Wednesday, February 7, 2018
I have been flying into Grand Canyon Airport for years (KGCN). The past three years I have not flown there due to health reasons for my wife. We decided to fly to KGCN last Saturday with the weather being beautiful for this time of year. The experience we had was horrible. Several years ago KGCN moved GA parking from the FBO area to a ramp about 1/2 mile south of the FBO. KGCN is a secure airport even though they no longer have any commercial flights with the majority of their flights being sight seeing airplanes that fly over and through the Canyon. Upon moving the GA ramp the FBO, Grand Canyon Air, was to supply a shuttle from transient parking to the FBO and back. The GA ramp is a secure area, and we were not supposed to walk to the terminal. No van arrived and we called their frequency several times without a reply. We decided to walk to the FBO which was a big mistake for my wife due to the high altitude. When we arrived at the FBO my wife could not catch her breath for about 30 minutes. We sat down in the lounge, and when my wife recovered we decided to go home. The FBO refused to shuttle us back to our plane, and we had to walk. Our objective was to go have brunch at El Tovar which is a beautiful lodge with old fashion dining and then step out to the scenic area. We were the only airplane on a huge ramp for transient aircraft. I remember when this ramp used to be full! Now KGCN averages 1 GA flight every 4 days. All the rental car facilities have left the airport as there is no business for them. Taxi service has raised their price to get to the Canyon from $10 to $23 one way due to no competition. In the summer there used to be a shuttle that would carry you to the Canyon for $5 a person each way. They quit their service saying it is too expensive. When we went to return to our plane the FBO would not transport us back either. I made some phone calls to pilots around the Phoenix area, and they all stated they do no fly to KGCN any longer for the above reasons. I talked to the new airport manager and he is in between a rock and a hard place. KGCN is going to put out and RFP for FBO services. Until a new FBO is on board with complete service no one is going to fly their plane there. I surely cannot recommend going to the Grand Canyon by GA Aircraft. It takes 1 hour to fly there from Phoenix and 51/2 hours to drive.The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen, and I never get tired of the views. It is sad that I will probably never return there in my lifetime. After posting this morning had several phone calls from pilots around the Valley. They recommended flying into G40 Valle Airport 18 miles south of the Grand Canyon and renting a car there. We sure will do this next time.
Friday, February 2, 2018
It has been awhile since I have posted anything. I cannot believe it is already February! Things have been hectic here as we bought a new dog which we fly up to receive the end of February, after 12 years I bought a new car and had some tuneup surgery on my back and neck. I have been flying for a very long time. Flying gliders I am never straight and level, just flying above the stall sppeed circiling in thermals. Flying my E 35 1954 Bonanza for the past 20 years, I consider myself a pretty good pilot. I have flown hard IFR, staying away from thunder storms and icing, and have flown numerous approaches into California through the marine layer. I consider myself a very good pilot. Then I stop and think about other pilots I know and have to take a back seat to their skills. I have a friend, Pam Melroy, that was the third female shuttle pilot. She is a graduate of MIT graduate school and flew in the Air Force as a Colonel flying the C130. Pam entered the Space program for NASA and became an astronaut flying several missions on the Shuttle. How in the world can I compete with this...I can't.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Do you use a checklist when you fly? I have been flying mostly the same plane for 20 years now and always use a checklist. I refined it down to what is necessary and have two pages, front and back, laminated. The front is start up, taxi, runup and cruise. Emergency information is on this page in red. The back is descent, prior to landing and after landing. I keep it simple but cover all the basis. Even though I fly the same airplane year after year I would never consider flying without using my checklist. I have flown with some phenomenal pilots over the years and was surprised they did not use a check list. They know their airplanes inside and out and do everything from memory. For me it would be too easy to forget an item on my checklist. How many times do you hear about a door popping open on takeoff, which is an inconvenience, a minor problem that could turn into a major problem if you try to close the door in the air. I would rather take a little extra time and do things right the first time. As I get older I tend to not rush things on the checklist. Even though I have it down pat, I always use a checklist on every flight. I fly with my wife 90% of the time, and she reads out the items to me and does not move on until I perform that task. I have also learned to think before I touch something instead of rushing. A couple of extra minutes could be a life saver. When in flight I think things out before I touch something. I do not want to put down the flaps when I meant to put down the gear. On the Bonanza I fly, the gear and flaps are backwards from most airplanes. When I was learning to fly the Citation Jet I always stopped and thought something out before I touched anything. I am also thinking and reviewing a few steps ahead so I recognize what is expected of me next. GUMPS check- gas, undercarriage, mixture, prop and speed; I perform this check 3 times before landing. I never want to be in the category of landing gear up. If things get really busy I put the gear down a little early. When IFR on approach I always put the gear down at the initial approach fix. This is one thing I never want to forget. Things can get really busy on an approach in IMC. I still go through my GUMPS check but want to get this item done early. This is just the way I operate. Speaking of operating, my daughter runs the PICU at a major hospital. She has made a checklist for doctors and nurses to eliminate mistakes. The checklist is taken from my flying one and refined for medicine. Hopefully this prevents nurses giving the wrong medicine to a patient or forgetting to give a patient drugs when they need it. Every nurse and doctor has an IPad so they are all looking at the same information. This is kind of like ForeFlight for medicine. Slow down and enjoy the world. This should start on your walk around, through flight and to completion. Do you know someone who forgot to turn off the master switch or battery and returned to find a dead battery. Slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy your flight!
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
For years I have been studying the preliminary accident reports put out by the FAA every work day. I say to myself how could anyone be stupid enough to do that, then I take a deep breathe and say wow I could have done that. It used to be that the major cause of accidents was fuel starvation, but that has greatly decreased over the years. Tail draggers seem to be on the reports almost every day, ground looping and flipping over on landing. A majority of these seem to occur in Alaska. Of course tail draggers are more prevalent in Alaska. I question whether more instruction is needed in tail draggers as they have to be flown to a full stop before leaving the runway. With the center of gravity behind you, one has to be on top of a tail dragger on take offs and landings. They are a much more demanding airplane to fly on takeoffs and landings, and you really have to stay on the rudder and brakes if necessary to remain straight. Gear up landing seem to be prevalent. I do not know if these accidents are due to the gear not coming down or forgetting to put the gear down. I go through my GUMPS check three times before landing and really cannot slow my Bonanza down without getting the gear down. Yet almost every day I read about a gear up landing(s). Taxing into a fence or taxing into another airplane or parked vehicle seems to make the list a lot. Reading these makes me give a parked plane a lot of room when taxing. If there is a fence involved when parking, I pull to a stop turning my plane when parking and push it back into the parking place. I have had a couple of close calls with fences that change direction at airports, and stay far away from fences and light poles. Better to have a lineman or someone else around to help push my plane into a parking place than to tangle with a fence or light pole. Landing off airport is another big number. Again I do not know if this is because of mechanical problems or bad judgment. It is always better to go around then to be lined up wrong for landing. Midairs around non controlled airports also seem to be a problem. It is so important to first study the pattern of an airport before you go. At Sedona, AZ (SEZ) the proper procedure coming from the south is to cross over midfield to join the downwind. If someone decides they are going to land straight in it messes up the whole pattern. The other thing to do is announce where you are and what your intentions are. A radio call 10 miles, 5 miles, downwind and base turns are very important. Sometimes you have planes announcing 25 miles out and every 5 miles thereafter tying up the radio. This is too much. Listen to where other planes are and look out the window. Try to draw a mental picture of where others are in the pattern. Midairs in flight are minimal but still occur. With glass cockpits and IPads in the plane too many are looking at the glass and not outside the window. Keep your eyes outside the window and scan your instruments as necessary. Airliners are not exempt either. There seem to be a number of planes striking each other on pushback or support vehicles running into airplanes. I look at each accident and say to myself how can I avoid doing these things. It has served me well over the years. I would hope that all pilots look at these reports and say what can I do to prevent having an accident or incident.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
I joined the EAA recently and attended my first chapter meeting last Thursday. This was not a regular chapter meeting, as the chapter awarded not one, not two but three Wright Brothers Master Pilot Awards. To have three recipients in one night is almost unheard of. The Wright Brothers Mater Pilot Award is presented to a recipient who has flown safely for 50 years accident free and has obtained other aviation distinctions throughout their aviation careers. The first person of the evening to receive this award was Arv Shultz. Arv started his aviation career in 1966. He is a CFII, and he went through all his ratings from 1966 through 1967. He has flown aircraft from a Cessna 150 to MD 80. Arv retired from Northwest Airlines and is in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Last Friday and Saturday the Arizona Aircraft Expo was held at Scottsdale Airport (SDL). The weather was beyond perfect with sunny skies and temperatures reaching the high 80's. Attendance was the largest turnout I have seen for this event, could not be the because of the weather as it is usually a beautiful weekend when the Expo is held. Maybe there is an upswing in buying as the economy has been good this year with the Bull Stock Market. The static display was set up excellent this year giving attendees plenty of room to walk by and get inside of the latest and greatest airplanes. This was one noticeable factor that this years show was dominated by turboprops. My only disappointment is that Cessna and Beech had no piston airplanes represented. Three airplanes not there that I always enjoy seeing were the Bonanza, Baron and Cessna TTx. These three planes have always had a presence at the Expo, and I have no idea why they were not there. Tail draggers were well represented from the Aviat Husky
Monday, October 30, 2017
You get what you pay for! Yavapai County has two Airports. Prescott is one of the busiest GA Airports in the nation, only because Embry Riddle Flight School is located there. The other is Sedona Airport in Sedona, AZ. Both airports seem to go through airport managers faster than I change the oil in my airplane. They do not pay these managers a lot of money. Right now the airport managers job in Prescott is vacant....again. Those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis know that my wife has had a tough three years medically. She is getting stronger now and we decided to go to Sedona for her birthday. I have lived in the Valley for 38 years and have never spent the night in Sedona, just doing breakfast trips. I made hotel reservations at Sky Ranch which is located next to the airport and has tremendous views of the red rocks located 500 feet above the Sedona. Lisa Dahl, former James Beard winner, has four restaurants in Sedona, all with great reputations. We had dinner and lunch plans at her restaurants. We also made rental car reservations with the only service located in the terminal. s Upon arriving in Sedona, we unloaded the plane and gave a fuel order. We really did not need any fuel, but I like to support local FBO’s and Sedona has a good one. Then we went to check into the rental car counter. The rental car company on the field is a mom and pop service renting older cars. They took my credit card and blocked out money on my account. I am used to this as all hotel and rental car companies do this. Then the proverbial crap hit the fan. The owner at the counter gave me a credit card slip to sign for a lot of money. I refused to sign this as I would be liable for this amount for any reason. I have never signed a charge card receipt for a hotel or rental car company until leaving. I showed the guy where he already blocked out the funds on my credit card receipt, but he refused to rent us the car unless we signed the rental charge card receipt. We were at an impasse. There was no way that I was going to sign the credit card receipt. I tried to get a car from Enterprise and Avis with no avail since I did not make a reservation with them. My wife and I talked it over and decided to cancel our hotel and all our food reservations and flew back to Scottsdale. You have a Mickey Mouse airport manager that puts a Mickey Mouse rental car company on the field and you get what you pay for. We canceled our fuel order, hotel and dinner reservations. I figure that this cost the City over $2000.00 in money we would have spent there. In addition I have told all my aviation friends if you need a rental car in Sedona to use Enterprise. We had such a bad taste in our mouth upon leaving that I doubt we will ever go back. There are too many alternatives, and we planned a trip to the Grand Canyon for a belated birthday. You get what you pay for which is not much at Sedona Airport.