Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Flying around Denali National Park

If you've been flying, hiking, or climbing on and around Mount McKinley (Denali to the rest of us), or within the confines of the park, the Denali National Park & Preserve Aircraft Advisory Council is meeting Thursday, Feb. 7th, in the Best Western Lake Lucille Inn from 1pm-4pm.

"The council will identify and address the impacts from aircraft flight over Denali National Park & Preserve." For any non-resident treehuggers out there: before you get vapors, please remember that the federal government locked up six million acres of land, and only 14.8 miles of road are publicly accessible within it (aside from a 400-car road lottery that lets the lucky ones in once a year). This isn't Yosemite with traffic jams at the gate; most of the only way to see this state is by air. Even the climbers have to take air taxi to get to Denali (Mt. McKinley).

The aircraft overflight working group consists of scenic air tour operators, commercial operators, general aviation organizations, and other concerned parties.

In other words, flightseeing charters, airlines whose polar flight routes go over DNPP, airlines who ferry folks between Anchorage and our second-largest city, Fairbanks, those of us who want to fly out and see it ourselves, land on the backcountry strips, or just fly from Fairbanks to Anchorage and back to see a dentist and get some shopping in, the folks the government hasn't forced off the land yet when they declared it a national park, the climbers who want to get to denali, the wildlife folks who are torn between getting in by air to study wildlife and the concern that aircraft noise might impact wildlife...

This is democracy in action. If you have a stake in it, or you're just interested, the meeting's open to the public!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Spruce Creek has no Spruces

Flew to Spruce Creek, Florida ( 7FL6 ), which is an airpark on a former base. It's large enough to support two real estate offices, a restaurant, an FBO, a helicopter service place and an airplane maintenance shop on field. Blatant plug: Check Spruce Creek Realty Out! They're very, very cool people - Pat and Lenny Ohlsson are great folks!

On the other hand, the radio died as we flew in. That was not nearly so cool. In fact, as Daytona Beach Approach became weak and scratchy, in that time in which we were in clouds and I could still hear them but they couldn't hear me, was not cool at all. It was a warm sort of mild "aaaaugh!" even after we broke out of the clouds.

The weather briefer was promptly contacted via cell phone on the ground, to let the poor controller know we were down, safe, at our intended destination, and ThankYouVeryMuch for her help!

Lenny Ohlsson still managed to get my American Yankee Association checkout in, which was very cool, and taught me a whole lot about the airframe's strengths and weak points, what to look for and what to utterly enjoy. It's always a delight to fly with good pilots, and he seemed to really enjoy being up in the AA-1B. In his hands, instead of worrying about no radio, I learned instead on how to fly NoRDO - a lot more emphasis on see and avoid, and on anticipating what other people are going to do, and on being visible and predictable.

He also loaded the dead radio onto his golf cart, and we went over to a radio repairman on field. I watched Lenny and my brother crowd in close as the faceplate came off and the cause of death determined - but I myself had my lap securely pinned down by a purring feline who looked quite determined that I should stay and scritch its ears.

We went very carefully VFR back, keeping well clear of restricted areas and Orlando's Disney's Don't Ruin The Experience "Temporary Flight Restriction" that's been in place since they got it politically leveraged in after 9/11/01.

I really, really like communicating - so no flying the plane til the radio is repaired, and reinstalled.

On the other hand, today I went up in Valdosta Flying Service's Cessna 172 SP model. After the supercub and the '73 Grumman, an '01 model Cessna is pure luxury, with an almost overwhelming amount of bells and whistles. With a friendly, helpful CFI, I shot the VOR, GPS, and ILS approaches into Valdosta, and put enough work on holding patterns and maneuvering under the foggles to be capable, if artless, at them. so, 2.3 hours of flying and another 2.2 of ground (and probably an extra hour of comparing "I've always wanted to fly in Alaska" with flying down here, and shooting down the tv-inspired theory that grizzly attacks are common and unpredictable.)

So now what? Well, with my own plane in "broken" status but freshly reviewed on all IFR flying, I'm going to be available for safety-pilot flying. People still working on getting their instrument rating need to have a pilot sitting next to them keeping an eye out for traffic, towers, and providing a situational awareness while they have blinders on to prevent from seeing outside. Another pilot who'll do it without charging is far better while practicing than paying a CFI for all that time, so I'm going to be up with a couple folks over the next week, helping them toward their ratings.

Really, no matter how freshly reviewed I am, tonight and tomorrow I get to spend plenty of time hitting the books. There's a vast difference between being able to slide through the system functionally and knowing the system thoroughly - and people in training will need real answers and explanations to questions. "You learn thoroughly by teaching" indeed!