June 2002 Issue

Nowhere to Hide

Out in the middle of nowhere, traffic patterns are weird, runways are scruffy and terrain is threatening. This is no place to screw around

[IMGCAP(1)] If the lure of exploration is strong, those magazine pictures of the backcountry airstrips, such as those in the Northern Rockies, are an irresistible lure. Vast areas in the United States are designated as wilderness area and are accessible only by horseback, hiking, drift boat or airplanes.

Most wilderness areas contain a system of airstrips ranging from nice grass airstrips with plenty of width and length to strips that are barely wide enough for the landing gear of a STOL aircraft. This is a very challenging aviation environment that must be flown by the right pilot, with the right equipment, training, experience and weather.

The safety margins are very thin in thes...

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