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Glaciers of the Rockies

For a while I have wanted to reminisce in writing about the “good old days” flying back in America, and a subject has surfaced that affords an opportunity to compare the two modes of flying. Perhaps European readers will find some of the details about flying in the West educational, and for everyone else, it might be interesting to note how the differences between both continents are made large by very small changes.

The project at hand is the publication of my magnum opus, “Glaciers of the Rockies.” Just before moving to Europe, I undertook an ambition to fly to every remaining glacier in the United States Rockies, during annual snowmelt, with the intention of photographing them before they disappear. Scientists estimate that could be as soon as 2030 for storied Glacier National Park, with varying results for other ranges. Given the time frame of a decade and a half and a looming move to the other side of the world, this project took front and center stage in the final summer before leaving, as it was logical to wonder if I’d be back again in that part of the world, with the PA-11, in sufficient time.

The project was undertaken while living at Alpine Airpark in Alpine, WY, roughly in the middle of the glaciers I intended to see. They were strewn along mountain ranges from northwest of Boulder, Colorado to Glacier National Park at the convergence of Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia, a linear distance of nearly 800 miles. For facts’ sake, what few glaciers in other Rockies states that existed have melted in the past few decades, so it was down to a list of ranges in those states. California, Oregon, and Washington have glaciers in the Sierras and Cascades.

Locations of the glaciers spanning 800 miles.

From the remaining glaciers in Colorado….

To the Wind River Range of Wyoming….

To Glacier National Park, Montana.

I had a short window to fly them all, and got it done between roughly August 10thand September 23rd, having flown about 50 hours just for the project, hitting the highest peaks of 11 mountain ranges, which was no small feat in a 100-horsepower airplane. In the middle of this 43-day period, I lost about 20 days to thick smoke, and had to get the rest done in small windows where air was clear and winds slack enough to fly close to such high terrain. As far as mountain flying goes, the primary enemy was wind, as many of the glaciated ranges are near the Great Plains, which makes them windier than interior mountains. Five of the eleven ranges featured more wind that I would have preferred, and they all were part of a continued learning experience.

Late season smoke didn’t help. Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. On one of two active flight plans for the project as there is not one single shred of civilization in this image.


Neither did early season snows obscuring the glacier beneath. Absaroka Range, Montana, with Great Plains to the left. It was rather windy.

Longs Peak, Colorado (14,259′) while in pursuit of remaining Colorado glaciers. At this altitude so close to the Plains, there is always unwanted wind.

As the project was done in America, the biggest issue was time, distance, weather, and wilderness, and not rules or regulations. I had recently installed a radio in the Cub, so I had that added resource; however, I did not have a starter or transponder. During the course of the adventure, not one single area of airspace that I needed had a restriction. I landed at three towered Class D airports, two of which were chosen due to convenience; the rest were uncontrolled. I filed two flight plans: one for the flight over Glacier National Park, given its harshness, and another over the Bob Marshall Wilderness, equally as much given its remoteness. I was able to maintain flight service position reports in Glacier, whereas the Bob Marshall Wilderness was in a radio shadow. Both flight service professionals accurately predicted in advance where I’d be able to talk to them. In all other wilderness terrain flying, I basically expected to be on my own should the worst happen. I paid one landing fee at Jackson Hole. The entire project required one flight service resource (online and by phone), and my iPad software was flawless and accurate.

If this same project were being done in Europe, 70% of it would be possible whereas 30% simply would be excluded. Of the remaining 70%, 30% would be an enormous aggravation due to small changes, and the rest would be similar to America.

Let’s for a moment draw the same line I had from Glacier National Park to Alpine, WY, then down to Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, except here in Europe. 800 miles with the home airport roughly in the middle. If that were the case here, we’d go from the mountains west of Madrid, here to La Cerdanya, and northeast to the center of the Swiss Alps, equally 800 miles. While there are not glaciers in every mountain range, the presence of various ranges is somewhat similar, so let’s pretend for a minute that I am chasing figurative glaciers in the highest parts of all mountain ranges in this line.

West of Madrid would be fine, including fuel. As the mountains head north of Madrid, it would be almost impossible due to restricted airspace and would require flight plans for the portions that would be doable. The high country south of Zaragoza would be possible, though a massive aggravation due to lack of airports and fuel, requiring carrying jerry cans in the back seat and 24-hour fuel reservations at Teruel. Here in the Pyrenees, fuel tends to work for the most part and airspace is rather open, with the exception of two Spanish national parks where overflight requirements are about 2,500’. On the French side, the location where the actual glaciers of the Pyrenees exist (there are a few in reality!) is all restricted, requiring 3,300’ AGL overflight. Remember that the Pyrenees comprise the border of two countries, so that is a healthy dose of complication. Also, three airports on the French side require the old French Mountain License, which has now been superseded by the EASA Mountain Rating. Those that do not are quite low, so descent to fuel and climb again is lengthy.

Yes, there are actual glaciers in the Pyrenees, and not all of them are restricted (like the below beneath Pico Aneto, Spain 11,168′).

Though some places are. Monte Perdido, Spain (straight ahead) is quite restricted. The French border is to the right, and small glaciers hiding there are also restricted airspace.

Continuing on, the Massif Central of France is a complete hodgepodge of continuous and chaotic military zones, requiring either flight plans or flight following. Many airports are restricted to members of certain flying clubs. A few others, despite being pretty low, are angled and therefore require the Mountain Rating. There are a few park areas, meaning that crossing the Massif Central requires heading to 3,300’ AGL in a few places. This results in few fuel options. From there, the next stop is the foothills of the Alps and then the highest part of the Alps, before terminating in the middle of Switzerland. All airports in the French Alps that are not down at the bottom of valleys (at 2000’ or less) are altiports, meaning that the Mountain Rating is required. That means a new license or the choice of descending 11,000’+ feet for fuel and climbing back up. The biggest glaciers of the French Alps have a combination of park areas, with a variety of restrictions ranging from 1,000’ AGL to 3,300’ AGL. The highest peak in the Alps is restricted, which it is possible to get permission. Crossing into Switzerland requires the clearing of customs on the ground. There are also a few noise restrictions, though far less than on the French side.

Three foreign languages would be encountered in this hypothetical project. iPad navigation software and national charts could not be relied upon as final information; advanced phone calls and coordination to airports would be required in Spain to make sure airports actually exist. Schedules for fuel would need to be checked. Some airports would only take fuel cards or cash. All of them would charge landing fees. For each country, entirely different preflight services would have to be sorted out to navigate NOTAMs and weather. A radio and transponder would be absolutely required for a good portion of the exercise. Many flights would depend on clearance through restricted zones, which may or may not happen on that day.

I ask myself what it would take to pull off something similar if it were here in Europe, spread out so far, and I get nauseated thinking about it. It would take years. There is no way, in the same airplane, that I could do such a thing in one summer! In fact, I haven’t considered doing the glaciers of the Pyrenees due to restricted areas over them. My primary concern with the American airspace system was the availability of fuel, which was splendid. A secondary concern was services in the event of a forced landing. Absent a happenstance ability to radio an overflying aircraft, I was entirely dependent on the ELT in the USA. There was next to nothing owing to remoteness, whereas Europe has far more radar coverage, radio coverage, and other services available due to population differences.

In both countries, the airplane needs to be airworthy, the pilot licensed, and the weather suitable for the intended flight. Pattern operations and actual flying is relatively similar. Europe differs from America in having less airports and imposing small requirements that on their own are not that big of a deal. When those small requirements are added against other factors, then the amount of flights that one could or would want to take drops quickly.

A bigger difference is the feeling of flying in each place. There is something incredible about the openness of America that is hard to put to words. Once leaving the “density” of the East Coast and crossing the Mississippi, it is an almost poetic experience to cross the Midwest, wander the Rockies, explore the deserts, and yes, chase glaciers. Whatever the spirit of America is, if one could reduce it to something simple, I could feelit when flying such great expanses in a Cub. Ever since coming to Europe, I have been working on a number of books that resulted from ambitions while flying in the USA, and each time I dive into my photo archive, it is an immersive experience, not just in the specificity of American landscape, but a zest I can’t seem to put my finger on. While Europe from a Cub is hard to put to words also, they are two completely distinct personal experiences in the air and I often find myself longing to have them both.

Why does this (Sawatch Range of Colorado, September)……

….feel so different in the air from this (October in Central Pyrenees, Spain)?


Or does this (Hungry Horse Reservoir, Montana with 10,000′ peaks in Glacier National Park)…..


….feel so different from this (La Cerdanya, Spain with 8,600′ Cadí-Moixeró)?

Europe has a way of making aviation feel elitist, under constant threat, and somehow wrong. It’s somewhat of an illusion, as the rules on the books and the economics of the situation allow the flying I do, just as the rules and economics in America allow flying that is pretty similar. Both places have something worth seeing. In the US, it tends to be expansive beauty whereas in Europe, it tends to be a mix of the old and new, natural beauty mixed with centuries of deep cultural impact and caretaking. The air molecules and how the airplane flies are the same.

I think I am venturing into the philosophies of growth as a pilot as well as what flying has meant to humankind from the time we yearn to soar like birds, to the moment we can use iPads for navigation. Inside of this existential personal exploration of the ruggedness of the West versus the complex magic of Europe, there is my growth from a low time pilot to a more experienced one. When I arrived in Colorado in 2013, I had 371 hours as a private pilot. I arrived back East in 2014 with 466 as a commercial pilot, and then arrived in Wyoming for the “real” western stint in 2015 with 568 hours. By the time I left later that year for Germany, I had 871, and I now have 1263 total time, which means that my flying career can be broken into even thirds: East Coast, Mountain West, and Europe, with similar totals in each.

Despite the challenges Europe offers, there is still more growth on the horizon. When I was installing a list of expensive equipment in late 2015 in the Cub for its operation in Europe, I had a decision to make about which transponder to install: Class 2 (up to 15,000 feet) or Class 1 (up to 50,000 feet), which cost a few hundred dollars more. With my dreams set on Mt. Blanc in France, the highest peak in Western Europe at 15,774’, I installed the Class 1 transponder. The Alps were an instinct even as I was wrapping up the glaciers of the Rockies, and it remains a more tangible goal. Stay tuned for some glacier exploration in Switzerland that will make the biggest glaciers in the US Rockies look small.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing The Citizen of the World for Polar Circumnavigation

The Citizen of the World, a 1983 Gulfstream Turbine Commander 900

To extend the range of the Citizen of the World from its existing 2,000 nautical miles to 5,000 nm, which is necessary for a polar circumnavigation, it was pretty clear that I would need to make some extreme modifications to the aircraft. I was looking for anything that would squeeze an extra nautical mile out of it. It also made sense to do what I could to improve the safety of the aircraft as long as I could do it without adding significant weight.

The first no brainer was to improve the efficiency of the old three bladed Q-tipped props. I went to my friends at MT and asked them to design a propeller specifically for my mission. They suggested putting one of their five-bladed, composite (wood with composite covering), nickel-tipped, scimitar propellers on the Turbine Commander. It had never been done before and would need field approval, but they were confident it could be done and would increase the climb and cruise speeds while starting faster, which would be easier on the batteries. Added benefits would include the props being quieter, creating less vibration, and having more ground clearance for the gravel runways I would be flying off of at King George Island at the tip of Antarctica and throughout Africa.

The next part of the airplane that could be improved was the engines. The Honeywell TPE 33-10Ts (Formerly Garrett) had 4,900 hours on them, which were 500 hours from their 5,400 hour TBO. They were still producing good horsepower, but a refurbishment would increase their power in the flight levels, which would give me more range and fuel efficiency. Honeywell had also made improvements to the engines, so it made sense to upgrade and get the best power possible out of them. Copperstate Turbine Engine Company (CTEC) did the refurbishment and replaced several major components to include the second stage impeller and wheels, combustion cases, combustion liners, and the crossover ducts.

One of the primary reasons I had selected the Turbine Commander was for the geared drive engines that were remarkably efficient compared to the free spinning turbines. They burn roughly half what the nearest competitor does with a TBO 1,900 hours higher.

Mechanics Steve Rodriguez and Morris Kernick from Commander Services 
working hard to get the “Citizen of the World” back in the air

Now that I had more power and some kick-ass props, I wanted to take the airplane higher where it could fly faster with less fuel. I went to AeroMech and bought the STC for RVSM (reduced vertical separation minimum). Along with a backup altimeter and some other components, this would allow the Citizen to fly very precisely (plus or minus 50 feet) at 35,000 feet, which is 7,000 feet higher than the airplane was originally designed. At this altitude, Citizen of the World will burn only 60 gallons of Jet A an hour compared to the much thirstier engines without geared drives. Flying higher helps to avoid weather and allows the airplane to glide farther and fly more efficiently. Altitude is life, especially over the South and North Poles!

The Turbine Commander’s 52-foot wing with winglets, MT’s five-bladed custom propellers, and the two Honeywell geared drive TPE331-10T engines give Citizen of the World tremendous global efficiency and range.

Gulfstream 52-foot wing, MT Propeller five-bladed custom prop 
and two Honeywell geared drive TPE331-10T engines

For safety improvements, we outfitted the aircraft with Whelen LED lights for increased visibility, reliability, and reduced electrical load.

We also will install an AmSafe airbag system. I had these on my Malibu Mirage, the Spirit of San Diego, on my 2015 equatorial circumnavigation, and while they were never deployed, I knew I had a better chance for survival with them. With these airbags, I could potentially avoid breaking ribs that would make twisting out of my seat during an emergency egress extremely painful, and I could exit much faster.

Since the tires are the most likely point of failure on the airplane, to increase safety, we increased the number of tire plies on the main gear from 10 to 16 and on the nose wheel from six to 10 with the help of Desser Tire. Increasing tire plies is required so the tires don’t come off the rims on takeoff when flying at 40 percent over max gross weight.

To increase reliability, the batteries were upgraded with Concorde sealed lead acid batteries, which have been successfully used in arctic environments and had longer life and cranking power than the existing batteries.

To determine just how heavy I could fly the airplane, where we could put fuel, and how much I could carry, I had a feasibility study done by Fred Gatz, the original designer of the airplane’s 52-foot Gulfstream wing. Gatz determined that we could increase the fuel load from 474 gallons of Jet A to 1,402 gallons, putting the Citizen 40 percent over its maximum gross weight. An aircraft with the same wingspan has been flown this heavy without issues, giving us confidence that my airplane can do this as well.

This November, Flight Contract Services will install six aluminum fuel tanks to more than double the airplane’s range to a previously thought impossible 24 hours of flight and 5,000 nautical miles. This is the same distance as flying from San Francisco to Hawaii and back nonstop!

Flight Contract Services owner and ferry pilot Fred Sorenson, the highest-time ferry pilot in the world with over 500 Pacific crossings, will install the ferry tanks detailed above and an old school High Frequency (HF) radio. This radio will allow me to talk to air traffic control from a range of 1,000 to 2,000 nm based on atmospheric conditions.

Since I’m a self-proclaimed button pusher in the air and on the ground, I had a great excuse to load the airplane up with the latest avionics of the day. This included a Bluetooth connection between GPS units and an iPad, a ground circuit, L-3 synthetic vision with battery backup attitude indicator, glass panel GPS units, satellite weather, active traffic, terrain avoidance, X-naut iPad cooler, Lightspeed noise-canceling “Zen” ANR technology. We are currently working to get field approval for a Max-Vis Enhanced Vision System (EVS) infrared camera to help turn night into day at the North Pole where it will be dark most of the day.

At the same time, it made sense to install some old school equipment as well. We put in a directional gyro for navigating over the poles where GPS and magnetic compass do not work, as well as an ADF, which is required for an Atlantic crossing; proof that the best, most reliable panel includes the new technology as well as the old. While dramatically more expensive integrated systems existed, they weren’t in the budget and are difficult to get fixed internationally. Replacing individual components is often an easier solution.

An additional motivation for the upgrades was to make the aircraft one of the best video games on the planet so no kid or aspiring pilot could resist. This was a great opportunity to promote aviation to the world and this panel would be part of the billboard.

Upgraded avionics panel by Randy Morlock of Eagle Creek

In the months ahead I will share insights on our mission, scientific experiments carried, our team, route, and anticipated global challenges. For more detailed information you can go to FlyingThruLife.com/pole-to-pole/plane-modifications as well as PoleToPoleFlight.com.

What Are The Odds?

I just returned from a 5,300-nm cross-country flight in my Cessna 310.

I love trips like this. It’s one thing to FLY an airplane for fun or sport, and quite another to USE an airplane as a serious traveling machine. I’ve always been a USER, and typically fly at least one transcontinental trip per year, and sometimes two or three.

This was the first of three such trips that my partner Nona and I had planned for 2018. Our itinerary first took us from our home base in California to West Virginia to attend and speak at the Flying Physician’s Association annual meeting at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Spings, West Virginia. Next stop was Rhode Island, where we spent a lovely week of sightseeing in the beautiful Ocean State. Then we headed westward to Montana, where I met up with my colleague Paul New to teach an all-day owner maintenance course at the AOPA Regional Fly-In in Missoula, Montana. Finally, after two-and-a-half weeks on the road, we returned home flying a somewhat circuitous route via Medford, Oregon, to avoid an area of convective weather developing in Nevada. What a fabulous trip.

Mike's X-C Route

Flight planning

This was Nona’s first long cross-country via GA. Most of her previous flights with me lasted an hour or two at the most. She was predictably a bit apprehensive about making a trip of this magnitude in a small plane, so I decided to plan the trip in a way that would hopefully minimize her stress level and physiological discomfort. I vowed to break up the trip into legs of no more than three hours duration (instead of the four- and five-hour legs I often fly when I’m solo), and to choose a route where the minimum IFR altitudes were no higher than 13,000 feet so Nona wouldn’t have to deal with supplemental oxygen (instead of crossing the Rockies in the low Flight Levels as I often do when I’m solo).

We decided to start off flying to Wichita, Kansas, and remain there overnight before continuing eastward. Although I’ve occasionally made it nonstop to Wichita from my home base—the plane carries six hours of fuel—I decided for Nona’s sake to stop for lunch, fuel and restrooms about halfway to Wichita in Show Low, Arizona. Here’s a bit of interesting trivia…

According to legend, the city’s unusual name resulted from a marathon poker game between Corydon E. Cooley and Marion Clark. The two men were equal partners in a 100,000-acre ranch; however, the partners determined that there was not enough room for both of them in their settlement, and agreed to settle the issue over a game of “Seven Up” (with the winner taking the ranch and the loser leaving). After the game seemed to have no winner in sight, Clark said, “If you can show low, you win.” In response, Cooley turned up the deuce of clubs (the lowest possible card) and replied, “Show low it is.” As a tribute to the legend, Show Low’s main street is named “Deuce of Clubs” in remembrance. —Wikipedia

What Are The Odds?

About two hours into the three-hour flight to Show Low, I heard Nona asking me over the plane’s intercom, “What this?” I glanced over and saw her pointing at the vacuum gauge on the extreme righthand edge of the instrument panel. One of the two red balls had popped out, signifying that one of the airplane’s vacuum pumps had failed. The other pump was working fine, and the vacuum reading remained at 5 in. hg., right in the middle of the green arc.

RAPCO 442CW Vacuum Pump

442CW Vacuum Pump

I explained this to Nona, quickly adding that there was nothing to worry about because the airplane has dual vacuum pumps—one mounted to each engine—so the loss of one vacuum pump was only a minor annoyance, and something I’d experienced quite a few times during the 31 years I’d owned the Cessna 310. I further explained that because these vacuum pumps always seem to fail during long trips, I always carry a spare pump in my wing locker, together with all the tools necessary to remove the failed pump and install the spare. I figured we’d do this at some convenient point during the trip, perhaps during our vacation week in Rhode Island.

Nona seemed slightly shaken by the pump failure but reassured by my explanation. Fifteen minutes passed. The GPS showed us less than 30 minutes out from SOW. Then Nona called my name over the intercom and once again pointed to the vacuum gauge. I looked at the gauge. Now both red balls were popped out and the needle read zero. I’d experienced a double vacuum pump failure!

What are the odds? I’d never before experienced the loss of both vacuum pumps during one trip, much less one leg. I believed the odds of this happening were close to infinitesimal. But it happened. Apparently, the Laws of Probability had been trumped by Murphy’s Law.

Truth and Consequences

I quickly sized up the situation. With no vacuum, the vacuum-driven attitude gyro would quickly spin down, roll over, and play dead. The attitude-based 400B autopilot would dutifully follow the dying attitude gyro and put the airplane into a graveyard spiral unless I disengaged the autopilot and hand-flew the airplane—which I promptly did. No big deal, since Show Low was now just minutes away and the weather was typical for Arizona: severe clear and windy.

However, the consequences for the rest of the trip were dire. My personal minimums say that a non-functioning autopilot is a no-go item for flights exceeding one hour. Furthermore, I was flying a VFR-only airplane on a trip where significant instrument weather was forecast in the eastern half of the country. Continuing the trip without pneumatics was infeasible. But canceling the trip was unthinkable. So clearly, I was going to have to replace one of the failed pumps at Show Low before launching for Wichita and points east.

Tarmac Transplant

Failed Pump Innards

Failed Pump Innards

The landing at SOW was turbulent. The surface winds were gusting to 25 knots. We parked the airplane close to the fuel trucks, went inside to place a fuel order, eat some lunch, and use the facilities (not necessarily in that order).

I asked the fueler if there was a maintenance shop on the field. He said no. I asked if there was some kind of maintenance hangar I could use for an hour or two. He said there wasn’t. I quickly concluded that I’d have to replace the pump myself on the tarmac in a howling 25-knot wind. Are we having fun yet?

I asked Nona if she was willing to help me, and warned that she would probably get her hands dirty. She was game. I pulled my traveling toolkit out of my wing locker and borrowed a small stepladder from the fueler. Nona and I gingerly removed the top cowling of the left engine, making sure the wind wouldn’t catch it and wrest it from our grasp. We carefully set the cowling on the tarmac under the wing, hoping it would stay put while we worked on the pump.

The pump transplant itself took us about three hours, twice as long as normal. We were working under battlefield conditions, the wind whistling in our faces, the sun in our eyes. Finally, with the sun low in the southwestern sky, we finished the job, secured the cowling, and started the left engine for the “smoke test” of the newly installed pump. It worked. The left red ball was sucked in, the vacuum gauge needle moved to the middle of the green, and the attitude gyro erected normally. We were back in business, albeit one pump shy of a full load. It was enough.

I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was. I was an A&P. I carried a spare pump. I had all the necessary tools to install it. Had any of those three things not been true, I’d have been in a real pickle and the whole trip might have been in serious jeopardy.

Epilogue

We took off for Wichita nearly four hours behind schedule. As a result, what was planned as a daytime flight wound up being a nighttime flight. That spooked Nona a little, as she’d never flown at night before, and much of the flight was over desolate terrain with very few lights to provide a visual reference. She was very relieved when we touched down at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, were marshalled into the Signature Flight Support ramp, and quickly whisked to the DoubleTree by Hilton on the airport.

First thing the next morning, I went online and ordered two vacuum pumps from Aircraft Spruce, to be shipped from their Atlanta warehouse to The Greenbrier. One pump would be used to replace the still-failed pump on the right engine, while the other would become my new spare.

We flew our next three-hour leg to Lexington, Kentucky, in IMC conditions, rented a car, toured around the beautiful bluegrass horse country, and stayed overnight. The next morning we made the short but seriously IMC flight to Greenbrier Valley Airport. The vacuum pumps from Aircraft Spruce arrived during our Greenbrier stay. We considered installing one of the pumps on the right engine before departing West Virginia, but ultimately decided to defer that until we got to Rhode Island.

Nona and I also performed the second pump transplant on the tarmac at Quonset State Airport, but there wasn’t much wind and we got the job done in about one hour flat. Nona proved to be a terrific mechanic’s helper, handing me exactly the right part in exactly the right order like a top-notch surgical nurse.

The remainder of the trip to Montana and California went off without a hitch. After returning home, I researched my maintenance logs to find out when the previous vacuum pumps were installed and how long they lasted before failing. Turns out the left pump lasted for 8 years and 700 hours, while the right pump lasted for 9 years and 800 hours.

What were the chances they’d fail within 15 minutes of one another? Obviously greater than I thought. Hmmm…

Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals

Timing: Part 1 of 6

Fly for a minute, turn for a minute, fly for a minute, turn for a minute. In instrument flying you might be instructed to enter a hold because you cannot land due to weather being below minimums, inbound traffic congestion, or runway unavailability. At some point you must assess whether landing at the intended destination airport is feasible or flying to the alternate is more prudent.

Much like flying an actual hold, there comes a time in every pilot’s career where an honest assessment of performance, desires, and goals needs to happen. Are you one of the many pilots are stuck in the hold, unable to complete your aviation goals?

For the next few months I will be highlighting one of the six keys to exiting the holding pattern and reaching your goals. If you plan on attending EAA AirVenture/Oshkosh this year, please come and see my multi-media presentation on Exiting the Hold on Saturday July 28th at 11:00 a.m. at the AOPA Pavilion. The presentation is fast paced and lively. You might also win the door prize of a King Schools IFR course.

#1 Timing

The two Greek words for the measurement of time are chronos and kairos. Chronos describes linear, chronological time such as minutes, hours, days, and years. In regard to aviation, chronos timing would be calendar or time-based. For example, an 18 year old getting a PPL and attending a university aviation program would expect to complete instrument, commercial and CFI in a certain number of months.Contrasted with the other Greek word for time, kairos, meaning the indeterminate moment that is propitious for action and this instant of time must be seized with great force. A decision based on kairos would be a gut feeling, or a chance opportunity that presents itself.

Many pilots stuck in the hold are waiting for the “right time” [chronos] to pursue their next goal, or rating or hopelessly feel like time has passed them by. However, they don’t realize that they can make a decision based on opportunity and effort [kairos].

Winged Statue of Kairos

 

Here is the inscription on the statue of Kairos above, which explains the Greek myth of Kairos.

And who are you? Time who subdues all things.
Why do you stand on tiptoe? I am ever running.
And why you have a pair of wings on your feet? I fly with the wind.
And why do you hold a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge.
And why does your hair hang over your face? For him who meets me to take me by the forelock.
And why, in Heaven’s name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind.

“Kairos becomes a fleeting moment, one that must be grabbed forcefully as it passes. But it is also a dangerous moment, one with razor-thin margins. It is both dangerous to any who are unprepared to meet it and dangerous to those who may be subdued by them who wield it successfully. Even more danger lies in kairos as the fountainhead of regret—once kairos has passed by, opportunity closes its door forever.”  [http://www.mzhowell.com/seize-the-day/]

Time is really on your side. Take chances when they present themselves. Be prepared. Keep an open mind. Your history does not have to define your aviation destiny. If you are at Oshkosh next month, come by Mooney, or my presentation at AOPA and say hello, if you have the time!

 

Per diem

One of the less discussed, but still critically important, aspects of a career involving travel is the issue of food and expenses. In the working vernacular, this is shorthanded as per diem.

In nonflying occupations, employees get a certain per diem allowance each day, and it usually covers hotel and food expenses. At the end of a stint of travel, expense reports are submitted, and once they are verified by the accounting personnel, the employee is reimbursed.

The airlines do things a bit differently. Per diem is paid by the hour, starting with the official report time for the trip. It ends whenever the pilot is considered done with the trip, be it a one, two, three, or even 15-day assignment. So, if a pilot reports at noon on the first day of a trip and goes home on day four at noon, he will have logged 96 hours of what is called time away from base (TAFB). If his airline pays $2 an hour per diem, he’ll receive $192 in per diem expenses, which is intended to cover the cost of meals and incidental expenses; the company pays for the hotel directly.

At the majors, there is almost always a slightly higher rate for international trips to cover the higher cost of food in those locations. Per diem is usually paid on the second check of the following month, which allows the folks in payroll time to conduct due diligence on the record keeping.

Under the tax law, if a pilot flies a one-day trip, the per diem is taxable as regular income. If the trip has any overnights, the per diem is not considered taxable. For this reason, it’s common practice at the regionals for pilots and flight attendants to take a lot of their own food on trips, which allows them to pocket per diem as though it were extra income.

The downside to the way the airlines pay per diem is that the rate is always the same. That means that you’re getting the same allowance for dinner in an expensive city such as San Francisco as you’re getting in a less expensive town such as Cedar Rapids. Until the tax law changed this year, pilots and flight attendants could use the IRS meal and incidental expense (M&IE) tables to determine how much they were entitled to in each city, and their accountant or tax software would compute how much of the difference they were entitled to. Under the 2017 tax law, early interpretations are that this allowance has been eliminated, thus increasing the cost of eating on the road.

If the early interpretations of the tax law changes hold, it’s possible that per diem will paid and computed differently. Either way, as an employee, it’s up to you to verify that your per diem is paid to you properly, as well as understand how the rules apply to you and when.—Chip Wright

Crashing airplanes is so yesterday

The following are a low-time bush pilot’s thoughts about the “bad old days” of Alaskan aviation.

Alaska can feel like an island sometimes. Obviously, it is separated both geographically and culturally from the rest of the nation. This can be said for the aviation community as well. Flying here is a haven of sorts, but can also leave one in an information vacuum. Seeking a broader knowledge of flying culture and collective wisdom, I have started to use social media. This is a drastic change for a young Luddite like myself, who is good with the ancient tech in a de Havilland cockpit, but is baffled by Instagram.

Being Alaskan, I gravitated to a backcountry flying group first. Right away, a debate raged over an incident at a recent fly-in, where a competitor in a STOL event damaged his aircraft. A sympathetic local had started a GoFundMe page to assist the owner in rebuilding his ship. A heated exchange raged between two factions: those who thought wrecking an airplane was ludicrous, and those who believed that crashing  was part of the overall flying process. Both sides were incensed, with the vast majority of comments in favor of accepting the wreck. I was fascinated, and it got me to thinking about the current culture of Alaskan aviation. Things have gotten a lot better since the “bad old days” when I was little.  However, there still exists a hero-worship of the hero aviator… and a rhetoric that things like bending metal, pushing weather, and high stakes are inevitable.  I’ve heard the countless war stories in bars and at fishing holes across the state.

Honestly, a different type of story dominates my thoughts: a story told to me by a western Alaska pilot friend of an elderly Yup’ik woman who would pray before every flight to her village, running rosary beads through her gnarled hand. “They’d all had someone die in a plane crash,” he said. To me, this simple tale highlighted the sinister consequences of crossing that line where risk outweighs reward.

So I joined the debate. My post went something like this:

Several years ago, I was giving a BFR to the daughter of a famous bush pilot. We were going over some ground school, discussing the subject of emergency procedures. She, naturally, was concerned about the prospect of an engine failure over Alaska’s unforgiving terrain. I tried to explain that a forced landing, if done properly, could be eminently survivable. “Your dad crashed like 20 planes and walked away from all of them, right?” To which she replied, “… it was more like 26.”

But times have changed. I feel like I speak for many in the avaition community that crashing airplanes has become passé. What used to be  a badge of honor is now a black mark: in the eyes of the FAA, most employers, and among my flying friends. Crashing a work plane is grounds for discontinuance, and crashing your own plane after hours isn’t looked on favorably either. And it’s not because my company or my friends are not bold. “There are those who have bent airplanes, and those who will,” said a remarkably empathetic POI after I had an incident in a work Super Cub. It was more sympathy than I deserved, and I felt ashamed. Early on in my flying days, I had to land dead-stick on a river bar because of carburetor ice. I was able to fly home unharmed, but badly shaken, after allowing the ice to melt. After tying the bush plane down and running my hands over the empennage gratefully, I went to find my flying mentor. I thought he’d be proud of how well I [performed] in a critical situation. Instead, he was deeply disappointed. It should have never happened in the first place. His reaction taught me a valuable lesson, one that I carry with me every time I fly.

This post elicited quite a few comments. However, the vast majority of commentors didn’t notice that my piece was meant to carry an opinion. Instead, they focused on the dead-stick landing part. My tale of caution ended up becoming a forum for all kinds of war stories celebrating dead-stick landings. My message got hijacked. People continued to celebrate the mistake.

When I was first learning to fly, my CFI walked into the room one day and dropped an enormous, squat book on the table with a thump. “Wh-what’s that?” I stammered. “That’s the rules,” he said with a laugh. At first I loathed the FAR/AIM. In my idealistic, juvenile understanding of aviation, I’d seen it as an impediment on my journey toward the freedom of the skies. These days a copy sits on my nightstand. I have grown to admire this publication and the philosophy it represents. We would never leave the ground if there didn’t live a little boldness, daring, and bravado in our hearts. But the line that cannot be crossed is more like a cliff. If recklessness should cause us to teeter over the edge, there may be no return from the void on the other side.

So give me a new rhetoric. A lack of war stories is a good thing. And with all due respect, I tire of the hero-worship of “famous pilots” that have crashed so many airplanes. That legacy has little to do with modern aviation. However, I do not think that we, as the pilots of today, are necessarily sissies, either. I think we have more information at our disposal, better equipment to fly, and (most importantly) are more cognizant of target risk. In today’s world, I would like to think that we operate at a threshold of boldness that gets the job done without bending anything. There are old, bold pilots…  and I want to be one.

Getting adequate sleep

One of the best parts of flying for a living is seeing the country and the world while somebody else pays the bill. One of the hardest parts of flying for a living is ensuring that your sleep needs are met. Unfortunately, the two issues are tied together.

When flying domestic routes, the biggest issue with sleep usually pertains to the hotel. The air conditioning may not work to your satisfaction; the pillows may not be hard or soft enough; there may be noise outside your room or outside the building that makes it difficult to sleep. The all-time favorite is the middle-of-the-night fire alarm that keeps you out of your room for an extended period of time (this has happened to me twice).

Sometimes, sleep is difficult to come by because of the schedule. Everybody handles the schedule variations differently. I tend to wake up at the same time every day no matter what time I go to bed, which means that if I finish exceptionally late, I have a difficult time sleeping in. Others can sleep anywhere at any time (I do not care for these people!). For cargo pilots, the challenge is being able to sleep during daylight hours when your body is used to being awake, and then staying awake potentially all night to fly.

It’s said that you should just sleep when you’re tired and eat when you’re hungry, and there is some truth to this. Short naps, taken whenever the time permits, will help. Learning how to nap effectively can be an art, but ear plugs and sleep masks can do wonders. Putting a blanket or a sheet over your body to mimic your night-time sleep also helps “trick” the body, as does removing your shoes. If you’re in a hotel, going through your entire bed-time routine—brushing your teeth, adjusting the temperature, taking a shower—can go a long way to catching a good sleep. It also helps if you can allow for at least two hours, so that your body can go through an entire REM sleep cycle.

On those nights that you can’t sleep well, be honest about the reason why. There’s no question that sleeping in a different city every night is a challenge, but if the issue is the hotel, try to fix it. Noise is probably the most common issue, followed by climate control. Try to address the issues with the front desk, and if that doesn’t work, move on to the approved process your company has, which may require the use of a fatigue call. Calling in fatigued is not something done lightly, because of the potential cancellations, but if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. The FAA takes fatigue seriously, and if the hotel is routinely one that causes problems, a few fatigue calls usually will generate a quick resolution. If the hotel is indeed the problem and you don’t say anything through approved channels to fix it, the problem won’t go away.

Sleep is a critical part of your health, and nobody knows better than you when you’ve had enough or are lacking. Listen to your body, learn the tricks of the trade, and don’t sacrifice your safety by short-changing your sleep.—Chip Wright

Portugal to the Pyrenees, With Minimal Police Involvement

The plan for Portugal was 3 always months, so the time came to go back to Spain. If there is anything I have learned about moving a Cub across time zones and continents, it is to depart in advance of the plan to move locations, returning via public transit, as opposed to taking public transit first and flying the Cub to the new place the next day. The rationale is rather simple: go/no go decisions are made same day, and changes in weather or circumstances are offloaded to trains, taxis, and airlines. To do things in reverse separates the go/no go decision by 24 to 48 hours, which when flying time is added on top of it, things get nutty.

I was able to leave one week before our anticipated drive out of Portugal. Weather has been remarkably foul across the Iberian Peninsula, commencing roughly when I flew to Portugal in February, and continuing for months. Recall that when we left Spain, we had recently received almost three feet of snow, following months long drought. A massive reservoir south of Cerdanya was disturbingly low. Within 40 days, it was full. The entirety of Spain has been receiving such cold and excess precipitation.

That meant that the elusive idea of a pleasant sunny day was out the door. Week after week and I could not find a day with a stretch of 600 miles of dirt with the sun shining. Finally, I realized that I was stressed out about the trip and I really wanted to enjoy myself, so I broke it into two pieces. The first step would be the Portuguese Coast to Casarrubios near Madrid, and then I would return to get the plane after arriving in Cerdanya. That also alleviated weather concerns, as it was possible to find better weather for part of Iberia as opposed to the whole thing.

I finally decided to make a go of it on a partly cloudy day. The forecast had been innocuous, until the morning of departure. Squalid coastal air had been getting stuck between the coastal hills and the Atlantic with surprising amounts of fog in previous days. This particular morning, it had lifted to a point and partially burned off, with a satellite map that indicated I could get the heck out and escape before the afternoon went to pot. I flew through the soup and over the hills, while under the cloud deck, only to have it get lower and lower. Flying at 700 feet above sea level and approaching 500’ AGL, I was getting near the Tagus River plain, which is nearly at sea level. It’s also rather wet. About 20% of the sky was clear, so I popped over the cloud deck to 1,400’, greeted by a sea of clouds. Intuition said I’d be fine. Eventually, the Tagus River overcast below gave way to the Alentejo, where clouds rose to 2,500’. I ducked in a wide gap and underneath had spectacular visibility, giving way to a pleasant Spring day.

By the time I got near the border, I had fallen out of radio contact with Lisboa Mil (Portuguese military flight following service). On the other side was a giant Class D airspace for Badajoz, Spain, measuring over 40 miles wide. I couldn’t raise any approach, radar, or tower frequencies, so I decided to climb from 1,300’ to 2,500’ to get cleared to cross it, en route to my first fuel stop. After tons of back and forth due to not showing up on radar, despite the transponder being on, I got cleared through and spent almost a half an hour until I popped out the other side, enjoying the Extremadura countryside.

My first stop was Aeródromo El Moral, near Ribera del Fresno. It is virtually in the middle of nowhere and enjoys the distinction of having officially opened in the last two months. A friend of mine got a notification online of the grand opening and sent it to me in April, and I decided to tag the place as it filled in a massive gap of places to refuel in western Spain. The people were incredibly friendly. A local hotel owner decided to make some room amongst vineyards so pilots could land and stay at the hotel. Investing obviously significant time, energy, and money, they built hangars, created an official runway, and dove in with their new business venture. As they do not have a fuel pump installation, they were waiting with 40 liters of mogas in jerry cans, which they filled just so I could refuel. There were no landing fees, either! I was rather amazed at their ingenuity and entrepreneurship as well as their friendliness.

The flight to Madrid from there was pleasant and uneventful, with a tiny tailwind. Extremadura looks a bit like the US West, with agriculture in decent color given springtime, all of which will give way to beige tones as the heat of summer approaches and wears on.

Casarrubios is another fantastic airport, just outside of Madrid. The people are incredibly helpful, stowing the Cub for €10/night in a hangar, and dropping me off 25 minutes away at the metro station (it was on his way home, but still). I repeatedly offered money, and was repeatedly rebuffed. This is starting to feel like aviation in America! The routine home involved 3 metro stops and the last flight of the day to Lisbon, arriving at 11:20PM, where my wife was waiting, and we got back to the house after midnight, having taken off 14 hours earlier in the Cub.

A week later, we made the 12-and-a-half-hour drive across Iberia to the Pyrenees. The weather, as one could imagine, was foul upon arrival and would be foul for most of the upcoming week. There was a one-day window on Monday, so two days after arrival in Catalunya, I rode a 3-hour regional train to Barcelona, a high-speed train at 185mph to Madrid, a regional train to Móstoles, and a 30-minute taxi ride to Casarrubios. With two hours of daylight to spare and stunning blue skies, I took off to photograph the ancient part of Toledo 22nm to the south, returning to put the plane in the hangar, sleeping onsite in one of the airport’s four hotel rooms for pilots. Staff kindly helped organize my order for dinner with the onsite restaurant to be left in the room when I got back from my run to Toledo, as the restaurant was closing while I’d be in the air. Again, I can’t emphasize how out of the way these people go to help pilots. It really is a different feel than what day to day life is like in Spain.

The next morning, final weather checks seemed pretty good for most of the run to Cerdanya. There would be afternoon thunderstorms of varying coverage, though limited to the Pyrenees and expected earlier in the afternoon. I fully expected to dance around them, though had things choreographed as storms would be incoming to Madrid and Teruel behind me. Better to get on the move and make it to the Monegros Desert, where I could wait things out or head to one of two alternates: La Seu d’Urgell (35 minutes by car from home) or Lleida (2 hours by car). Worst case, I would overnight in Lleida, and enjoy the next morning’s clear forecast before it rained again.

Madrid featured a light breeze and temps in the 50s, which felt like late September in New York, which is odd given that its June and the place is usually an inferno. As I was in flight, stratus began moving in from the south, which posed an existential question about crossing 6,000’ mountains between me and Teruel. Intuition said to proceed, as I had an alternate at Sotos. Squeezing over each ridge with about 1000’ total space between peaks and clouds, I finally was able to literally see light at the end of the tunnel, coming over the ridge and landing in Teruel, a large airport in a valley above 3,000 feet in Aragon. If I made it this far, I can definitely make the desert, which was good enough.

Teruel is a strange place. Pattern calls are in English. There are no tower facilities or flight plan requirements. The runway is enormous, a French company uses it as an airliner graveyard, and a British company operates a flight academy. Despite all of the facilities, it is required that 24-hour notice be given, or fuel will not be provided. After powering down next to an enormous Airbus, I was greeted by what appeared to be a fuel attendant:

“Do you have documentation?”
“What do you mean documentation? I have all sorts. What exactly do you want?”
“Documentation to refuel.”
“What kind of document do I need to refuel? It’s a plane and it needs fuel.”
“What about your reservation?”
“I have an email.” Silent glare from the anti-fuel guy. “Do you need to see it?”
“Yes.”

I pull up the email along with confirmation of receipt. He reads it awhile, glares, snorts, and then says “Fine. Wait here. I’ll get started to refuel.” In all seriousness, I swear he would have made me spend the night and wait 24 hours, all the while not caring if I got a taxi to get me car gas with jerry cans as a work around. Eye roll. Spain. What can I say?

What then commenced was about 30 minutes of phone calls, avgas installation logs, documents, and measurements, suiting up, and then an astronaut filled my tank with avgas. Right after, a flight school aircraft pulled up after doing some training, and he began refueling them, though I didn’t see a request for a reservation….

Security then came to drive me to pay the landing fee. She asked if I had a fluorescent safety jacket, which I did but wasn’t in the mood to wear. “Oh, you have to put it on because of the Guardia Civil.” “Under what scenario would federal police forces be wandering around this strange place?” I thought to myself, donning the jacket and hopping in the vehicle for the ride. I went to put my seat belt on and was told not to bother.

Upon entering the building, two Guardia Civil officers are standing there, glaring. They ask for identification. Thinking it’s a bit strange, I furnish it. They then ask about my airplane, where I am coming from, where I am going. “Is there a problem?” “No, we just have to note all this down for each flight.”

Now that the interrogation is over, I proceed upstairs to pay the landing fee. There, I am also asked an absurd amount of information. Mind you, I have already provided name, registration, persons on board, MTOW, origin, destination, and address for the advance reservation, to the fuel guy, and to the Spanish police force. Now, I have to provide it a fourth time, sign a contract, and then fork over €10 for the landing fee. Apparently, the regulatory infrastructure contemplates that the airport is a passenger terminal, even though there are no airline flights. Everyone shows up, does what is asked of them, and the world keeps turning in Teruel. I have learned to laugh and quit caring. At least the people were nice, even the fuel guy, once he realized he couldn’t send me away without avgas (capitalism anyone??? What planet am I on???).

The flight took me over 5,000’ terrain, which was clouded in with adequate clearance and then rapidly gave way to the Monegros Desert, where I descended down to 2,000’. I left Madrid in cool weather, was freezing in the cockpit over high terrain despite a sweatshirt and pants, and now tore the sweatshirt off as temps soared into the 80s. The sun was out in full force, with distant thunderheads visible 50 miles away over the Pyrenees.

I had intended to land at Alfes, a nice aerodrome according to my navigation software. I decided to check a site before leaving called aterriza.org, a Spanish language user-contributed website where pilots leave comments about airports and conditions. It is a self-avowed “wikipistas” (‘wiki runways’) and on it, I found an official notice that it had been closed in 2015, the case taken to the Spanish Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court having ruled that the closure was final. Why is it in on my map? I overflew it anyway, noting runway numbers with no Xs. Such is Spain, where the AIP, maps, and official sources are not always accurate.

I instead landed at Mollerussa, a ULM field requiring a good old short field brake screeching landing to transfer 5 gallons from the backseat, check radar, text the wife to get a weather report, and make the final 60nm leg into the Pyrenees and home. Of all ironies, it was sunny the whole way as the storms moved off to my right.

It felt good to be home. Since then, I have enjoyed the last week checking out an incredible residual snowpack in the Pyrenees, stunning wildflowers, and explosive green vegetation. The rains and cold continues, so much that it snowed above 9,000 feet, interior temps in the house dropped to 57 and I had to start a fire, in June, in Spain, to heat the place up. One year ago, it was 90 degrees for a high with no snow left.

From the flight planning stage outbound to Portugal in February until after arriving back in June, I kept struggling to understand why it was such a difficult task. If this was America, I should have had no problem picking a good weather day and nailing the entire flight in one stop. Both times, I intended to do that, and couldn’t pull it off. I then undertook an analysis, and found the following data points:

Pyrenees to Portugal: 665sm
Longest single day flight in USA with the Cub: 1075sm
Longest single day European flight with the Cub: 434sm
Longest single day leg this round: 365sm

The longest I have historically pulled off outside of America was from Frankfurt, Germany to Valence, France, at 434sm. It would have been longer had the weather not turned and required three hours of waiting. The thing is, that was in two countries that were not Spain. On both legs crossing Iberia, I had to phone ahead to coordinate fuel, deal with foul weather, deal with Spanish police, land at rugged little fields, and do fuel transfers with jerry cans. The struggle against the system adds up, and single day mileage goes down. What can I say? It’s how it is, though I can certainly attest that its incredibly interesting.

VFR on top, 1400′ MSL, Tagus River Plain, Portugal

Twenty miles further along, in the Portuguese outback.


Wildflowers, approaching the Spanish border.


Crossing the 40+nm wide Class D control zone of Badajoz.


Don Benito, Spain.

30nm west of Madrid.


Just before arriving at Casarrubios to leave the Cub for a week.

Old section of Toledo, the evening before the second leg.


Somewhere southwest of Valdaracete.


Crossing into La Mancha – poppy fields in bloom. They *always* are brilliant on an angle and turn dull when overhead. It can drive someone mad seeing it for hours.

At 6,000′ west of Teruel, squeezing over relatively uninhabited scrublands while freezing cold.

Airliner graveyard in Teruel.

Highlands between Teruel and Monegros desert, cruising at about 5,300′. 

Mequinenza Reservoir, Monegros Desert. Temps in the 80s and down at 2,000′. 

Alfes. The only indication it is closed is the evidence of cars having made use of the runway.  

Showers off to my right, approaching the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Back in La Cerdanya, cruising at 5,700′, looking at 8,600′ terrain. Note the steam from a recent storm.

A few days later: cumulogranite over the hill beneath Tosa d’Alp.

Penyes Altes in 590nm infrared, roughly 7,000′ elevation at the peak.

June Pyrenees snowpack, just over the border into France. Altitude 9,300′.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park holds Listening Sessions

National Park Service (NPS) is the planning to hold listening sessions, and would like to hear from people who use any parts of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  Session are scheduled for four communities in the vicinity of the park this summer, but additional sessions are anticipated later for more than a dozen communities including Anchorage and Fairbanks.  Given the importance of aviation for access to most of the park, individual pilots, as well as businesses that rely on aviation should participate in this effort.

Largest park in the nation, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is holding listening sessions.

Background
Management plans often drive what happens in national parks. Periodically NPS updates these plans, using the opportunity to evaluate how the park is being used and what pressures it is experiencing.  Part of that process involves hearing from the wide range of people that use the park, be it for hiking, mountain climbing, camping, flight-seeing or exploring the historic mining operations that once took place in the Wrangells.  This the largest park in the nation, at something over 13 million acres in size, with few roads and trails, making the airplane a key tool for access.

Backcountry airstrips
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park has a network of public use cabins, many of which are only available by aircraft.  The aviation community has a history of working with NPS to help maintain some of the strips used to reach these cabins.  This July 13-15, the Recreational Aviation Foundation is organizing a work party to maintain the Peavine Bar Airstrip.  For information, or to participate, see: http://theraf.org/civicrm/event/info?id=398.  This is a good opportunity to help improve this infrastructure, while having some fun at the same time.

Wrangell Plan
NPS started a “backcountry” plan in 2015, and held an initial set of listening sessions. Since that time, key positions at Wrangell-St. Elias have turned over, including the superintendent.  As the new management team evaluated the previous work, they discovered that a number of the comments received were focused on the frontcountry—or more developed and accessible parts of the park.  Consequently, Superintendent Ben Bobowski is interested in hearing from stakeholders, to learn about their issues and concerns for all parts of the park.  Once they have a better handle on stakeholder issues, they will decide what type of a plan to develop.

The first four listening sessions, scheduled for this summer. More sessions will be help in the months ahead.

How to be involved
If possible, participate in any of the listening sessions currently scheduled.  Comments may also be provided by email at: [email protected] or through the NPS planning website:  http://parkplanning.nps.gov/WRSTListens.  As the planning process proceeds, AOPA will follow it closely, and may be asking your input on aviation issues related to this park that encompasses everything from active volcanoes to massive glaciers and ice fields.  It is a national treasure, and the airplane provides one of the few ways to reach its most distant features.

Proposed change to Juneau Class D and E Airspace

The FAA is proposing to change the Class D and Class E airspace surrounding Juneau.  In the proposed rule modification, FAA outlines the changes which will expand the Class D airspace west and south east of the current boundaries, and eliminate some of the Class E airspace that is an extension to the Class D surface area west of the airport. The FAA also proposed to reduce the size of the Class E airspace extending upward from 700 feet above the surface around Juneau. Pilots using this airspace should study the changes and provide comments, if the proposed changes impact your operations.

A depiction of the entire change to airspace around Juneau International Airport.

Close up of the proposed changes showing the expanded Class D airspace and elimination of the Class E extension to the Class D surface area.

The proposal is available online at: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FAA-2018-0125 . Comments may be filed online, and are due by June 18. If you comment, please share your input with AOPA [email protected].

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