September 2009 Issue

Unfamiliar Airports

First time landing at an airport? Knowing its status before departing isn’t hard, but can require some extra effort beyond the usual resources.

Hanging out for some hangar flying with some fellow pilots recently, the lies swapped were covering the spectrum, from weather dodging and electrical-system failures in IMC to cautionary tales circulated about other aviators’ flights with questionable fuel. But one of our little gang spent most of the session distracted from these obviously important proceedings, preparing for a flight the following morning. A relatively seasoned pilot, he largely zoned out of the session, looking at en route charts, collating his paperwork and notes, and closing out his preparations with a phone call to the destination airport—one he’d never before visited. A fairly new pilot of about the same chronological age, but with a far-thinner logbook, offhandedly and inadvertently revealed an approach to planning that drew snorts of disbelief from the veterans, a tough room filled mostly with pilots who flew professionally. "You called the airport?" our middle-aged newbie taunted after the phone call ended. "Airport directories are online; Internet sites are available, along with those new sites with video—and you call?!?" Then came the big mistake. He produced his latest play-pretty, offering it up as the solution to the old pilot’s needs. "Heck, my handheld GPS has the entire airport directory...whaddaya want to know?"

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