Category: The places you’ll go (page 1 of 2)

We are born to be happy Follow your smiles

I just finished a wonderful weekend in Portland and the Columbia River Gorge. While driving on a back road to PDX I saw a billboard that said, “We are born to be happy. Follow your smiles.” I didn’t think much of it at first, and then I thought about the concept more deeply. Admittedly I am a notorious photo and selfie taker. If I were to follow the smiles on my camera roll, it would lead me to my family, both biological and aviation.

I am blessed to have a professional career divided in two, half being a licensed psychotherapist and the other half working in aviation education, presenting and writing. I am keenly aware that many of us have to fund our passion for flying through hard work at non-aviation vocations. But if we follow the smiles, I bet that yours would be of Oshkosh, attending a fly-in at your local airport, or flying a four-legged to its forever home. Check out some of the smiles from some of my fellow aviation lovers below, and try not to smile yourself.

Jen Toplak,  instrument rated private pilot, business owner

Toplak [R] and GoldCoast 99s

Our event sought to increase aviation career awareness and the role female aviators can play.  As the past Chapter Chairman of the Florida Goldcoast 99s (International Organization of Women Pilots) and owner of Dare to Fly Apparel, I gathered 30 volunteers pilots, including 99s members and friends of the 99s, on the 18th of February to paint a 60 foot in diameter compass rose at X51, Homestead Executive Airport, Florida.

Compass Rose Finished

Homestead Executive Jet Center donated most of the painting materials and lunch for the volunteers. We are appreciative of the collaboration and help provided by the airport authorities. We are proud of how successful this event was and we are very happy we made a lasting impression on the field, we hope to inspire many more people to learn to fly, especially women. The day was full of smiles.

Mara’D Smith, Charter pilot, volunteer pilot at Collings Foundation

This might be one of my favorite moments so far with Collings Foundation as a volunteer pilot on the B24 Liberator. Normally it is me asking to take pictures with the crew members. But when this veteran found out I was a pilot, and I was the one that helped fly him to Oxford, he absolutely insisted on taking a photo with me. He had multiple members of his family taking the photos to make sure he got one! So wonderful, and it made me smile from ear to ear.

Mike Jesch, Airline Captain, Vice-President, Fullerton Airport Pilots Association , FAAST Team Presenter

FAPA Officers Mike Jesch, Jim Gandee, and presenter Ramona Cox

I get a smile out of participating in my local pilot association, Fullerton Airport Pilots Association. I was one of the original “steering committee” that began some seven years ago, and worked to restart our then-dormant group. In the end, I’ve served as the Vice President of the group ever since. My favorite part of the job is the connections to people in the industry. One of my “chores” is to schedule speakers for our monthly safety seminars. In this capacity, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of meeting and working with a Who’s Who of the industry in my area. That has developed into opportunities to speak myself at other local airports, and I’ve enjoyed putting together and delivering dozens of seminars in the area ever since. The biggest downside is that a ton of people know who I am, but I don’t know so many of them! I always get a giggle when somebody says “Hi Mike!” who attended a seminar a year ago!

Jim Koepnick, award-winning aviation photographer

I love hanging around the Vintage area at EAA/Oshkosh, it makes me smile. I had the pleasure to run into Don Voland and his lovely wife Jeanette. Don was my helicopter pilot for countless years. He laughed as he recalled the first year we accomplished the fish-eye aerial of convention grounds (in the old film days) with a combination of altitude and a silly young photographer hanging out of the helicopter hanging on to the seat belt.

Greg Bedinger, Former Pilot Outreach Manager, current LightHawk volunteer pilot

Greg Bedinger [L] and volunteers

On flights designed and coordinated by the conservation-aviation group LightHawk I have  spent many hours volunteering my time and skills to help conservationists, photographers, and policy-makers to see from the air the multitude of impacts on watershed health, from high up in the Cascade and Olympic mountains all the way down to the shorelines of the Salish Sea.

LightHawk Crew Chief,  Luke Irwin

I’ve been privileged in recent years to fly across many western landscapes on similar LightHawk flights, from the Colorado River delta in Mexico to the oilfields in West Texas. Many of my flights have been focused on gathering imagery to be used by the partner conservation groups in support of their work. The flights are always personally rewarding as they offer my passengers a chance to gain a more thorough and expansive understanding of an issue or landscape. The smiles both during the flights, and after, let me know that the time spent has been more than worthwhile.

For much of the country, spring flying is just around the corner. Perhaps spend a few minutes thinking where your aviation smiles are hiding. And, if by chance, you find yourself at Sun n Fun in Lakeland, FL., come to one of my AOPA presentations Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals or the Mooney booth and say hello. Smiles guaranteed.

Seminars offered at Sun n Fun 2018

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

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

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

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

Think like an upside down wedding cake: three-tiered airport advocacy works

Unique airplanes on display at AOPA,Norman

Having just returned from Norman Oklahoma and the AOPA Regional Fly-In I was impressed to see the record attendance numbers at the two-day event. Over 7500 people and 500 airplanes came to enjoy the Friday educational seminars and the Saturday events. This year, AOPA broke the mold of the wildly successful regional fly-in by adding Friday seminars, which educate both the pilot, and non-pilot (as with Pilot Plus One/Right Seat Ready). In observing the event at Norman, I was reminded of the three-tiered model of airport advocacy. In action were local pilot groups, the eleventh annual Aviation Festival, the University of Oklahoma, state-level aviation associations, and of course nationally AOPA.

Jan Maxwell, co-founder Right Seat Ready! companion seminar.

As pilots, we are all used to looking at Class B airspace as an upside-down wedding cake. We understand that the first level extends from the ground upward; a larger ring sits on top of that, and a still larger ring above that. I have long believed that in terms of airport advocacy we need to subscribe to a three-tiered model. Much like Class B, we have the central core being the boots on the ground, local level. Above that are the state level and finally the national level. Let’s take a closer look:

Tier 1 – Local Advocacy: Local wisdom is the best source of information at an airport. Who better understands current issues, history, and future needs better the pilots who are based there? What can you do locally?

  • Join your local airport organization.
  • Find out who your AOPA ASN volunteer is.
  • Attend Airport Land Use Meetings.
  • Host community events at your airport.
  • Form a business relationship with your City or County Planners.
  • Attend all City or County sponsored airport meetings.
  • Attend Airport meetings.
  • Look for chapters of state aviation organizations in your town/area/region.
  • Use media to the airport’s best interest [newspaper, radio, social media, TV].
  • Create a good working relationship with your airport manager.

 Tier 2 – Statewide Organizations: Not every state has its own general aviation organization. But a quick Google search will tell you if your state does. Statewide airport advocacy organizations are important because they maintain statewide contacts, information, and strategies. Further, our statewide groups can also advise and assist the local airport groups when issues arise.

Tier 3 – National Organizations: Our national aviation organizations are a critical piece of the three-tiered airport defense strategy. Membership insures that each maintains its ability to support statewide or local airport/pilot organizations. If you do not belong to AOPA, EAA, NBAA, you should. Critical to interfacing with our congressional representatives, lobbying that national pilot organizations provide a large presence in Washington, DC. This voice serves to remind DC of the importance of general aviation to the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

As a resident of California, I get the pleasure of seeing the three-tiered model in full effect coming up October 13th and 14th at historic San Carlos Airport [KSQL]. The California Pilots Association  in conjunction with the San Carlos Airport Association is presenting AirFest 2017. The two-day event sponsored by ACI Jet,  features a Friday night wine and food reception with AOPA President, Mark Baker. Saturday’s workshops range from safety seminars and airport advocacy to disaster preparedness. All three levels of local state and national are working together to provide educational, social and advocacy.  I would encourage everyone to think like an upside down wedding cake when it comes to advocating for GA and airports. Think globally and act locally. The more we promote general aviation the more we protect our airports.

CalPilots Airfest 2017




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

Come on in, the water’s fine: Flying, Family and Fun at EAA Seaplane base

Flying, Family and Fun at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Seaplane base

Experiencing the Seaplane Base at EAA/OSH for the first time was at once thrilling and relaxing. I have attended EAA AirVenture nearly every year since 2008. On Monday morning of convention, I found myself with a few “unscheduled” hours. So, I mentioned to my friend that I wanted to go to the Seaplane Base. A few minutes later we were pulling up to the parking lot having a good time teasing the gate attendants, who thought we were sisters, about whether they were brothers. After years of pulling into to various EAA parking lots, the vibe at the base was noticeably different. The area is lush and green; the trees were swaying in the breeze as we followed a bark path to the base. A few weeks before I had posted on Facebook that I was hoping to get a seaplane ride this year. I was pleased to get an offer from Don Smith to come out and get a tour and a flight in his 2015 Husky.

Pontoon Boat Tour Captain

Once arriving to the base you are met with warm smiles and a great view of airplanes bobbing up and down at their tie-downs. Nearly immediately, we were asked if we wanted a pontoon boat tour of the lagoon, which we quickly accepted. During the boat, tour the history of the seaplane base was shared as well as the details about how the base comes together once a year through the labor of a team of dedicated volunteers.  According to The Story of AirVenture Seaplane Base by Richard A. Steeves since the early 30’s the Vette family has owned over 27 acres of lakefront land along the shore of Lake Winnebago. “John Vette Jr. was one of the “Early Birdmen,” who flew and owned quite a variety of aircraft, including the amphibious Duck for the navy during W.W.II. After the war, he opened a business south of Oshkosh, near the family farm. Among his employees, an engineer named Al Ziebell developed a friendship with Bill Brennand, with whom he enjoyed fishing for walleyes along the lakeshore. By 1949, they decided it would be much easier if they had a boathouse near the shoreline for storing their gear, so Bill bought 1.9 acres of Vette land around the inner harbor. In 1957 Bill bought a Piper J3 on floats, and with help from Al and others, built some ramps for seaplane storage when they were not off on fishing trips to Canada.” In the early 70’s EAA’s Paul Poberenzy began negotiations to make the Seaplane Base a part of EAA’s annual convention. According to AirNav, the owners of 96WI continue to be the Vette family with John and his sister Burleigh.

Much like Burning Man’s 88NV Blackrock City Airport, 96WI the Vette/Blust Seaplane Base is active only one week a year and is created and maintained by volunteers. The rest of the year the Seaplane Base reverts to 20 plus acres of serene lakeside woodlands. Starting with a work party on Memorial Weekend and ending shortly after convention, the Seaplane Base welcomes hundreds of airplanes and visitors.

Don Smith

There are educational seminars daily including topics from the FAA, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Natural Resources. Women Soar You Soar also brought many aviation- minded girls out to the base for a tour and a ride. From karaoke night to the famous Watermelon Social sponsored by Wipaire, there is something going on at the base every day at AirVenture.

A quick walk around the grounds led us to Don Smith, a longtime volunteer.  Don has an enthusiasm for aviation and the base that is just infectious. It was such a pleasure to be able to fly with someone that knew every detail about the seaplane base and Lake Winnebago. We taxied out past a controller in the OSH pink shirt. He waved as we came out of the lagoon area to the lake-proper.

A different kind of tower controller

The lake was a bit choppy which made take off a little bumpy, but within a minute or so, we were airborne over the lush landscape. I have flown in a seaplane only once before in Northern California. Don was quick to point out methods for determining wind direction and speed. Although he offered to let me fly, I chose just to be a passenger to soak up the sights and sounds. Flying over the water and the farmlands took me back so a simpler time. I could easily imagine what it would have been like to fly in the 40’s and early 50’s. On short approach to final, I could see folks sitting on the beach and under the trees enjoying the show. Don had a great landing and we taxied back to his spot buoy #1.

Later in the week, I had the pleasure to attend the Watermelon Social sponsored by Wipaire. I had been at convention all day where the pace is more hurried and busy. It was so lovely to be able head to the base and just relax and renew. It is hard to describe the vibe at the lakeside, I suppose the best way to put it is everyone operates on “island time.” I can say that I never met at stranger while there, from the fellow working the first aid stand who gave me a cold bottle of water on a hot day, to the folks working in the booths that dotted the path.

Rod Machado once said to me, “Airplane folks are the best folks.” I have to agree with that. The volunteers who annually build this paradise should be proud of themselves. Visitors are greeted warmly, educated, and engaged. The scenery is stunning and the warm camaraderie greatly appreciated. A big thank you to Don and the gang at the seaplane base. The memories will be with me always and I will be coming back next year.







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

I don’t care how you get there, just get there if you can.

AOPA Regional Fly-Ins offer Friday intensive education series.

In regard to the newly announced two-day AOPA Regional fly-ins I am going to paraphrase Oleta Adams song Get Here, I don’t care how you get there, just get there if you can. Ongoing education is vital to the pilot population. Statistics are clear that when we attend continuing education our ability to safely operate airplanes increases. According to national safety seminar presenter Mark Grady, “Several years back it was determined that pilots who participated in the FAA’s Wings Program regularly did not have as many accidents, incidents and even violations as other GA pilots. It simply makes common sense that pilots who take time to do more than the minimum of a flight review are going to be safer. After all, we react the way we are trained in an emergency, so the more up-to-date training we have, the better we handle things that may go wrong.” When AOPA adopted a regional fly-in format versus a multiple day format, I missed the comprehensive educational seminars offered. And though the regional fly-in format is wildly successful, the opportunity for intensive classes was not available. Well, all that changes with the new Friday,  hands-on workshops being offered at all four AOPA regional fly-ins across the country.

Each fly-in offers four subjects to choose from for a Friday seven-hour intensive clinic with excellent presenters. Pre-registration is required. Tuition fees apply: $105 for members, $155 for non-members, and $75 for spouses. I am thrilled to have developed Pilot Plus One which will be offered at all four regional fly-ins. Check out the offerings below:

Owner-Guided Maintenance: Managing Your Aircraft Maintenance
Interested in taking on a larger role in the maintenance of your aircraft?   Join aviation adventurer, JetBlue pilot, and around-the-world adventurer, Adrian Eichhorn and A&P/IAs Mike Busch and Paul New help you determine what you, as the aircraft owner, can do to keep your plane in top condition. Get hands-on with changing the oil in an actual aircraft engine, cleaning and gapping spark plugs, and examining the insides of an aircraft engine to determine its health with the help of these three FAA Aviation Technicians of the Year.


IFR Refresher: Getting Back to Instrument Proficiency
Hear from Jim Simon, chief flight instructor and director of Rainier Flight Service. Simon’s motto is “Safety first,” and he’ll be putting his more than 5,000 hours of flight instructing experience to work so you can get back into the cockpit as pilot in command under instrument flight rules.


Overcoming Mountains & Water: Flying in the Extremes
Join renowned mountain flying specialist Lori MacNichol and AOPA Pilot magazine editor-at-large Thomas A. Horne to learn the skills necessary to fly safely in mountainous terrain, or over water, and learn what items these experts suggest you should have on-hand to survive after a forced landing in mountainous terrain, or after a ditching at sea.  You’ll gather around a general aviation airplane, pull a life raft out of storage, deploy it, inflate it, and don your personal flotation device in a real time run-through of a ditching emergency.


Understanding Aviation Weather

For September 8th-9th Norman, OK you will have a unique chance to tour the National Weather Center for a seminar called Understanding Aviation Weather.


Pilot Plus One©

Pilot Plus One is a comprehensive daylong educational seminar designed to educate, inspire, and encourage adventure pilots and non-pilot companions. The idea is simple, when we recognize the unlimited possibilities for using the airplane for recreation, vacation, business and charitable flights, we will all start flying more now. Pilot Plus One is a lively seminar with ample opportunities for audience participation. At the close of the day, we will have fabulous door prizes from Lightspeed Aviation and Flying Eyes Optics. Our schedule includes leading experts in the aviation.

More Than Just the $100 Hamburger: Fun destinations to Fly by George Kounis, Publisher/Editor in Chief, Pilot Getaways Magazine.

Overcoming Fear Unleashing Potential: Addresses common fears of pilots and right-seat flyers by Robert DeLaurentis, Pilot, author, and philanthropist

Picture Perfect: Tips and techniques to get the best in-flight and at destination photos by professional aviation photographer, Jim Koepnick

Right Seat Ready! This companion safety seminar by Jolie Lucas and Jan Maxwell provides familiarization for non-pilots including airframe, instruments, radios and avionics, aircraft control, emergency communications, navigation, heads-up flight display, and landings. It is a fun, fast-paced, hands on class sure to inspire confidence to be ready on the right.


So make a plan to get to Camarillo, CA., Norman, OK., Groton, CT., or Tampa, FL in 2017. I will look forward to meeting many of you.  Your attendance and participation will make you a more informed pilot.  Bring your Plus One and let us inspire you to have more fun adventures in the airplane.  From educational opportunities to exhibits, displays and camaraderie, these events should not be missed.   For registration please go to:  AOPA 2017

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

Reigniting people’s wonder for one of the most extraordinary aspects of the modern world

Last weekend I flew from Santa Maria, CA to Prescott, AZ for the final AOPA Regional fly-in of 2016. Through my service club, the Mooney Ambassadors, I am able to display an airplane, and have a booth with children’s activities etc. There were over 6000 attendees at the event and I had the opportunity to meet pilots, wanna be pilots, and families of each. One of the folks standing by my airplane was Gillian Blumer. I asked if she would like to come inside my Mooney and we had a nice chat.

Gillian, from Corvalis Oregon, is a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She developed the passion for flight in a 7th grade science class when they had a mechanics of flight lecture. Gillian is working on her pilot’s license, and she has a passion for aeronautical engineering. If all goes according to plan, she will graduate with an aeronautical engineering degree with a minor in computer science.

Jolie Lucas and Gillian Blumer

Jolie Lucas and Gillian Blumer

When I asked her what she wants to do with her engineering degree, I was completely impressed with her answer. “I want to incorporate aviation into society. A lot of people see airplanes as transportation for long distances or goods and materials. But  I believe with future technology, we can create airplanes for every day life, that can get us from point A to point B in wonderful fun. These airplanes have to fit key aspects: be relatively small [size of car] and able to take off in short fields or through vertical lift. Currently vertical lift airplanes are not efficient because the propulsion it takes is inefficient. I would like to work on making vertical lift planes more efficient. I feel that we could do a lot to advance aviation if we re-designed aircraft engines. I have applied for the Human-Powered Project on campus, which seeks to design a human powered aircraft,” she says.

Her comments about bringing the fun and wonder back to aviation made me think about my friend Brian Terwilliger and his movie Living in the Age of Airplanes. Following its premiere at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, the film continued its successful run on giant screen, digital, IMAX® and museum cinemas worldwide in 2015 and 2016.

IMG_7813I was lucky enough to see a press screening in Oshkosh and it is set for a Blu-Ray/DVD release October 25th. The movie is simply stunning.  As many of you know Brian was the filmmaker who brought us the aviation classic, One Six Right about historic Van Nuys airport.

To dramatize the remarkably fluid global traffic enabled by contemporary air travel, Terwilliger traveled with his crew to 95 locations in 18 countries searching for some of the most exotic spots on earth. Living in the Age of Airplanes is directed by Brian J. Terwilliger (One Six Right) and produced by Terwilliger and Bryan H. Carroll. Director of Photography is Andrew Waruszewski. Music is by James Horner (Avatar, Titanic) and the Editor is Brad Besser.

“Since we were all born into a world with airplanes, it’s hard to imagine that jet travel itself is only 60 years old, just a tick on the timeline of human history,” said Brian. “But our perception of crossing continents and oceans at 500 mph has turned from fascination to frustration. I want to reignite people’s wonder for one of the most extraordinary aspects of the modern world.”

Reignite the wonder of flight

Reignite the wonder of flight

Terwilliger recruited Harrison Ford, one of the world’s biggest movie stars and an expert pilot, to narrate Living in the Age of Airplanes. “It was important to me that the narrator truly owned the story and had a passion for the subject,” says Terwilliger. “I didn’t want to have a celebrity simply ‘lend’ their voice, because this project is very personal to me, and the narrator plays such an important role. With a documentary like this, there are the visuals, the music and the narrator—and that’s it. I wanted the delivery to come from someone with passion. Harrison was very committed to telling the story and getting it right.”

To create the music for Living in the Age of Airplanes Terwilliger collaborated with another private pilot and kindred spirit, composer James Horner, who scored such Hollywood blockbusters as Avatar, Titanic, and Braveheart. Take a listen to the beautiful SCORE .

Terwilliger hopes Living in the Age of the Airplanes restores a sense of wonder for aviation during an era when many people take air travel for granted. “Flying has become more accessible to more people than at any time in history,” he says. “It’s no longer just for the elite as it was 60 years ago.” But now that mankind has realized its dream of flying after 200,000 years of earthbound evolution, air travel has lost some of its luster. “It’s become such a commonplace experience that it doesn’t seem to kindle people’s interest anymore,” Terwilliger says. “You have a lot of disgruntled passengers where their focus is on the inconvenience and the delays. My hope with this film is that it inspires audiences to see aviation with a new sense of appreciation and awe. If somebody sees Living in the Age of Airplanes and comes away thinking ‘I’ll never think about flying the same way again,’ then it worked.”

For those who would like to check out the trailers for Living in the Age of Airplanes or perhaps pre-order a DVD/Blu-Ray for holiday gift giving, follow this link:AIRPLANES_DVD

We all need to continue to think outside the box. Young people like Gillian will push aviation forward through design and engineering. Creative visionaries like Brian Terwilliger will illustrate the awesome wonder of our world and the ability to live life in three dimensions. What will be your contribution?



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

Pilot Plus One© Educating right and backseat companions on safety and recreational flying



I will never stop working to inspire the love of flight in children and youth. When I meet kids at aviation events I always ask if they want to be a pilot, and it is heartwarming to see a few of those kids’ faces light up.  We should all continue to inspire younger generations in various aviation careers, whether pilots, mechanics or pleasure flying.  However when inspiring the love of flight in children and youth there is a built-in time lag of 8-10 years until that person is a certificated pilot.

Inspire the Love of Flight

Inspire the Love of Flight

My current passion is to get our right- and back-seat non-pilot companions turned on about flying.  Toward that end, I have co-developed Right Seat Ready! © with my teaching partner Jan Maxwell.  RSR is a companion safety seminar in a one and two day format.  Jan and I teach around the country  5-6  times per year.  We have corporate clients as well as community aviation group sponsors like the 99s or local EAA chapters. I am aware there are many quality companion safety seminars offered around the country. I think as a pilot population we should take better advantage of educational offerings for our non-pilot passengers.

Jan Maxwell, RSR Instructor

Jan Maxwell, RSR Instructor

Right Seat Ready! © gives our attendees a wonderful education on aircraft systems, dynamics of flight, and emergency procedures.  Jan has decades of flying experience as well as being the co-owner of Maxwell Aviation a large Mooney Service Center.  As a licensed psychotherapist,  I am attuned to the psychological aspects of the companion seminar.  This usually means addressing common fears about flying as well as education in assessing the left seat pilot’s readiness for flight.

Pilot Plus One© education is dedicated to not only educating the pilot population, but enticing the right and back seat non-pilot companions.  The concept is to offer educational opportunities in which there are sessions for the pilot and the companions.  The more we provide opportunities to reach both audiences, the more we will be flying our airplanes.  This is a life-style idea and it is win-win.  When we address fears and talk about value added through general aviation, the more we are flying immediately.

Most of our companion safety seminars attract male and female attendees.  When talking with my students I have found that once the fear issues have been addressed they are more likely to want to use the aircraft as a recreational, business or charitable vehicle.  This  engagement has an additional benefit of increasing sales of aviation related items: hotels/resorts, fuel providers/FBOs, headsets, luggage, sunglasses, and O2 systems.

Companion education can save lives.

Companion education can save lives.

This weekend Jan and I will be teaching Right Seat Ready at Orange County Airport [KSNA]. The event is sponsored by the Orange County 99s. We have nearly 30 right-seaters registered to come.  I can already tell you what will happen:  the first few minutes we will see the “deer in the headlight” look when we talk about aircraft systems and instruments. Yet in a few hours, the attendees brains will be lit up and they will be able to tell us what a manifold pressure gauge measures, and how to read an altimeter.  The chances of our attendees ever having to land an airplane due to a disabled left-seat pilot is slim, but they will be ready, especially with practice.  What will definitely happen is that our right-seaters will be more engaged about flying, less fearful, and able to see the opportunities available when we fly.

I would like to ask my readers to use the comments section to let me know if your right or back-seat companions have taken a safety seminar or flight lessons, what the barriers are for education, and if you think that education aimed at both the pilot and the companion would be appealing to you. Or contact me using one of the methods below.

There are many wonderful teachers out there educating our right seat non-pilot companions.  Why not give that gift of knowledge to your spouse, older kids, or companions?



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

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, 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 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.


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.



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)


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,, or

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.


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.

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