All posts tagged 'airports'

Dogs in Aviation

Piper the Airport Operations Dog. Image via www.airportk9.org

I recently had the opportunity to adopt a puppy from a local animal shelter. My new puppy is a Shiba Inu with a lot of energy. She’s instantly become a big part of my life (mostly because she’s so needy and needs constant supervision until she’s housebroken) and it got me thinking about how dogs can fit into the wide world of aviation.

Most people think of the pain of traveling with animals when they think of bringing animals into aviation. However, there are several ways that dogs have been brought into aviation to do a job or accomplish a mission. I have collected some of the most fascinating examples of these dogs and I would like to share them with you.

Airport Operations Dog

A video went viral a few months back featuring Piper the K-9 Wildlife Management Specialist at Cherry Capital Airport in Michigan. The dog works closely with his Operations Specialist owner who drives him around to chase away any wildlife that is a hazard to airport operations. Wildlife can be a huge problem at airports, and sometimes using flares and traps isn’t enough. He appears to love having such an important job, and getting to run around chasing his natural enemies away must be rewarding as well.

Airport Security Dog

I have encountered airport drug sniffing dogs several times during my travels. These large, serious-looking dogs walk up and down the lines heading towards TSA. They have a mission to find drugs or hazardous materials that passengers may be trying to smuggle past security. They are extremely good at their jobs and help add an extra layer of protection to the airport with their superior sniffers.

Lost and Found Dog

Another viral video sensation, which unfortunately turned out to be staged, featured the adorable beagle named Sherlock who returns lost items to passengers on KLM. The PR stunt was done incredibly well, as the majority of people who saw the video (myself included) were completely convinced that dear Sherlock was a real full-time employee of the airline. Although the story was not 100% true, I could totally see a dog with an excellent sense of smell and memory being able to do that job.

Airport Stress Relief Dogs

As I mentioned in my previous article about stress relief, an even increasing number of airports are having volunteers with stress-relief or emotional support dogs come to greet passengers and hopefully make their days a little better. These furry friends help anxious passengers feel calm and comforted. I believe this is an incredibly valuable service, especially during the holidays when passengers who do not regularly fly are on their way to family and friends.

Additional Note on Taking Your Dog Flying

One of the things I was most excited about when I got my new puppy was being able to take her with me to fly-ins during the summer. Thankfully she does great in car rides so I am hoping this will translate to her first plane ride as well. AOPA has a wonderful article outlining tips for flying in your general aviation plane with your dog. It discusses restraints, food and water, motion sickness, oxygen, hearing, and traveling with your dog outside of the U.S. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety before you take your dog for a plane ride. Being safe and knowledgeable will make the flight all the more fun for you and your dog!

I hope this list has helped you see that integrating dogs into aviation can be beneficial and amazing for airports and the dogs themselves. There are a lot of opportunities for well-trained dogs to make a difference in the world. Aviation is a great field for it!

Top 5 Favorite Airports

Ever get that exciting feeling when you walk into an airport?  I know I do!  The excitement of jetting off to some other part of the country is often enough to keep me awake, despite that 5am flight.   Today I’ll cover my top 5 favorite airports and hopefully it’ll get you daydreaming about your next big trip.

#5:  Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK)

Nantucket Memorial Airport is situated on the beautiful Nantucket Island, about 30 miles from Boston.   Normally, I probably wouldn’t have ever been to the East coast except for vacation, but that all changed last summer.  The airport gets extremely busy in the summer due to airline and General Aviation traffic, so they hire many seasonal workers. 

UND put up the ad on their website and I applied to work full-time in the Fixed Based Operator (FBO).  It was a great job, and I lived in a beach house the airport owned while working there over the summer.  The beach was very picturesque and I got to bike to work every day.  I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, and that’s why Nantucket Memorial Airport is #5!

#4: San Antonio Int’l Airport (SAT)

San Antonio holds a special place in my heart.  Located in southwest Texas, this little gem of an airport is like my second home.  If it weren’t for a special someone, I might have never been able to experience Texas.  It’s located conveniently close to downtown San Antonio and home to some notable corporate aviation departments like Valero, Pace Foods, and H.E.B. 

Photo courtesty of San Antonio International Airport

You know you’re not in the Midwest any longer when you walk down that jet bridge and feel the heat and humidity.


#3: Sydney Kingsford Smith Int’l Airport (SYD)

www.dailytelegraph.com.au

Sydney Airport is the one of the few international airports I’ve had the opportunity to visit and my favorite Australian airport.  Situated in downtown Sydney, this airport hosts some spectacular views of one of Australia’s most urban cities.  Oftentimes, if you’re traveling to Australia from the U.S., your first stop will be at Sydney where you will clear Customs and head over to the domestic terminal.

When I originally traveled to Australia about 4 years ago, I was on my way to Brisbane, a city on the Gold Coast (east side of Australia).  We had to clear Customs, pick up our bags, exit the international terminal and take a shuttle to the domestic terminal a few miles away.  It turns out that there were more than 1 jumbo jet that got into Customs at the same time and we ended up missing our domestic connection.  However, Qantas Airlines has some pretty amazing employees and they rebooked us on the next available flight. 

The terminals are very white and sleek looking.  The airport feels newer than most U.S. airports and the hustle and bustle is amazing.  Many Australians travel by air as it’s not exactly easy to drive between large cities.   In addition, most Australians live within 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) of the coast, so it’s often faster and cheaper to fly.  Security is a little different in Australia and when I asked if I should take off my shoes and belt, they laughed at me!  I’m guessing they don’t have the same security issues we have here in the U.S.

#2: Flying Cloud Municipal Airport (FCM)

#2 is the airport of many firsts for me.  My first flying lesson, my first solo, and where I earned my Private Pilot’s License.  I also got my first aviation-related job there working for a small flying school.  That flying school turned out to be a great place because I met a lot of my flying family there.  We still all hang out when we can – one of the couples in our group even got married in a hanger there! 

Flying Cloud is home to a lot of General Aviation and the pilots there are a pretty tight group.  It’s also home to the Wings of The North Organization that has an aviation museumand hosts AirExpo every summer on the airport’s property.  Viking Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol has a hanger there and many flight schools call Flying Cloud their home.  

#1: Minneapolis-St Paul Int’l Airport (MSP)

www.lakenwoods.com

Minneapolis-St Paul is #1 because it’s the first international airport I ever traveled from.  I flew from there to Alaska with my dad, to Florida to visit my brother, to San Diego to connect to Australia, and many other destinations.   This airport is exciting and nostalgic all at once – it could mean a new adventure, or returning to home sweet home.  There is something special about being connected to the world through just one location – it never ceases to fascinate me… And that’s why Minneapolis will always be #1.  So, what's your #1 airport?

For Pilots, Driving is Harder Than Flying: Busy Airport Taxi Tips

For pilots, getting from point A to point B on the ground is often more challenging than doing so in the air. The maze of runways, taxiways and ramps at large airports like Atlanta or JFK can be intimidating even for the most professional pilots.

If you’re terrified of making the wrong turn at a busy airport, you might be somewhat comforted to know that most taxiway and runway incursions are made by airline pilots. Of course, airline pilots frequent the busiest airports more often than small airplane pilots do, but it’s still helpful to know that even professional pilots have a difficult time navigating through the taxiways of LAX or Chicago O’Hare. I pulled up a few NASA ASRS reports made by pilots and controllers who experienced a runway or taxiway incursion. Most of these reports are wrong turns, many are the result of not checking NOTAMs and others are from vehicles on the runway.

It’s interesting to note, however, that a surprising number of ASRS reports are from pilots who mistake another airplane’s call sign for their own, accepting a clearance that was not theirs because they thought they heard Ground Control say their call sign. In addition, a surprising number of reports are from pilots who took off of landed from the wrong runway. And finally, maybe less surprisingly, there are numerous reports from pilots who moved beyond the runway hold short line or otherwise entered a protected are due to a distraction in the cockpit or because they lost situational awareness.

So how do you prevent a runway incursion? How do you ensure that you never hear those dreaded words November 00000, call tower after parking? Start with these tips:

Study ASRS reports.
In just a few seconds, I pulled up 245 pages of runway and taxiway incident reports from NASA’s ASRS database, totaling 12,218 reports. But you can narrow the search more by studying the common problem areas for airports you frequent. If you’re planning an flight to DFW, for example, a review of the common ASRS reports citing a runway incursion or excursion will give you some valuable insight into what goes on on the ground at that particular airport.

Study the airport diagram.
If you know which runway is likely to be in use, you can study the likely path that a controller might give you to your destination on the ground. In real life, it might not happen perfectly the way you hope it will, but if you run through a few likely scenarios that you might encounter when you get your taxi clearance as part of the preflight planning process, you’ll be glad you did. And always have an airport diagram on hand in the cockpit! (P.S. You can find all of the airport diagrams on our website.)

Ask the controller for progressive taxi instructions.
The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) states that if a pilot is unfamiliar with the airport, he or she may "request progressive taxi instructions which include step-by-step routing directions." It’s a service provided to help unfamiliar pilots. If you’re one of those unfamiliar pilots, why not just make the request for progressive taxi instructions?

Know your taxiway and runway signs and markings.
Study up. It’s possible that if you often fly out of small airports, you’re used to a single runway with a single parallel taxiway, and the signs are pretty easy to interpret, even if you haven’t read up on them lately. Large airports with multiple runways, intersections and a variety of taxiways that go in every direction, the runway and taxiways signs can be confusing. Know which signs are location signs, which are directional and which are mandatory will help a lot when it comes to navigating the taxiways.

Read back all hold short instructions.
On the ground at JFK is not the time to skimp on radio calls. It’s mandatory that you read back the taxiway clearance properly, including any hold short instructions. Controllers are required to get a read back of all hold short instructions from pilots. If you don’t read back the taxi clearance in a way that includes the hold short instructions, the controller will continue to tell you the clearance until you do. Listening to ground control on a handheld radio or on LiveATC.com would be a useful exercise for pilots who want to get used to how to red back these clearances properly.

Minimize distractions.
Many runway incursions happen when one or both pilots are heads-down in the cockpit, or are busy talking to the passengers or on another frequency. Many of these incursions included pilots who taxied just a few feet past the hold short line of a runway without clearance just because they were recalculating TOLD data or pushing buttons on the CDU. Pay attention while you taxi.

Never cross a runway without a specific clearance.
Never, ever taxi onto a runway or other protected area with knowing for certain that you are cleared to do so. If you aren’t sure, query the controller.

If you aren’t sure, ASK!
As a final note, if you’re ever in doubt about which way to turn or whether you’ve been cleared onto a runway or to cross a runway hold short line, always ask. In all cases, it’s better to be absolutely certain than it is to hear the controller screaming at the Boeing 777 on final approach to go around because you taxied onto a runway when you weren’t cleared, which will always be followed by N0000, call tower when you land.

5 New Places to Fly in 2015

Looking for a new place to fly? Wondering where to spend your next vacation? Part of the joy of flying includes exploring new places while avoiding airlines and long road trips. Here are five stunning places that will remind you why you fly and double as fun vacation spots for the whole family. If you haven't been to these places, put them on your flying bucket list for 2015!

  1. First Flight Airport (KFFA), Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks, NC
    First Flight Airport should be an airport in every aviator’s logbook. A flight to KFFA will let you experience flight as the Wright Brothers first did at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The airport itself is part of the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It’s home to the Wright Brothers Memorial, which rests high on Kill Devil Hill, the Wright Brothers Visitor’s Center, the Flight Line, where large stones commemorate the Wright Brothers’ takeoff points, and a reconstruction of their living quarters.

    But that’s not all. There are plenty of things to do in the Outer Banks, so plan on grabbing a hotel or beach house and staying on the beach for a few days. The area offers a wealth of activities like golfing, fishing and hang gliding. View some of the area lighthouses or just relax and take in the sights.

    Airport Information: KFFA has a 3,000-foot asphalt runway. There are no instrument approach procedures, and it can be windy. If you need a larger runway, you’ll find a 4,305-foot runway six miles south at Dare County Regional Airport (KMQI). Stay aware of the restricted areas, MOAs and other low-flying operations like hang gliding.

    Pilot Services: AOPA has donated a pilot’s lounge that is reportedly accessible at all hours, but there is no fuel available here, so plan ahead to stop elsewhere.

  2. Sedona Airport (KSEZ), Sedona, Arizona
    Red rock country offers spectacular views and a relaxing atmosphere for a vacation. Sedona airport sits atop a gorgeous plateau of red rock, and flying in is a treat - as long as you are prepared for the potential downdrafts associated with the sharp drop-offs on approach and landing.

    There’s a nice restaurant with panoramic views at the airport and it’s a quick trip to the downtown area, where shopping and tourist attractions are plenty. Take a jeep tour across the red rocks or visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is built into the side of a canyon and is an impressive architectural sight.

    Airport Information: KSEZ has a 5,132-foot runway. Look up the noise abatement procedures before you go, and expect turbulence around the airport. There’s a GPS approach to Runway 3. Its elevation is 4,736 feet, so keep density altitude in mind.

    Pilot Services: Full pilot services are available at Red Rock Aviation. The airport restaurant, Mesa Grill Sedona, is fantastic.

  3. McCall Municipal Airport (KMYL), McCall, Idaho
    McCall is a great airport to visit year-round. If you’re looking for a great ski resort, check out Brundage Mountain Resort, which has 46 trails on 1500 acres. In the summer, the area around McCall offers amazing hiking, camping, fishing and river rafting opportunities. For a quiet, peaceful vacation away from it all, McCall is the place to be.

    Airport Information: McCall’s runway is 6,108 feet. It sits at 5,000+ feet, so keep density altitude in mind. The area gets a lot of snow in the winter, and KMYL is only attended during the day, so night approaches during the winter can be tricky. There are RNAV(GPS) approaches to either runway.

    Pilot Services: 100LL and JetA are available at McCall Aviation, along with a variety of additional pilot services. Hangar space, preheating and de-icing services are available.

  4. Nantucket Memorial Airport (KACK), Nantucket Island, MA
    Nantucket Island has it all: Beaches, whale watching, lighthouses, shopping and restaurants. From the airport, rent a car or a bicycle and explore the island. It’s a great place to take the family for a few relaxing days in the heat of the summer.

    Airport Information: KACK has three runways, with the longest being 6,303 feet. There are multiple approaches available, including an ILS on Runway 06/24. There are noise abatement procedures in place. It can get foggy here, so expects delays. And don’t forget that you may need floatation devices on board for this trip!

    Pilot Services: A full service FBO is located adjacent to the terminal. It’s recommended that large aircraft call ahead to make arrangements. Bring your own tie-down rope and look up the landing fees in advance.

  5. Mackinac Island Airport (KMCD), Mackinac Island, MI
    History buffs will love Mackinac Island. Pronounced "Mack-in-naw," the island separates the lower and upper peninsulas in northern Michigan, and is a great place for a day trip in the airplane. Cars are not allowed on the island, which keeps things peaceful. Hike, bike or take a horse-drawn carriage around the island and see historic sights, caves, springs, rock formations and wildlife. Check out Fort Mackinac, which was constructed by the British during the War of 1812.

    Airport Information: KMCD has a 3,501-foot lighted runway. There’s an RNAV(GPS) approach to runway 08/26 and a VOR/DME-A approach. No touch-and-goes are allowed here. If you need a longer runway, or are getting a hotel for a few days, try Pellston Regional Airport (KPLN), which has a 6,500-foot runway and more pilot services.

    Pilot Services: Call ahead for the landing fee. Tie downs are available, but no fuel or maintenance services are available. If you’re going for longer than a day, you’ll want to fly into KPLN for full pilot services.

Are you planning to fly somewhere new in 2015? Share your airport ideas with us in the comments!

The Importance of WAAS with LPV

Mark Wilken – Director of Avionics Sales with Elliott Aviation
www.elliottaviation.com

Traditionally, ground-based landing systems have been the only method for low visibility approaches. Many business aircraft, however, are operated from airports without ground-based systems and are restricted to using non-precision approaches. If your aircraft is equipped with WAAS and LPV you have many more options to get to where you are going safely and efficiently.

There is a common misconception in the industry that WAAS and LPV are one in the same, however, they are two completely different systems.

WAAS, or Wide Area Augmentation System, was developed by the FAA to augment GPS to improve accuracy. Put simply, it is a corrected GPS. It is accurate to about one meter of your actual position. Combined with LPV, it can get you into more airports in a more direct manner. Without LPV, WAAS is just nothing more than an accurate sensor.

LPV, or Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance, gives you an enhanced database in your FMS GPS and allows ILS-like approaches at airports that do not have an ILS or ground-based system. LPV approaches allow for minimums to be as low as 200 feet.

If LPV approaches are not available at the airport you are traveling, they likely have LP approaches available. LP, or Localizer Performance Approaches, provide precision lateral guidance using the enhanced accuracy WAAS provides. As an example, an LP approach into Telluride, Colorado allow for minims of an additional 460 feet for days when the weather is less than perfect.

Mark Wilken is the Director of Avionics Sales for Elliott Aviation which employs over 40 avionics technicians at their headquarters in Moline, IL. Mark began his career at Elliott Aviation in 1989 as a bench technician repairing radios and quickly became the manager of the department. Mark helped launch Elliott Aviation’s Garmin G1000 retrofit program where the company has installed more King Air G1000’s than all other dealers in the world combined. Recently, he has headed STC programs for the newly-launched Aircell ATG 2000 system for Hawker 8000/850/900, Phenom 300 and King Air 350/B200/B200GT. Mark is a licensed pilot and holds an associate’s degree in avionics and a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from Southern Illinois University.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA).

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