days, took him to many different areas.  When departing Valdez, he noted that a major terrain feature, the Columbia Glacier, looked considerably different than depicted on the Anchorage Sectional.  Over the past several decades, this glacier has undergone a massive retreat, leaving the terminus some 10 miles from its former location.  The difference was enough that when the pilot tried to confirm his position, which the chart still showed as the main body of the glacier, he was actually over open water–causing him temporarily to doubt his true location.

How to report an error
The FAA welcomes reports of chart errors.  Pilots are invited to communicate this information by phone, email, snail mail or web form.  Paper copies (yes, Sectionals are still available on that media), have a text box on the chart margin labeled “Reporting Chart Errors.”  Electronic chart users may have to work harder.  Some providers, such as SkyVector.com, give an option to display a selected chart (in this case the Anchorage Sectional) that shows the chart margin notes, legend and map symbols.  Others may not display the map “collar” so head to the FAA’s website http://faa.gov/go/ais. A link on that page is labeled “Chart Discrepancy” on the left margin, and describes multiple ways to report charting errors.

Text block found on printed, and some electronic versions of Sectionals telling how to report charting errors.

In this instance, after the trip, the pilot emailed the FAA a detailed description of the location and nature of the discrepancy. He received a reply the same day, with a follow-up confirmation a couple days later. In past years, the Charting folks might have asked for oblique photos to help “source” the change. Today they are often able to pull up satellite imagery to adequately document the change and revise the chart. The result in this case: the November 7, 2017 edition of the Anchorage Sectional was issued with a revised depiction of the Columbia Glacier.

Before (left) and after revision of the Anchorage Sectional, over Columbia Bay, showing the retreat of the Columbia Glacier in Southcentral Alaska.

You can help
Whether using printed or electronic charts, if you observe a problem on a flight chart, please take the few minutes to report the error.  The misplaced power line, changed river channel, or other feature you observe in good VFR weather, may only be a momentary source of confusion. But to the next pilot trying to get through under marginal conditions, it could be life threatening.  Do your part to help keep these almost magical flight tools up to date!

Gotta Get that Rating!

I started my training for my instrument rating in 2011. I decided that I wanted to learn from Mike Jesch who was a dear family friend, Master CFII, American Airlines Captain, Angel Flight, and LightHawk pilot. Mike is based in Fullerton, California. I knew that choosing to have instruction in the LA Basin would mean a greater challenge. Not only would I have to get to LA, but also train in one of the country’s busiest air spaces.

My Mother and Father were my biggest supporters in my life. My Father was a trainer in the Army Air Corps. We always had a little airplane. When he landed he would always say, “Another successful flight of Haywire Airlines.” I lost my Mom in 2010 and my father in 2015. Life happens and I went from being married, to being a single mom. My IFR training was self-funded. Due to these changes I had to take a break in the instrument training in 2012 and didn’t re-start until July of 2016.

Through the years I have been intrigued by the concept of neural plasticity, the idea that your brain isn’t completely hard-wired; that through experience and training, we can re-wire or alter the brain’s functioning. I have been a licensed psychotherapist for 27 years now. I am used to being a teacher. I have taught at the graduate school level, aviation seminars and numerous presentations. These activities let me be the leader, the one who “knew the answers” [or at least knew where to look]. Being a learner is hard. It is hard on the ego, your emotions, and your confidence. I am lucky that Mike is such a wonderful teacher. Much like my primary instructor Dave, he was encouraging and patient. But even with the best teacher the beast that needs to be tamed is insecurity, doubt and old thinking patterns.

My Mooney is equipped with dual VORs and a DME; no autopilot or IFR certified GPS. What this meant for me was a lot of “public math”. Mike would ask me “Where are you?” and I would struggle to try to figure out my location based on radials, DME distances and such. Needless to say, it was a humbling experience.

Training in the Mooney was double-edged. On the positive side, the airplane is a very stable platform and my instruments were configured in a simple but effective six-pack. However the downside of a high performance, very aerodynamic airplane is speed. My no-wind groundspeed is 145 kts. My IFR-student brain speed was probably 100 kts. This meant slowing the airplane down. I was pushing myself toward neural plasticity, forcing a cortical and neuronal re-wiring. I tell you sometimes it downright hurt. The mental fatigue was stunning. I truly believe my IQ lowered while under the hood due to the lack of visual and situational cues. Through it all I was humbled, dismayed, frustrated, and exhilarated. I always tell my clients or students that unlike the common assumption, practice makes practice. Practice allows repetition and through repetition we gain mastery. Practice we did.

The other thing I forgot to mention is that my instructor Mike is wicked smart. Seriously. He is probably one of the smartest folks I have ever met. A natural teacher he would challenge me, come up with unusual approaches or scenarios and gave me a lot of experience. I have four hours of instruction in actual IMC conditions. What a gift that is from an instructor. While IMC enroute to Camarillo for a 99s event, I experienced vertigo. It was the strangest sensation. I felt like my body was in one of those carnival mirrors that distorts reality. Mike said that he watched me and timed how long it took for me to recover, 3-4 seconds. Although it was uncomfortable, I am thankful for the experience.

I cannot count how many times I had to drive somewhere because of the coastal fog or weather. Mike would always say, “Gotta get that rating!” I decided that I needed to act in 2016. I made cuts in my budget to pay for the training I needed to get my rating. I became focused in the fall of 2016, secretly scheduling the written exam in November. I studied for hours a day and it paid off with a solid 90% on the test. 2017 was dedicated to instrument instruction. This meant that my son got used to me being in front of the computer, on the simulator, or at the airport. In late August I had my check ride scheduled. For some reason I felt pressure to get the rating done in August due to my travel schedule with AOPA to the regional fly-ins.  The pressure I put on myself caused insomnia, stress and lack of focus.  Mike and I went on a “check ride prep” flight and I performed horribly.  There were no safety of flight issues but mentally I was just not there.  It was hard for me even to calculate the reciprocal of a heading to radial.  As we were at MDA for the LOC BC-A I said, “I am postponing my check ride, I am not ready.”  After landing Mike gently said, “It is better for you to know that you aren’t ready versus me having to tell you.”  Mike flew home to LA and I burst into tears.  Only a few folks knew when my check ride was. I let them know that I postponed due to stress.  I quickly received a phone call of support from Robert DeLaurentis.  He could tell I had been sobbing. We processed the event and he helped me to see this was a positive versus a negative. I continued on with my training and came to believe I had made the correct decision.

During my last flight with Mike he asked me, “Where are you.” I glanced down and quickly said, “I am 5 miles south of Paradise [VOR] on the 185 radial” I suppose it was then I knew. I had literally wrapped my brain around instrument training.

November 17, 2017 was my instrument checkride. I was grateful to be able to use an office at ArtCraft Paint in Santa Maria. The DPE, Dennis Magdaleno drove up the coast and we started about 10:00 a.m. We began with the ground portion. I didn’t think I would be as nervous as I was. If he had asked me my middle name, I probably would have hesitated.   I did well enough for us to move to the flying portion. It was early afternoon and the day was just perfect. Low clouds had cleared and the sun was shining. As we walked out to the airplane Dennis said, “I love Mooneys! It is my favorite airplane.” I said, “Me too!”

Before we started the engine Dennis told me there are three outcomes: pass, fail or discontinue. If there were an issue that caused me to fail he would simply say that I needed more instruction and I would have to try again. He ended by saying that if he didn’t say anything after landing and during taxi that it was a good sign that I passed.

Although extremely stressful I did everything he asked of me on the practical test [LOC-BC, ILS, VOR partial panel, unusual attitudes, DME arc]. The final approach was a circle to land. As I landed I made sure I was right on the glideslope and touched down on the centerline at the aim point. I taxied off at the first exit and parked outside of ArtCraft. Dennis didn’t say a word. [Inner happy dance going on]. We debriefed the flight and he asked for my logbook. As my certificate was being printed he excused himself and left the room. I was alone, keenly alone. I burst into tears, I suppose from the adrenaline, relief and pride. At that moment I missed my parents and my kids. Getting my instrument rating was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It was harder than graduating from college, harder than my professional licensure exams, and harder than being a single mom. 2017 was the year I promised myself that I would indeed get my rating. 366 days from the date of the written test, I did just that. Another successful flight of Haywire Airlines.

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

A New Normal

I suppose it was an eventuality living overseas that I would finally start accepting how things are done here and slowly forget the ever-present reality that “this would have been easier in America.” At this point, my immersion has gone to a new level, where it has steam rolled whatever resistance remained.

For those that read last month’s post, it was about the Catalonian independence referendum and my utilization of general aviation as a way to make sense of all of the upheaval here in Catalonia, by flying on a daily basis. As the days continued past the suspended declaration of independence early in October, my sense of angst did not reduce, as I kept thinking about the fact that all of my assets here in Spain are not insured against civil unrest and war. For that matter, nobody has coverage for that sort of thing. Being so close to the French border, logic said that we should have a plan, and we did devise one early on: first our safety if stuck at home, second our ability to sneak out, and third the financial effects of it all. As I took stock of the continuously tense situation, I decided that my escape plan with the airplane had some holes in it.

I joked that I would hop in the plane and make a James Bond escape across the border, declaring an emergency if I had to and requesting political asylum. If lives are at stake, that is how it would go down, and I’d endure unhappy French gendarmes if I had to. Then, as I thought more about the reality that we may wish to reposition assets for prevention, then my WWII escape from behind enemy lines would not get the sympathy I had hoped, especially at St. Leocadie, an airport merely 8 miles from La Cerdanya aerodrome, yet over the border in France. If it was a foul weather day, I would need to land there, and it is both an “altiport,” which is a restricted use airport in France requiring a signoff before being permitted to land, and a hybrid military installation where advance registration is also required. I decided it was time to get the site licenses and registration taken care of.

Of course, I could not use my airplane, as I would need the site license to land there to take the lesson in the first place, so I rented from the local flying club and went up with the Chief Pilot. It was a 1959 Super Cub with a 150-horsepower engine, the same model my grandfather informally taught me how to fly in at age 8. I initially expected the whole affair to be a nonevent, though I had a nagging suspicion I was in for a lot of work, which turned out to be correct. I hadn’t flown a Super Cub in 20 years, and never from the front seat. The lesson would be in Spanish, a common second language for both of us. As anticipated, the checklist was in French, and as I noted this fact, I was told by the instructor that “when [he goes] to America, the checklist will not be in French.” Right. Airspeed was in kilometers, which is about as awkward as driving a car in the UK. That all aside, the lesson was pleasant, though left me sweating like I was a student again, and confirmed a longstanding suspicion: while I am becoming a better aviator flying the PA-11 so much, I do not fly many models, and I wonder if over specializing is not the smartest thing to do. It was good to fly another machine.

Le Super Cub – St. Leocadie, France

After the lesson, I now had two site licenses, as we visited La Llagonne, a glider field at 5,600’ elevation. A few days later, I flew up to La Llagonne before the season entombed the place in snow and mud, taking some food and enjoying a bit of a meal surrounded by scenery that looked like Colorado and Wyoming. In this moment of quiet reflection, I began to realize that the magnitude of aviation experiences to be had is cumulatively becoming almost overwhelming. In my initial indignation at bureaucratic nonsense, a subtler enjoyment of the depth of culture and experience was not being noticed. Despite the seemingly anachronistic requirement to have this site license, it creates a situation where not many get to land there, so it is kind of special to be able to. That, and yet again I am nibbling on some food staring at this airplane, amazed how many places it has been. Besides, why would I expect the French, Spanish, or anyone else to care about what an American pilot thinks about their rules?

La Llagonne, France – 5600′ MSL

After getting the site licenses taken care of, any angst about independence evaporated. I made a plan, took care of all paperwork and other affairs that I could, and decided to stop caring. Shortly thereafter, I decided to enjoy a Friday afternoon and putz around the hangar on what was a hazy day unsuitable for photography. The warmth of the late October summery weather beckoned a flight around the pattern, so I decided to leave the cameras in the car and head up with the door open. During climbout, someone asked me “What do you think of the Republic?” “Republic? Did they declare independence?” “Yes, just now.” Figures, I have a moment of peace and a country is born beneath me.

Independence declared. I grabbed the camera and went flying, Urus, Catalonia.

For those that follow the news, the independence saga continues, a political drama that is by and large entirely unpredictable. That being said, I quit trying to predict it, and keep flying. Recently, a raging Tramontane wind coupled with a strong low between Corsica and Rome, creating furious winds that finally cleaned out all Catalonian haze, high and low. Once the winds calmed down, I decided to swallow my angst and conquer a flight I have not been able to do since I got here.

The Mediterranean is 54 nautical miles as the crow flies, yet is inexplicably one of the most complex routes, and that has nothing to do with airspace. Taking off at 3,609’ MSL, I have to climb to 7,200’ to get over terrain, then commence a step descent over terrain that looks like severe Appalachian hills: densely forested countryside with West Virginia-style curvy roads and few fields. These gnarly hills twist and snake, changing their form and working their way toward the Mediterranean plains, a cruise initially at 5,000’, which gives way to 3,000’ and then roughly 1,500’, as Barcelona’s airspace is overhead. Turning to cruise down the coast, terrain starts to act a bit like Big Sur, which cliffs adjacent to the ocean and terrain up to 1,200’ here and there close to the water, giving way to valleys that drop to sea level, containing developed areas. There is a lot of think about with regard to an engine failure, though the scenery is exquisite. All of these areas are absolutely filled with microclimates.

Climbing to 7,200′ MSL to leave La Cerdanya

Cruising at 5,000′ MSL

Descending to 3,000′ MSL

Mediterranean Coastal Plain. 1,500′ MSL cruising altitude.

Costa Brava, with Montseny in the background.

Not a good place for an engine to quit.

Tossa de Mar

Palafolls

Fueling was at a ULM field, Palafolls, a short field at sea level wedged amongst 10-foot swamp grass, which was an entertaining approach with unmarked high-tension lines, an elevated highway on short final, and a factory complex so large that the roof would have made a suitable emergency landing location. Taking off from there, I finally had a chance to fly around Massís del Monsteny, a 5,000’ hill east of Barcelona that frequently taunts me from a distance. Being so close to the Mediterranean, the hill almost always has sea haze or clouds making imagery unsuitable, except today.

After Monsteny, it was a descent down to 3,000’ to photograph the ridges west of Vic, which were uncharacteristically free of persistent fog and inversions. That gave way to cruise climb over West Virginia terrain, clearing a ridge at 5,200’ before giving full throttle for the climb through a downdraft to 7,200’ to clear Puigllançada, then descending alongside ski resorts in stiff wind, for a long final back to La Cerdanya at 3,609’.

Massis del Montseny near Barcelona. Note Mediterranean in far left background.

Cliffs west of Vic, 3,000′ MSL cruising altitude.

5,500′ en route to 7,200′, encountering light rotors off the hills.

Puigllançada to the left, at 7,200′ before descending into the valley to La Cerdanya.

It has been a historical enigma why I was averse to taking the flight in the first place, and yet that aversion was confirmed by how tired I was after 4.5 hours of flying over this route. It is easier to fly above timberline, in the Pyrenees or the Rockies, in the middle of winter, than this kind of flight. It is certainly the opposite of low and slow over farm country, and after some reflection, the level of complexity, terrain variation, microclimates, development, remote areas, and mix of coastal and mountainous terrain over a short distance makes it unusual, challenging, and rewarding. I would also suppose that while aviation is aviation, the sheer immersion of inputs and visuals in an exotic nation places more processing burden on the mind, as there is so much density of things to see and process, especially while flying over new surroundings in a place where sovereignty is, well, up in the air.

Speaking of flying above timberline, book #13 has been published: “Around the Summit: Flying Grand Teton.” It is an aerial photography manifesto of every nook and cranny of Grand Teton National Park, featuring my most technical mountain flying to date in the Cub.

 

Garrett Fisher is an aerial adventure photographer, having photographed some of the most rugged and wild terrain in America from his 1949 Piper PA-11. After living in Germany with the Cub, he recently moved to the Spanish Pyrenees to continue the flying adventure. He has published six aerial photography books covering the Colorado Rockies, Wyoming, high terrain in the Southeast, and the Outer Banks, with more US and European books in the pipeline. He blogs regularly about his flights at www.garrettfisher.me.

More GPS Interference Testing in Alaska

The military will again be conducting GPS testing out of Restricted Area 2205, east of Eielson Air Force Base, November 12-17, 2017.  This activity will be conducted at night, between the hours of 06Z and 16Z (Starting on November 11th, 9 pm Alaska Daylight Time, running till 7 am daily for five days).  A look at the chart accompanying this notice, issued by the FAA Joint Frequency Management Office Alaska, shows that effects could be widespread.

Map of potentially impacted area from upcoming GPS Testing.

If you experience any GPS anomalies, in addition to notifying ATC, please share that information with AOPA by sending an email to: [email protected].  Details including aircraft type, location, altitude, and the nature of the anomaly would help us track this issue.

While these hours of operation represent the maximum extent that “testing” may be conducted, we expect actual activities may be of shorter duration.  ATC will be notified by the military before testing on a given day is started, and when it has been concluded, so a call to Anchorage Center may provide a better idea of what to expect during these days.  As always, please check NOTAMS for any changes regarding this activity.

At the Alaska Civil Military Aviation Council meeting earlier this week, we were advised that each of the Red Flag Exercises being planned for the coming year will include GPS Interference activities.  AOPA will continue to monitor this activity and its impacts on civil aviation, as we continue to advance into the era of satellite based navigation.

Link to the notice:  JFAK 17-03 GPS Flight Advisory

Last Chance to Dance: camaraderie, education and inspiration during the close of the flying season.

With fall leaves changing and winter weather approaching; many of us are getting our last fly-ins of the season in the flight planner. Though I live at the beach in California, not everyone gets to enjoy about 11 months of VMC. Why not check out remaining fly-ins in your area, and get in on the end-of-the-year fun?  Need help finding an event or have an event to post? Check out the calendar on the AOPA Events page. I hope to see many of you in Florida at the end of this week.

Coppertstate Fly-In Aviation and Education Expo, Falcon-Field, Mesa AZ (KFFZ)  October 27-28. Come and meet fellow aviators and attend a variety of workshops and forums.  Weather toward the end of October is typically clear, sunny with highs in the mid to upper 80s.  Lows in the 60s.  Bring your family for a great aviation outing!  For more information visit event site.

Cooperstate Fly-In

AOPA Regional Fly-In, Tampa, FL [KTPF] October 27-28. The AOPA Fly-In season wraps up at Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF), Friday Workshops led by world-renowned presenters were very popular with attendees. Topics include: Flying in the Extremes: Water Survival Tips and Techniques, IFR Refresher: Getting Back to Instrument Proficiency, Pilot Plus One: Combining Learning, Inspiration, and Adventure, and Owner-Guided Maintenance: Managing Your Aircraft Maintenance. The fun continues at the ever-popular Barnstormers Party, presented by Jeppeson. Saturday activities included free seminars all day, dozens of exhibits and aircraft on display, great meals, and a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker. Event Info and Registration.

AOPA Friday Seminars. Photo Credit: David Tulis

Challenge Air for Kids and Friends, November 4, 9 am-4 pm at Ambassador Jet Center at Dallas Executive Airport [KRBD]. Pilots volunteer their planes to fly children with special needs on a 25-minute flight to build confidence and self-esteem.  Pilots must have 500 PIC hours, current Medical and FAA license, and insurance for $1,000,000.  Challenge Air for Kids and Friends has been around since 1993 and been doing this event in Dallas for many years. Please join us on Pilots, Volunteers, Families, and Agencies all need to register here on their website. We look forward to seeing you there!

Challenge Air for Kids

Spirit of Flight Living Aviation History Day, November 11, 10am-2pm Spirit of Flight Center Erie, CO [KEIK] Educational program about our aviation heroes and Salute to Veterans. Annual museum canned food drive for community food bank. Bring a food item and receive a FREE Starbuck’s coffee. For more information.

Living History Day. Photo Credit: BlueDharma

Friends of Oceano Airport Toys for Tots, December 2nd, 10 am-2 pm. Oceano Airport [L52] Join us for our annual Toys for Tots event in cooperation with the US Marine Corps. Bring a new, unwrapped toy and enjoy the fun. 10:00 Arrivals and holiday beverages 11:00 Live holiday music: the Jingle Bells 12:00 Burger Fry 1:00 Reindeer Games There is no admission charge. Aircraft on display, historical exemption sign-offs. Banner Airways: Take a ride back in history in the 1943 Super Stearman Yellow Bi-plane. SkyDive Pismo Beach is on hand for those wishing to skydive with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Oceano Fuel Discount $.25 per gallon, plus $.25 per gallon donation to Toys for Tots. Lodging Discount: Pacific Plaza Resort L52 Oceano Airport, Oceano California. Make a child smile at Christmas.

Oceano Airport, Toys for Tots

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

HAARP Project under new management: Watch for the TFR

The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is a research program that has been used to study the ionosphere since 1990. The facility, north east of the Gulkana Airport, is home to radio transmitters and an array of antennas that can transmit 3.6 megawatts of energy into the atmosphere, in support of research projects.  It doesn’t operate very often, a few times per year at present, but when it does, pilots don’t want to be in the path of this beam of radio energy.  Consequently, we should be on the lookout for a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) that will be activated during campaigns, to avoid flying over the facility.  The next campaign is from September 21-25, but there will be others to follow.  Make sure to check NOTAMs, in case this TFR is active when you are flying in the Copper River Basin, or transiting the area to or from the Alaska Highway route to Canada.

Social media notice of the September research campaign at the HAARP facility near Gakona. Watch for a TFR when the facility is in operations.

What is HAARP?
Located about 16 nautical miles northeast of the Gulkana Airport (GKN), the facility houses a 33-acre array of antennas, and when operating, can send pulses of energy into the upper reaches of the atmosphere to stimulate this zone, providing a means to study what happens there. Research has potential implications for understanding properties ranging from the aurora to long-range communications. Until recently, the Air Force operated the facility, in support of Department of Defense research interests, primarily dealing with communication and navigation interests.  In 2015, the facility was transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute to operate.  For more information on the facility, see the frequently asked questions document at http://gi.alaska.edu/haarp/faq.

Why a TFR?
AOPA has followed the operation of the HAARP facility for many years, primarily out of concerns with possible disturbance to aircraft navigation and/or communications systems. While managed by the Air Force, operations were conducted as a Controlled Firing Area (CFA), meaning that the Air Force had to shut down their transmitter if an aircraft came within a prescribed distance.  They used a radar system to detect aircraft and shut down the transmitter if an aircraft got too close.  When the Geophysical Institute took over operations, FAA re-examined those procedures and decided that the CFA was not adequate, in part due to the high-altitude nature of the impacts. The TFR language is expected to define an area from the surface to FL250.

The HAARP Facility north east of the Gulkana Airport, will have a TFR protecting the airspace around the facility when in operations, similar to this graphic. Check NOTAMs for details and active times.  Map courtesy of SkyVector.com

The HAARP Project has re-established a phone number that pilots may call during times the facility is operating.  They have also temporarily re-established a VHF radio frequency, to allow pilots to contact the facility while airborne. These mechanisms should allow pilots operating in the area to have a direct line of communication to obtain more detailed information than the NOTAM is expected to contain, given the real-time nature of changes in the experimental world.  AOPA has also requested that the facility be charted on the Anchorage Sectional, to make it easier for pilots to become familiar with the location of the facility.  In addition to a NOTAM for a TFR, during operations pilots may call the HAARP site, near Gakona, at 907-822-5497, or on VHF radio frequency 122.25 MHz.  Information will also be available on Facebook and Twitter at @uafhaarp.

Stay tuned for more information as the transition from Air Force to university operations proceed. And make sure to check NOTAMs to find out when the TFR is activated.

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