Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Mile of Airstrip Can Take You Anywhere!

There is a saying, "A Mile of Road will take you 1 mile... A Mile of Airstrip can take you Anywhere!"   In many of these cases it may take just over a half-mile of runway to take you anywhere :)

Idaho has a great network of local community airports.  Some of these airports have landing strips that are a bit shorter than some pilots might be used to but they offer the opportunity to see new places that are more off the beaten path than a typical mile long runway.

This week I flew to Parma, Idaho and Homedale, Idaho for some short-field takeoff and landing practice.  Homedale's runway is 2,900 ft long but has displaced thresholds which make it significantly shorter.  Pilots can use the displaced threshold for the take-off roll & roll-out but are not allowed to land within the thresholds.  The reason for the thresholds in Homedale are that Highway 95 crosses near the end of runway 13 and there are trees at the end of runway 31.  The displaced thresholds provide an added margin of safety for the approach but reduce the overall usable length of the runway.  Here is a video of some takeoffs & landings at Homedale.  The wind was super calm this day & there was minimal air traffic so you see me land one direction and then turn around and take off the other direction.

Parma's runway is about 2,700' long.  In many cases I could have done a touch and go when landing runway 12 but I was playing it safe and back-taxiing to make sure I had adequate runway for my takeoffs.  The last landing in the video at Parma is a touch and go.  Currently Parma's approach for Runway 12 is right traffic and left traffic for runway 30.  This helps keep traffic from flying directly over town.  Also, in the Airport Facility directory it recommends landing on runway 30 and taking off on runway 12 when the winds allow.  In this video other traffic was departing runway 12 so you see me land and take off runway 12 and then circle around to land on runway 30.

The saying,  "A Mile of Airstrip can take you Anywhere!" can also be used as a metaphor for the opportunities that these airports provide.  These smaller airports promote business and industry and are a great asset to our local communities and economy.  One example is Kitfox aircraft in Homedale, Idaho.  A few years ago my wife Karma and I had the opportunity to take a tour of their facilities in Homedale.  They manufacture amazing backcountry kit built airplanes as well as certified aircraft.  Great people producing a great product!  Local companies at our small local airports provide employment opportunities and add to the local economy and to the interesting fabric of our communities.
Kitfox Aircraft

Another important role that many of these airports provide to our local farming communities are bases for aerial applicators.  When flying into Parma this week I was communicating with a local crop duster coordinating our arrivals and departures.  The pilot was super nice and it was inspiring to watch him swoop down over the fields from above.  Aerial application pilots have some amazing flying skills.  In the video you see him landing in Parma.  The roar of that radial engine was a sound familiar to my childhood.

I remember being enamored with the local crop dusters when I was a kid.  I would run outside when I heard the crop duster's engine in the distance and the pilot would wave to me as he flew over the fields next to our house.  A few years ago I was riding my motorcycle next to some fields in southern Idaho and a crop duster flew down next to me and waved to me as he barely cleared the tops of the crops.

The Idaho Department of Transportation publishes a Summary of Economic Impact of airports in Idaho every 10 years.  The last study was conducted in 2009.  This link shows the total employment, payroll and total output of airports in Idaho.
Idaho Airport Economic Impact Summary

We are lucky in Idaho to have so many local community airports and we should protect and promote this valuable industry.

~ Tad Jones

Friday, March 3, 2017

Pilot Checklists | Not All People that Talk to Themselves are Crazy

Before the age of cellphones and bluetooth if you saw someone walking down the street talking to themselves you might have thought they had a screw loose.  Now in the technological age you see glowing blue devices in people's ears that look like they might be from an episode of Star Trek.

Now days you see all sorts of folks walking around town talking to themselves, people alone in their cars waving their arms around using body language to describe their conversation to an empty seat next to them and now it all seems perfectly normal.

As pilots we are trained to use checklists to ensure that particular items are completed for each phase of the flight.  I have found that saying the items on the checklist out loud help to ensure I am actually completing the items on the checklists.  I will typically try to perform the checklist by memory first and then back check those items with a thorough review by reading down the items on the checklist to see if I missed anything.  If you pay attention to the video you will see that I actually do miss an item in the run-up checklist but then I correct it when I read back through the printed checklist.

I received my checkout in the C182 and this week I flew solo which was both fun and exciting.  Even though I am all by myself in the airplane it really helps to speak the checklists out-loud.  It could be that I have a screw loose like the folks walking around town talking to themselves but at least by talking to myself in the cockpit I am more likely to accurately complete thorough flight checklists when it really matters most.

(Tad Flying the 182 Solo)