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Destination (74)

AirVenture Roadmap

AirVenture Roadmap

A report on the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, a recap of Oshkosh—and tips to help you plan your next trip.

Based on what I saw (and a lot of the things I didn’t have the energy or time to see this year), AirVenture is now officially on the aviation must-do map like it’s never been before. I have no doubt that whatever in aviation holds your interest, you’ll be able to find it, learn more about it or do it at AirVenture. 

The Gathering 

One of the many benefits of being a Piper Flyer Association member is The Gathering at Waupaca.

More than 70 PFA members started arriving early for The Gathering at the Waupaca Municipal Airport in Wisconsin (KPCZ) on Friday, July 20. The official welcome reception barbecue took place 24 hours later on Saturday afternoon, at a hangar at the airport. 

Waupaca is 29 nm northwest of Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh (KOSH), the site of AirVenture. Since most inbound traffic to AirVenture is over there, flying into Waupaca is stress-free (relatively speaking) compared to the infamous Fisk VFR arrival process onto the grounds at AirVenture. 

Waupaca has an RNAV approach to the runway down to 500 and a mile. It’s also so much easier to depart from Waupaca when it’s time to finally head home. There’s none of that 22-airplanes-ahead-of-you conga line action, and Waupaca’s Avgas price is quite reasonable ($4.10 per gallon when I was there). 

Jennifer and Kent arrange ground transportation for members landing at KPCZ to and from the event hotel, the Par 4 Resort. But that’s not all.

The cost of The Gathering this year was a measly $110 for early registrants and $125 for those that missed the early opportunity. Where I live—and it is expensive here in California—it’s pretty easy to spend that many dollars for a good meal with wine for two. The Gathering bucks are a prudent outlay, since they include three meals, bus transportation back and forth to AirVenture for the first three days of the show, and maintenance and product seminars all day Sunday.

The Gathering provides a great value and a convenient way for members to meet other Piper owners, trade flying stories, compare purchases and get to and from AirVenture. Oh, and Gathering members are automatically entered in the door prize raffle Sunday afternoon after the presentations. This year, every Gathering attendee took home at least one door prize. It’s a can’t-lose deal.

Hotel costs for PFA members in Waupaca average a little over $125 per night for a room with two beds at the Comfort Suites Foxfire. 

For the first three days of the show, members can eat a free breakfast at the hotel and then board a bus to be whisked to Oshkosh. Then in the afternoon, after adventuring, shopping, learning and getting together with old friends, everyone gets back on the bus for a no-stress ride back to the hotel in Waupaca. 

This arrangement is one of the most stress-free ways to “do” AirVenture and is so cost-effective that fly-in members who attend The Gathering can scratch the cost of car rental off their AirVenture budget sheet. 

One-day admission tickets to AirVenture in 2018 were $34 for EAA members and weekly passes were $125. Ticket costs were around 30 percent higher for non-members. 

The Gathering at Waupaca group poses with their raffle prizes. Each attendee went home with something.
Lunch on Sunday of the Gathering, one of three meals included for Gathering attendees.


A&P/IA Steve Ells discussed owner-performed maintenance at this year’s Gathering.
A little bit of weather

Despite weather cells that dumped buckets of rain in the Oshkosh area Friday and overcast skies Saturday that slowed AirVenture-bound arrivals to a trickle prior to the official start of the show Monday, over 10,000 airplanes eventually touched down and stayed for at least a day. 

The numbers and facts about AirVenture 2018 are getting close to hard-to-believe. Attendance increased again, as more than 601,000 folks from all corners of the United States and many foreign countries passed through the gates during the seven-day show. Campers in tents and motorhomes packed over 12,600 sites. The number of show planes reached 2,979, and there were 867 commercial exhibitors spread across the width and breadth of the grounds. 

I especially like the opportunities available at AirVenture to approach and get to know the vendors that provide information on everything from fuel cells to avionics, ADS-B options, Rajay turbocharger systems and whatever else could interest a pilot/owner. (For a list of the speakers at the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, see Page 52. —Ed.)

If you seek face-to-face discussions with vendors of the products you use, or are planning to upgrade your airplane, interior, paint or avionics, the opportunity to confer with and compare information from vendors across the board is one of the biggest reasons I like AirVenture. 

An original Gloster Meteor came from the United Kingdom to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF at AirVenture.
AirVenture offers daily airshows. The Candian Harvard Aerobatic team performed for a record-setting crowd in 2018.


A walk around the grounds

Passes can be purchased online (and printed at home) or on-site near the main gate. You’ll take your ticket to a booth near the main gate in exchange for a wristband. An EAA staff member will put it on for you. It’s your gate pass for the day, days or week. Once you have a wristband, there are other show entry points. (A link to a map of the AirVenture grounds is in Resources.—Ed.)

Be sure to gather your group together for a photo under the big sign that marks the entrance. From there, the show spreads out as you walk east along Celebration Way toward Boeing Plaza where the really big and significant airplanes are parked. Most of the big companies (Piper, Lycoming, Continental, etc.) exhibit on or near Celebration Way. 

Four large buildings (A, B, C and D), located halfway to Boeing Square, are where you’ll find a tight concentration of vendors. After passing through Boeing Square, you’ll arrive at Wittman Way. A left turn will take you to the Homebuilt and Warbird areas; a right turn will lead to the Vintage and Ultralight display airplanes. 

The Piper Flyer Association booth had a new location in 2018: Hangar C, Booth 3126.
BendixKing announced its new product lines and subscription plan for avionics equipment.


The AirVenture app

Anyone attending AirVenture will benefit greatly by downloading the AirVenture app onto a smartphone. The app lists the location of all the vendors and provides information about buses (not the Gathering bus) that run regularly to the seaplane base and stores near the site.

The app helps users distill the event into manageable portions. There’s so much to do and so much to learn that I believe it’s impossible to take it all in during one week. 

Want to learn to weld; work wood, sheet metal and composites; tear down and reassemble a Lycoming engine; catch up on no-lead 100-octane Avgas progress; learn how to grow your EAA chapter; explore an ag pilot career; learn how to efficiently lean your engine or any of a thousand other topics and subjects? 

You’ll need a roadmap so the next shiny airplane or gadget doesn’t pull you off your path. That’s where the app comes in. Select the events, vendors or demonstrations that interest you, and they’re moved to a day-by-day calendar in the app. 

The app also provides information about the free shuttles that run often to different areas on the grounds. Unless you have the endurance of a triathlete, the shuttles are a must if for nothing more than touring the different reaches of all that is AirVenture. 

The latest in…ADS-B

Foreflight and Sporty’s introduced Sentry, an ADS-B In receiver that has it all. Features include a 12-hour battery life (so there’s no need to plug into a backup battery during a long cross-country), a pressure altitude sensor, weather replay, a backup attitude source (AHARS), a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm and a built-in WAAS GPS. Every Sentry is shipped with a RAM suction cup mount and will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network. Price is $499.


The Sentry ADS-B In receiver will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network.
…head-up displays

Head-up displays (HUD) got a lot of attention at AirVenture, and at least three companies had HUD products on display. While I’m not an active IFR pilot, I can see how a HUD would be a real asset while flying a low IFR approach.

The Epic Optix Epic Eagle 1 connects to all major electronic flight bag (EFB) apps from either an iOS or Android phone or tablet via Wi-Fi. The Epic Eagle 1 displays a wealth of flight data, including synthetic vision, onto an infinity-focused screen that is part of the 1.6-pound unit that mounts on the airplane glareshield. The unit measures 7.8 inches by 12.8 inches by 4.7 inches. The Epic Eagle 1 was sold at AirVenture for $1,699. (Currently, it’s listed for $1,799 on the Epic Optix website.—Ed.) 

The Epic Eagle 2 connects to modern avionics equipment through both Wi-Fi and HDMI and is now set up for the Garmin G1000. The Epic Eagle 2 requires the installation of a GPU (3.7 inches by 2.8 inches by 1.5 inches). It has more capabilities and costs more than the Epic Eagle 1. The HUD is $1,999 and the GPU is $1,500. (This version is not yet listed on Epic Optix’s website.—Ed.)

According to the FAQs on the company website, approval is not needed to install or use the Epic Eagle. It is secured on the glareshield using a variety of mounts. Power (it draws less than 2 amps) is supplied through a cable to the airplane cigarette lighter. According to Epic Optix, a USB power port does not supply enough power for operation. 

Textron Aviation is listing the Epic Eagle on the options list for new Beech and Cessna aircraft. If it works at all well, it seems to be a bargain at $1,999. 

The MGF SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 was also featured at AirVenture. The system projector is mounted to the roof of the cabin; the screen is suspended from an arm that’s connected to the projector. Information from installed avionics is fed through a display processor before being sent as video to the projector. Certification is expected in late 2018. Prices start at around $15,000.

The SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 from MyGoFlight is expected to be certified in late 2018.

The Valkyrie HUD from Alpha System AOA is a glareshield-mounted “adjustable beam splitter” that provides a small head-up type display for either of the Alpha Systems angle-of-attack indicators. 

…com radios

I noticed a couple of new small-footprint com radios from Trig Avionics and TQ General Aviation. Both companies sell very capable coms that can be mounted in a round 2.25-inch hole—the small-sized instrument hole that’s often used for a clock. 

…electronic ignition systems

The team at Electroair announced two advances. First off, the company’s EA15000 ignition switch panel is now approved to replace all key-type magneto switches. The EA15000 can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Removal of the key switch system eliminates AD 93-05-06, a recurrent AD for certain Piper ignition switches. 

Electroair also announced it has obtained approval to install its electronic ignition system on turbocharged Lycoming engines (TIO-540, TIO-541 and TIGO-540 series) and on classic Continental engines (O-300, GO-300, E-165, E-185 and E-225).

…electronic flight instruments

Aspen Avionics introduced its low-cost building-block Evolution E5 Dual Electronic Flight Instrument (EFI), which takes the place of both the vacuum-driven artificial horizon and directional gyro instruments. The E5 Dual EFI has a backup battery to power the unit if aircraft power is lost and provides ARINC 429 and RS-232 busses that allow it to interface with some autopilots. 

In addition to a built-in air data computer and attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS), the E5 can be reconfigured and upgraded to include all the features of the Evolution 1000 Pro and further to the Pro Plus PFD, which features an angle-of-attack indicator and ADS-B and synthetic vision capabilities. Aspen also announced improvements to customers’ previously-installed Evolution flight display units. The E5 EFI is approved for installation under an STC and is priced at $4,995. 

...100-octane Avgas

Don’t expect PAFI to approve a new unleaded 100-octane Avgas soon.

The testing protocol administered by the Piston Aircraft Fuels Initiative (PAFI) was suspended in June 2018. Neither of the two candidate fuels—Shell and Swift—proved able to meet all the requirements. 

Consequently, the FAA invited other fuel providers to submit fuels. Phillips 66 and Afton Chemical announced that they had teamed up to create their version of an unleaded 100-octane Avgas. According to the presentation, the Phillips/Afton fuel will be almost identical to today’s 100LL except that a manganese additive (HiTec®3000) will be blended instead of lead. 

…Rajay turbocharger parts

If you’ve been looking for a source for new parts for your Rajay supercharger installation, look to Rajay Turbo Products. The company is also working to supply a hose kit that would terminate the repetitive five-year inspections required by AD 81-19-04.

I admit this is not a very comprehensive report, so I suggest you start saving now to get yourself to the 50th anniversary of AirVenture in 2019. I can guarantee EAA will be pulling out all the stops.

As I write this in mid-August 2018, there are only 49 weeks and one day before the show starts July 22, 2019. Attendees and show volunteers will begin arriving days and even weeks before the start date. 

At my age, I live by the rule, “The days seem long, but the years whiz by.” Now is the time to start making plans to attend AirVenture 2019. 

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California, with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .



AirVenture app
Along-the-route special offers for AirVenture-bound fliers
AirVenture grounds map


Piper Flyer Association


ForeFlight, LLC. (Sentry)


Epic Optix (Epic Eagle 1 and 2)
MGF (SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180)
Alpha Systems AOA (Valkyrie HUD)


Trig Avionics Limited

TQ Systems GmbH/TQ General Aviation




Aspen Avionics Inc.


Talco Aviation/Rajay Turbo Products
Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Whether you are passing through or planning a long weekend, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, can accommodate you and your aircraft quite nicely. 

Jackson, Mississippi, has been deemed the “City with Soul,” and I would agree with that. Yet Jackson is more than a great spot for Mississippi blues music; more significant than a locus in the Civil Rights movement; more than just a place to stop in search of authentic soul food. This state capital is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project to transform its downtown. 

If you haven’t visited in a while (or ever), you need to know that Jackson offers several compelling reasons to stop for an overnight or a long weekend. 

Airport information

Piper Flyer Association member and area pilot Felton Watkins was kind enough to share some details about four of the airports around Jackson. 

Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)

“Hawkins was established during World War II as a training base,” explained Watkins. “The facility was utilized by both American and Danish aviation training forces. A small Danish Air Force cemetery is located just east of the field where those who lost their lives while training at Hawkins are buried.” 

“Hawkins remains one of the major hubs for General Aviation in the area, providing fuel, training and aircraft maintenance support,” Watkins said. The two 150-foot-wide runways are 5,300 and 3,400 feet long, respectively. Airport operations are almost evenly split between military, transient and local GA. 

Hawkins Jet Center, an independent FBO, is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Full-service Avgas was $5.49/gallon when I checked in late September. The Jet Center is just 10 minutes from downtown Jackson, has a courtesy car and can arrange for a shuttle to hotels.

Alternates to Hawkins can be found in Madison, Mississippi, at Bruce Campbell Field (9 nm away); John Bell Williams Airport (10 nm away); and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International (8 nm away).


Bruce Campbell Field (KMBO)

“Campbell Field, located just north of Jackson, is fast becoming the center for General Aviation in Jackson,” Watkins reported. “The field provides training, aircraft rental and maintenance support.” 

Campbell, too, is super GA-friendly with virtually no military traffic. The fuel price at Campbell was $4.97 per gallon for full-service Avgas as of Sept. 26, 2018. The single asphalt runway is 4,400 feet long.

Madison Air Center serves the field. “The people running the FBO are always friendly and willing to help you with any needs,” said Watkins. “There is a wing of the Commemorative Air Force located on the field, and they always have something going on at their hangar.” 

John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)

J.B. Williams Airport is west of Jackson, near the Natchez Trace Parkway. “Williams was also a World War II training field,” said Watkins. In the early 1940s, it served as an auxiliary field for Jackson Army Air Base (now Hawkins Field).

Today, this public airport is owned and managed by Hinds Community College. Williams serves GA almost exclusively, with 98 percent of its average of 126 daily aircraft operations credited to local or transient GA. 

Runway 12/30 is just shy of 5,500 feet long. A courtesy car is available, too, but if you’re depending on it, calling ahead is always a good idea. Self-serve Avgas is just $4.25 per gallon—no full-service option—and is available 24 hours with a credit card.

Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)

Jackson-Evers International is utilized mainly by commercial airlines and military aircraft, according to Felton Watkins. The National Guard has a C-17 unit located at this facility. 

“General Aviation aircraft avoid the Jackson-Evers airport because of high fees,” Watkins explained. “The last time I flew into [KJAN] was on a Saturday with great flying weather. We were conducting an Angel Flight and were the only General Aviation aircraft on the ramp.”

What to see and where to eat

As the largest city in the state, Jackson, Mississippi, has a lot going on. “Jackson has numerous outstanding restaurants and museums that are worth a visit,” said Watkins. 

Within the Jackson metro area, you can visit a children’s museum, a natural science museum, an art museum, the state capitol and governor’s mansion, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame…truly, too much to list here.

I have selected just a few of the attractions in Jackson and arranged the information in pairs, with a place to go and a place (or two) to eat. 

Eudora Welty House; Manship Kitchen 

If you appreciate Southern writers and literary fiction like I do, the Eudora Welty House is a must. I’m currently in the middle of “The Optimist’s Daughter,” Welty’s 1972 novel, and can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. An acclaimed photographer as well, Welty was a lifelong resident of Jackson and lived at the family home at 1119 Pinehurst St. until her death in 2001. 

Guided tours of Welty’s home in the Belhaven neighborhood are offered for a small fee Tuesday through Friday and on the second Saturday of every month at designated times. Reservations are recommended. 

If you’re just dropping in, the exhibits at the Education Center located next door to the home can be seen weekdays during business hours at no charge. Currently, selected letters are on display—over 15,000 pieces of correspondence were in Welty’s home—and include notes to friends around the world expressing her fondness for her hometown.

After your tour, the Manship Wood Fired Kitchen off North State Street might be a good place to stop for a bite to eat. The restaurant has indoor and (some) outdoor dining, with Mediterranean dishes (Greek-style chicken) and classic Southern food (fried okra) on the menu. The Manship opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Brunch is available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as the restaurant is closed on Sunday.

The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen has a menu that features classic Southern items, like shrimp, with a Mediterranean twist.
Puliter-prize-winning author Eudora Welty lived the majority of her life at 1119 Pinehurst St. in Jackson. Welty bequeathed the home to the State of Mississippi and it is now a National Historic Landmark.
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum; Bully’s Restaurant, Brent’s Drugs

The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in the Eastover neighborhood of Jackson is like you’d expect it to be, with something extra: a nod to agplanes. 

In addition to exhibits like “Small Town Mississippi” and information about Mississippi’s lumber production at the turn of the 20th century, the museum also houses the National Agricultural Aviation Museum. 

In this 5,000-square-foot space, you can view a Stearman A75 biplane with a 450 hp engine, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub converted to a “Cutback Cub,” along with a Piper PA-25 Pawnee and a Grumman Ag Cat.

If you get hungry, one restaurant that gets rave reviews is Bully’s in the Fondren neighborhood west of I-55. At Bully’s, soul food (like oxtails) and plate lunches (like barbecue and fried chicken) can be enjoyed Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Plus, they have peach cobbler! 

If you’d prefer a milkshake and a burger, consider a stop at Brent’s Drugs, just off North State Street in the Mid North District. This old-fashioned soda fountain has been in operation since the 1940s. 

Several other popular restaurants near Brent’s include Walker’s Drive-In (upscale and “locavore”-friendly) and the Pig & Pint (great barbecue, with a beer list that’s beyond extensive).

Brent’s, a diner and soda fountain, has been a part of the Fondren neighborhood since 1946
The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum includes an important component of agriculture in the American South: aviation. Visitors can see four agplanes inside at the National Agricultural Aviation Museum.
Many people consider Bully’s to have the best soul food in town. The Bully family opened the restaurant in 1982.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Museum of Mississippi History; Iron Horse Grill, Hal and Mal’s 

If you can make the time, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum deserves your full attention. The struggles of the civil rights era are arranged in eight different galleries for visitors. It’s an immersive experience that isn’t always comfortable to see.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $8; $6 for seniors age 60-plus. Youth admission (ages 4–18) is $5 and children 3 and under are admitted for free. 

The Museum of Mississippi History, which shares a lobby with the civil rights museum, tells the stories of Mississippians from 13,000 B.C. to today. Museum-goers will see artifacts from the slave trade, learn about the boll weevil and see how Hurricane Katrina affected Mississippi, plus much more.

Dual admission (both museums) is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for youth. Both the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History open their doors for free on the third Saturday of every month. The museums are located on North Street near the Eudora Welty Library and Old Capitol Inn.

West of the museums, on Pearl Street, you’ll find the Iron Horse Grill. The site of this restaurant began as the Armour Smokehouse in the early 1900s, experienced two fires, and was eventually abandoned. Biloxi shrimp fajitas, redfish tacos, the Iron Horse burger… all are prepared on a charcoal grill. The restaurant is open every day of the week at 11 a.m. (10:30 a.m. on Sundays).

Another spot, Hal and Mal’s, is just south of the museums on Commerce Street. Hal and Mal’s offers a great menu with soup, salads, sandwiches and seafood. It’s a favorite venue for local live music, with blues—the Central Mississippi Blues Society hosts a weekly event—along with jazz, singer-songwriters and country artists frequently on the bill. 

Planning your trip

Staying downtown in Jackson can be a great choice, as many of the hotels are new. The nine-story Westin Jackson is the most recent addition (it was completed in 2017), and three other hotels—a Hilton, a Marriott and the Old Capitol Inn boutique hotel—offer plenty of rooms within a few blocks of core downtown attractions. These four, and at least 10 other hotels, are within 7 miles of Hawkins Field. 

Downtown Jackson is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project, as developers are investing millions of dollars in revitalizing the city.

I’d suggest scheduling a long weekend for Thursday to Saturday, with a Sunday departure. The City with Soul has many things to enjoy—but several of them are not accessible on Sundays or Mondays. 

Jackson is ready for you 

November can be a great time to visit Jackson, Mississippi. The average high is 68 F and autumn is typically dry. 

Spring is another great time, according to Felton Watkins. “Do not miss the St. Paddy’s Day parade!” he told me. (Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival will take place March 23, 2019. —Ed.) 

Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival is a Jackson tradition. “Mississippi’s green Mardi Gras” is scheduled for March 23, 2019.

Seems to me that whatever time of year you visit, Jackson, Mississippi, will be ready for you.

Sources: Downtown-jackson.com, VisitJackson.com, Wikipedia.com.

Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .


Bruce Campbell Field Airport (KMBO)
Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)
Hawkins Jet Center
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)
John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)
Visit Jackson
Eudora Welty House and Garden
Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
Museum of Mississippi History
Brent’s Drugs
Bully’s Restaurant
Hal and Mal’s 
The Iron Horse Grill
The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen


Destination: Holiday in Las Vegas

Destination: Holiday in Las Vegas

Whether you think of Las Vegas as Sin City, the City of Second Chances, or the Neon Capitol of the World, the reality is, it’s all of these—and none of these. With entertainment high on the list for most visitors to this resort city in the middle of the Mojave, spending a winter holiday in Las Vegas can be as meaningful as you want it to be. 

Las Vegas. It’s spectacular—that is, it’s a spectacle. There is an enormous amount to see and do here, year-round and around the clock. I worked with pilots Carl Steinhoff and Ned Atwell to find out what’s going on in the Las Vegas Valley during the winter months. Keep reading for a good look at what’s going on in this uniquely American desert city. 

Flying in 

First of all, a bit of handy information courtesy of Carl Steinhoff: Nevada is among the most mountainous states in the U.S. (I didn’t know that!) Steinhoff recommends a review of mountain flying techniques before heading to The Silver State. 

“Although the temperature drops in the winter, density altitude is always something to pay careful attention to,” he advised. “Watch the weather; patterns change quickly in the mountains.” 

Steinhoff recommends landing your Piper at North Las Vegas (KVGT) or at Henderson, Nevada’s Henderson Executive (KHND). Both of these airports have shops that can handle mechanical and radio issues. “I’d advise staying away from McCarran—fuel is expensive.” 

However, pilot Ned Atwell had a good experience at McCarran (KLAS). “ATC was very friendly on my single General Aviation landing there,” Atwell explained, joking, “Perhaps the controllers were new?”

Where you choose to tie down mainly depends on what you’re in Las Vegas to see. “If you’re heading to Old Las Vegas—downtown—land at North Las Vegas,” Steinhoff advises. “If you’re heading to the Strip, land at Henderson. Both are fine airports,” he added. 

Henderson Executive (KHND)

Henderson Executive Airport, 11 miles to the south of Las Vegas, has two parallel runways that are 6,500 and 5,000 feet long respectively. This airport, owned by Clark County, Nevada, has a good amount of commercial air tour traffic, and averages over 200 operations a day. Self-service Avgas at KHND is $4.94, and Apex Aviation on the field offers oxygen service. 

“At Henderson you may be able to get courtesy transportation if you call ahead; otherwise, call a rideshare service or a taxi,” Steinhoff explained. (The courtesy shuttle takes prearranged same-day reservations and departs KHND at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. —Ed.)

You could always wait it out at the Landings Restaurant on the field. They serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and are closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

GA-friendly Henderson Executive Airport is 11 miles to the south of Las Vegas.
North Las Vegas (KVGT)

North Las Vegas Airport is situated to the northwest of Las Vegas and has three paved runways. It, too, is publicly owned by Clark County, and fuel prices compare with Henderson at $4.94 per gallon for Avgas. However, KVGT experiences about double the traffic of Henderson with 485 operations on average per day; it’s the second-busiest airport in Nevada. Multiple businesses are on the field, including air tour operators, charters, flight schools, maintenance facilities and more. 

A flight crew briefing video with airport and ATC procedures is available online; note that you have to have Adobe Flash enabled for the video to play, but even so, I had difficulty playing certain sections of the video.

A recent $40 million investment in North Las Vegas Airport is geared specifically to attract General Aviation (it is the designated GA reliever airport for KLAS) and includes remodeling of the terminal that will be completed by the end of 2018. The Sunshine and Tailwinds Café located inside the terminal is open during construction. Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

North Las Vegas is the designated GA reliever airport for McCarran (KLAS).
Things to do

“I’ve been here since 1988,” Steinhoff told me. “There are lots of interesting things—all kinds of activities out here.” While many visitors might wish to try their luck at a casino, Las Vegas is probably equally renowned today for its glitz-and-glam-style entertainment. 


Whether you want to see magicians, mimes, musicians or a musical, you will find them in Las Vegas. 

“If you are interested in shows, get reservations and tickets early,” Steinhoff said. How early? At least a couple of months. 

Some shows can be as low as $15 per ticket, but your price for a high-demand event likely begins at around $75 per seat and can go much, much higher.

Attractions on the Strip

Inside the Luxor Hotel, you can find more than 250 artifacts from the Titanic. Also at the Luxor is “Bodies: The Exhibition”—a fascinating exhibit with real human specimens. General admission to each of these exhibitions is $32 for adults; combination tickets are $42. 

There is also a “3 for $57” offer, where visitors can choose from nine different attractions, including the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage.

There are several free attractions on the Strip, including the volcano at the Mirage. Or check out the fountains with music at the Bellagio, which, Atwell told me, has “a fine seasonal floral atrium inside, too.” 

Downtown Vegas/Fremont Street

“Viva Vision,” a live light show on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, is a six-minute LED light spectacular. Shows occur hourly from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. every single night. The music and light shows on a 1,500 foot-long canopy in the middle of “Old Vegas” are seen and heard by 22 million visitors a year.

Just strolling around the 24-hour Fremont Street Experience mall is, well, an experience. If you want more, there are several other attractions in the neighborhood. Two of these include the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum—and their names say it all. 

Tickets are tiered for the various tour options at the Neon Museum, but a pre-booked guided tour is $28 for adults, while a trip through the Mob Museum’s three floors of exhibits (self-guided) is $26.50. Combination tickets for both museums are available for $48.

Getting merry and bright in Vegas. 
Skydiving (indoor and outdoor)

Indoor skydiving, called “the most unique attraction in Las Vegas,” offers paying guests of all ages the opportunity for a simulated skydiving experience in a padded wind tunnel. “Flights” are available for two minutes up to 60 minutes. The facility is open seven days a week—including limited hours on Dec. 24 and 25, 2018. 

If you prefer the “real thing” instead, “You can practice skydiving and gliding at Jean, Nevada, just south of Las Vegas,” said Steinhoff.

Hot air ballooning, helicopter tours

“Hot air balloon rides south of the city can offer the best views of McCarran; the balloons float under the Class B floor,” Atwell explained. 

Costs for the balloon tours vary and conditions need to be right for these flights, but I’d plan on at least $100 per person for a one-hour voyage; some companies offer bundles/packages with other entertainment, like a helicopter tour of the Las Vegas Strip. “Helicopter rides over the city are best at night,” said Atwell.

A helicopter ride in Las Vegas is most impressive at night. 
Out-of-town day trips

Death Valley

Steinhoff has a great suggestions for a fly-out day trip or even an overnight. “It’s common for people to fly from Las Vegas to Death Valley [California] on Saturday morning for breakfast.” 

“This is the time of year to fly to Death Valley,” he continued, “and it has a fine resort. If you land at Furnace Creek (L06), they have a phone and the Inn at Death Valley will send a van to pick you up.” 

Both Furnace Creek and another airstrip, Stovepipe Wells (L09), are operated by the National Park Service. Each has a paved 3,000-foot runway but offer no services, so plan accordingly. 

Hoover Dam

“Visit the dam!” insisted Steinhoff. For this, though, you can’t book ahead—you’ll have to come in person to get a limited number of tickets offered daily from now through Jan. 31, 2019. (The dam is closed to tours on Dec. 25, 2018. —Ed.)

“You can also fly over the lake [Mead] if you follow ATC instructions—there is heavy jet and helo traffic near the dam,” Steinhoff added. 

Some prefer to hoof it instead: “You can walk on the bridge connecting Nevada with Arizona,” said Atwell. 

The visitor center at Hoover Dam is undergoing a renovation until Feb. 14, 2019, but a modified tour is being offered this winter. Be prepared to pay for parking and complete a security screening. But all the fees and possible lines and traffic are well worth it for the indescribable views and the sheer scale of this engineering feat. 

If you’re in the area, a trip to see the Hoover Dam is a must. This impressive photo showcases the dam and the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. 
Red Rock Canyon

“Red Rock Canyon is pretty, and it’s a pleasant ride,” said Atwell—but his son, Mark, begs to differ. (He says if you’ve seen one red rock, you’ve seen them all!)

The Scenic Drive through the Mojave is a 13-mile trip open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. in December. To use the roadway will cost $15 per car per day; it’s $5 per person for bicycles and pedestrians. The one-way route is dotted with various overlooks and designated stopping places. 

Hikers can choose among 26 routes at various levels of difficulty. Rock climbing, mountain bike trails and overnight camping are offered as well. 

Dining and accommodations

“For dining in Las Vegas, there is an unlimited variety,” said Atwell, and he wasn’t kidding. There are more than 2,260 restaurants listed in Las Vegas on OpenTable. “But some can be pricy—it is a tourist town.” 

Some of the best of the best include Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (American); Kabuto (Asian); and Le Cirque inside the Bellagio (French). Veranda at the Four Seasons has Sunday brunch and outdoor dining. 

An autumn display at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens includes a talking tree.

As far as staying in Las Vegas, if you want to be on the Strip, you can find hotel rooms right in the mix at some of the most recognizable hotels for as low as $27 per day on weeknights. 

Consider a fly-out vacation to Las Vegas this winter. The weather is favorable and there’s obviously plenty to do day and night with little to no holiday closures. When you factor in two GA airports and the abundance of options for ground transportation, visiting the Las Vegas Valley during the holiday season may be one of the most fun and hassle-free holidays you ever have.

Getting Merry and Bright in Vegas

Are you ready to exchange presents, eat another turkey and listen to some carols? Well, if you plan to do this in Las Vegas, you are in for some great fun.

Let’s face it, Las Vegas is known for doing everything big. Christmas is no exception. The holiday season is actually a great time to visit Las Vegas. However, things get pricy and sell out fast around that time of year. Make your plans as early as you can. 

The Vegas Strip is full of holiday spirit as the casinos try to outdo each other with decorations, lights and mega-Christmas trees. 

Just a few of the many attractions in Las Vegas this holiday season include a holiday music and light show at the fountains of Bellagio, a winter wonderland display at the LINQ Promenade with decorations, carolers and holiday music, and Santa Claus—in scuba gear—swimming among 4,000 sharks, stingrays and tropical fish at the Silverton Casino Hotel Aquarium.

Source: “2018 Christmas in Las Vegas,” lasvegashowto.com.

Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .



Furnace Creek (L06) 
Henderson Executive Airport (KHND)
McCarran International Airport (KLAS)
North Las Vegas (KVGT)
North Las Vegas Airport Flight Crew Briefing video
Stovepipe Wells (L09) 


Landings Restaurant (KHND)
Sunshine and Tailwinds Café (KVGT)


Fremont Street Experience 
High Roller
Luxor Hotel attractions
Mob Museum
Neon Museum
Shark Reef Aquarium 
Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Vegas Indoor Skydiving


Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab 
Le Cirque
Veranda at the Four Seasons


Death Valley National Park
Hoover Dam
The Inn at Death Valley
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area


Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority 
Destination: Storied Savannah

Destination: Storied Savannah

A walkabout in a historic Georgia city.

Georgia was the last of the original Thirteen Colonies— and Savannah was its first city. The colony of Georgia had been created in 1732 as a “buffer state” to protect South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida.

It’s believed the city, founded by James Oglethorpe, was so named after the river. The Savannah River runs to the north-northeast of Savannah, while the Little Black River just northeast of that comprises the border with South Carolina. 


Like New Orleans, Charleston and other southern coastal towns, Savannah has been swamped by the waters more than once. Today, five canals and several pumping stations keep the city from flooding. Fortunately, due to its location in the Georgia Bight, it’s at a lower risk of hurricanes than other cities on the Atlantic.

It’s humid in Savannah, and though it rains a fair amount from June to September, it rarely snows—and in recent history, even freezing temperatures are rare. Overall, the temperatures tend to be cooler and more moderate than inland areas of Georgia. 

Pilots will find good treatment at a few of the GA airports just over the border in South Carolina. (See “Lowcountry Alternates” by Michael Leighton on page 57. —Ed.) Regardless of how you arrive, a trip to Savannah is a trip worth taking. 

I was surprised to find that the population of the city proper is just 145,000. For such a modestly-sized town, it has a lot to offer visitors. Savannah is old, beautiful, and in my experience, lives up to the hype.


Architecture and the arts

James Oglethorpe designed Savannah in a grid system. Shady public squares were interspersed at regular intervals between blocks, and of the original 24 squares in the layout, 22 greenspaces remain intact today.


Many significant buildings remain intact, too. As a result of the efforts begun by the Savannah Historic Foundation in the 1950s, Savannah’s Historic District is one of the largest in the United States. 


With so much ornate architecture and ironwork, iconic fountains and statues, cobblestone and Spanish moss, it’s little wonder that Savannah was voted one of the 10 Most Beautiful Places in America by USA Weekend.


Though Savannah escaped destruction during Gen. Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” it suffered through two major fires in 1796 and 1820, the rise and fall of the cotton industry, and the Great Depression. With such a long and arduous history, Savannah is reputed to be America’s most haunted city. 


Capitalizing on this, various companies offer ghost tours, nighttime ghost “walks” and cemetery tours. Organized tours to view the architecture and historic buildings in the daylight hours abound, and are available via trolley or on foot.


I took a walking tour of Savannah’s Historic District that focused on some of the major landmarks and various architectural styles. Our guide had a master’s degree in architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and loved his adopted city.

Some know Savannah best through “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. This novel still holds the record for the longest best-selling book on the New York Times’ list (216 weeks). Anyone who recalls this story, or the 1997 movie of the same name, might recall the iconic “Bird Girl” statue. 

After the book became so popular, this privately-owned grave monument was relocated from Bonaventure Cemetery to the Telfair Museum of Art, and later to the nearby Jepson Center for the Arts. 

As you’ve probably gathered, the arts are pretty big in Savannah. Savannah College of Art and Design has over 40 programs in both contemporary (branded entertainment, design for sustainability) and traditional disciplines (art history, sculpture). 

The Culinary Institute of Savannah at Savannah Technical College also has a large presence in the city, and is one of the top culinary programs in the nation. In addition to three teaching kitchens, Chef Jean Vendeville and his students created Bistro Savoir—a nonprofit that offers seasonal sales of pastries and breads. Proceeds from the sales help to fund a scholarship/exchange program in France.

Museums, shopping and more

Some things I enjoyed in Savannah included a brief visit to the River Street Market Place, an open-air shopping area with various flea market-type sellers and food vendors. The market opens every day at 10 a.m., and even if you don’t purchase anything, it’s nice to stroll along the river and watch the activity at the market as well as on the water in this port city.

Strolling is something I did a lot of while in Savannah. The city is set up to wander around in, so treks to City Market’s boutiques, antique shops, galleries and gift shops can be easily accomplished if you make sure to take time to get off your feet here and there. With so many sun-dappled squares full of benches, building in rest time is a breeze.


One must for any newcomer is a visit to Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. This old-fashioned confectionery has the world’s most delicious pecan pralines (truly) as well as divinity, saltwater taffy, gophers (a.k.a. turtles), fudge, caramels and truffles. I visited. Daily. (I also tried to bring a box of pralines home to Wisconsin, but my husband and I ate them all by the time we got to Louisville, Ky.)

Military history buffs have no shortage of learning opportunities anywhere in the South. Savannah-area attractions include Fort Pulaski and Old Fort Jackson. The Webb Military Museum, a newer museum featuring a single private collection, gets great reviews online. 

Another must is the Pin Point Heritage Museum. This museum is inside a former oyster and crab packing house. The self-sustained Gullah/Geechee community on the marsh near the Moon River was isolated for nearly 100 years; this museum’s mission is to preserve the creole language, farming and fishing traditions of this unique African-American Lowcountry culture.


There are so many options for good food in Savannah. Here are a few of my recommendations.

For a casual meal, I’d try Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room for fried chicken, sweet potato soufflé and other Southern specialties—provided you can get a seat. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, doesn’t take credit cards and is usually very busy.

Debi’s Restaurant’s is another down-home place—and it’s the diner where Jenny worked in “Forrest Gump.” This no-frills family restaurant serves good sandwiches and breakfast all day. It’s only open 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., though, so don’t plan to eat here for dinner.

There are several choices for fine dining in Savannah. One of these, 700 Drayton, is located at the Mansion on Forsyth Park. This upscale restaurant has some eclectic choices, but you can get breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner along with a nice selection of wines. The main dining area is beautifully decorated.

The menu at Sapphire Grill is set to showcase local seafood, but also offers fowl (duck and chicken), lamb, pork and beef. This multi-story establishment is located on Congress Street—quite near a little place you might have heard of: The Lady and Sons. (You’ll know you’re close when you see the line waiting to get in the door for Paula Deen’s Southern Buffet.)


Savannah has all major hotel chains, along with vacation rentals, inns, boutique hotels and more. I recommend you begin your search for lodging at VisitSavannah.com. The site is nicely arranged so you can narrow your search by “pet friendly,” “family friendly”—and yes, even “haunted.”

We stayed at the East Bay Inn, located on the corner of E. Bay Street and Lincoln. It’s a smaller hotel (28 rooms) in a nice location—a short walk across Emmet Park brought us to River Street and the many waterfront sights, shops and eateries. A walk in the other direction takes you into the central part of the city and on down to the Victorian District.


Current rates at the East Bay Inn are quite reasonable on weekdays ($129 to $161), but weekend rates are significantly higher ($259 to $279). During peak times (late March through June, and again from September through November), rates average $188 on weekdays and $299 on weekends.

Tybee Island

A trip to Savannah really isn’t complete until you take the drive east to Tybee Island. From downtown Savannah, it’s a simple 20- to 30-minute drive east on the Islands Expressway/I-80, past Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski to Tybee Island. 

This island has been a retreat for the people of Savannah (called “Savannahians,” in case you were wondering) since the Civil War. In many ways, Tybee is a typical seaside village, with ramshackle seaside shops, a large public beach, a couple of larger hotels, and some quirky year-round residents. 

Though there are some very good eateries on Tybee—like A.J.’s Dockside—in our experience the shrimp po’boy sandwiches from out-of-the-way roadside stands were even better. Fresh seafood and public fishing are both in abundance here. 


Besides surfing, sunbathing and swimming, families might enjoy a trek through Fort Pulaski National Monument. This “Third System” military fort cost around $1 million when it was constructed in 1847. With 11-foot-thick walls, Fort Pulaski was supposedly impregnable—but it fell in 1862 under bombardment from James rifled cannons. 

There are at least a dozen hotels, inns and cottage complexes on Tybee Island—enough options to suit anyone who wants to spend some serious “Tybee time.” In my experience, though, accommodations can be a little hit-and-miss. If you plan to stay here, I suggest that you visit the location in person before committing.

Savannah and the entire Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina are rich with stories, and my time in the area felt too short. I’d love to go back. Til then, I guess I’ll have my pralines shipped from River Street straight to my door. 


Heather Skumatz is managing editor for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

Sources: VisitSavannah.com, Wikipedia.org


Visitor information

Savannah Chamber’s downtown map
Tybee Visitor Center
Visit Savannah

Tours, museums and monuments

Architectural Tours of Savannah
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Jepson Center for the Arts
Old Fort Jackson National Historic Site
Pin Point Heritage Museum
Telfair Museums
The Webb Military Museum

Shopping and gifts

River Street Market Place
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
Savannah City Market


AJ’s Dockside 
Debi’s Restaurant
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
Sapphire Grill
700 Drayton Restaurant
The Lady and Sons 


East Bay Inn
Destination Sanibel: Shell City, USA

Destination Sanibel: Shell City, USA

Florida is filled with fun, bright, beachy places—but there is nowhere quite like Sanibel Island on the state’s Gulf Coast.

Sanibel Island might be small, but it packs a lot into its 17 square miles. With 15 miles of beaches teeming with seashells, a rich history involving pirates, and lanais on every dwelling, it’s as “Florida” as Florida gets.

Thousands of years ago, Sanibel Island was a single island with neighboring Captiva. It was settled by the Calusa, Native Americans whose territory included the southwest coast of Florida. 

The city of Sanibel was established in 1974, a full 10 years after the Sanibel Causeway linked the island to the mainland. Before 1963, travel to Sanibel and Captiva was typically by ferry; most of the commerce on Sanibel is on the eastern side of the island. 

Despite the amazing amount of development, there are no airstrips on Sanibel or Captiva Islands. There are two private fields on nearby Pine Island; in addition, Southwest Florida International (KRSW) in Fort Myers offers all major services, but only 10 percent of the flights are transient GA.

So how is a pilot going to get here? I asked someone in the know. 

Southwestern Florida’s GA scene

The “real GA airport in the area,” according to Floridian David Hipschman —who some readers will recall used to write regularly for this magazine—is Page Field (KFMY) just to the northwest of KRSW’s Class C airspace. 

Located on the mainland between the Caloosahatchee River and I-75, just a few miles south of Fort Myers proper, KFMY has been in operation since 1940. It has acted as the GA reliever airport since the early 1980s when KRSW was certified for operation.

Base Ops, the FBO on Page Field, has an excellent reputation online at sources like Airnav.com. The terminal is practically brand-new (finished in 2011) and the list of amenities offered by Base Ops is long. Normal business hours are 7 am to 11 pm.

Ramp fees are modest: just $10/night—and they’ll even waive a few nights if you make a fuel purchase. Prices as of Dec. 8, 2016 were 3.87/gal for 100LL, with $3.37/gal listed for the self-serve pump off Runway 31. 

If you happen to fly in on a Friday, you’ll find that Base Ops offers a free hot dog and soda lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for “Hot Dog Friday.” 

Hipschman also mentioned these nearby alternates: La Belle Municipal (X14) 19 nm east; Punta Gorda (KPGD) 19 nm northwest; and Immokalee Regional (KIMM) 24 nm southeast.

Ground transportation

After landing at KFMY in Fort Myers, it’s a quick trip over to Sanibel in a rental car. Vehicles can easily hop on the causeway and be on Sanibel from the mainland of Florida in a matter of minutes—if traffic is light. Round-trip fee from the Florida mainland to Sanibel and/or Captiva Islands via the causeway is six dollars.

Anyone who has ever been on Florida’s sometimes very slow-moving streets during peak times already knows to be prepared for backups; and they can occur on the three-mile long causeway—and on the island, too. 

Many travelers park their vehicles at their earliest opportunity and use other modes of transportation on Sanibel; scooters and bicycles, mainly. Be alert for lots of “wanderers”—in cars, in carts, on foot and on two wheels—as well as four-legged wildlife “wanderers.”

With more than 2,000 acres of freshwater wetlands, an alligator sighting is likely. If you’re not familiar with alligator safety, make sure you review Florida state laws—feeding or harassing alligators is prohibited—and obey all posted signs.


Things to do on and around Sanibel Bicycling

A bike, scooter or Segway rental from Billy’s is the way to go (unless you brought your bike with you!) for traversing Sanibel’s 17 miles of bike paths. At $20 a day for a multi-speed bike, and nine bucks for a boogie board, you can be having fun on the beach all day on the cheap.

Street-legal golf carts from Cart Rentals is another great way to tour the island in the open air, but this mode of transport is considerably more spendy at $150 a day. 



Sanibel has more than 10 miles of beach frontage on the Gulf of Mexico and shellers can expect to find cockle shells, various conch, lightning whelks, tulip shells and bivalves like coquinas shells. The white-with-brown polka dots Junonia is rare enough that finders will get their photo in The Islander, the community newspaper.

Serious shellers head to the beach in the early morning for the best selection, but in my experience, any time of day can yield some wonderful shells. Live shells—those that contain any inhabitant, whether it appears to be living or not—are not allowed to be collected by mandate of the State of Florida. 



Fishers of all abilities get excited about the prospect of year-round fishing in Florida. 

Fishing from the beach or pier in state waters commonly yields tarpon, snook, redfish, tarpon and sea trout. If you don’t already have your salt water and/or fresh water license, you can acquire one from one of numerous outlets on the island. Fly fishing, charter boats for offshore waters and other guided trips are also available if you’re on the hunt for that big grouper. 



The Causeway Beaches are excellent for fishing. Parking is free, dogs are allowed (on leashes) and there are restrooms and picnic tables. However, no open fires or alcoholic beverages are permitted. 

On the east side of Sanibel is the Lighthouse Beach. It, too, is a popular fishing spot, with a T-shaped fishing pier. Parking fees are good for 24 hours, with no fees for bikes.

Mid-island parks include Tarpon Beach and Gulfside City Park, both excellent for swimming and picnicking. 

Our family’s favorite was Bowman’s Beach, on the “up island” segment just off Sanibel-Captiva Road. It’s less busy, breezy and just plain relaxing there.

Attractions Sanibel and Captiva Island Visitor’s Center

Sure, you can drop by and see them on the Causeway Road, but you can likely get all of your “work” done online and by phone before your voyage. The website for the Sanibel and Captiva Island Visitor’s Center is easy to navigate and stuffed—to the gills, if I may—with useful information for incoming visitors.

Dolphin watching

Eco tours, like the one offered by Sanibel Dolphin Tours, can be a great way for a family to experience the marine wildlife. A two-hour private tour for six passengers costs $250, and can allow for lots of great “photo ops” in addition to unforgettable memories for kids—and their parents, too.



Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge 

More than 6,000 acres of mangroves, swamps, flats and marshes—and, of course beaches—comprise the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Almost half of the refuge is a national Wilderness Area. Visitors can drive, but may also walk, bike or kayak through the refuge. Admission is a dollar each for bikers and walkers, and five dollars per vehicle.

Something to take note of is that the popular five-mile driving route, Wildlife Drive, is closed on Fridays to allow the native species—over 245 species of birds call the Refuge home—much-needed solace.  

Kayaking through the mangroves is incredible, and I highly recommend it, even if paddling isn’t your thing. (It’s not mine, either.) I was a bit hesitant to be out in the big wide open Gulf of Mexico (okay, really the Tarpon Bay, but it’s still the great sea!) until we settled into the smaller waters of the Commodore Creek. 

Then, instead of feeling miniscule and adrift out in the bay, you’re kayaking underneath a canopy of mangroves along a gorgeous dappled route, with shore birds above and all around, with their piercing eyes, spindly legs and grand wings; jumbled roots lining both sides of the water and Spanish moss close enough to brush you on the shoulders. 

Other noteworthy spots The lighthouse

On the far eastern edge of Sanibel sits the Sanibel Lighthouse. Its real name, Hipschman explained to me, is Point Ybel Light, and it was named for the sandy point of dangerous shoal water it marks. The lighthouse is the island’s oldest structure and was first lit in 1885. Point Ybel Light was restored in 2013, and is not open to the public—but the beach is.


Grocery stores (yes, really!)

Jerry’s Foods has a few locations: Edina, Eden Prairie and Woodbury, Minn.—and Sanibel, Fla. (I think I know which location I’d prefer to be stationed at in January.) Prices at Jerry’s may be higher than average, but the convenience of not having to go the mainland when you’re on Island Time cannot be quantified. Plus, Jerry’s is the only grocery store I’ve ever been that has a live parrot as its greeter.

Meanwhile, Bailey’s General Store is a tourist attraction in its own right that regularly gets top marks in visitors’ reviews on the web. With a bakery, deli, coffee shop, hot prepared foods, books, a hardware store, and a full supermarket as well, Hipschman told me that Bailey’s is reason enough for him to visit Sanibel.

National Shell Museum 

Before you hit the beach with your pail and scoop, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum asks you to stop in; they’re open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. 

Its collections rival the Smithsonian, and the staff can offer guidance on where and when to look for shells. There is lots of programming going on, including beach walks guided by the marine biologists who work at the museum. Fees are modest at $13 for adults, $9 for kids ages 12 to 17; $6 for kids ages five to 11; and free for those ages four and younger.



Shopping is abundant on Sanibel, with gift shops, galleries, boutiques and more tucked in between the greenspaces. You’ll be able to get any souvenirs and mementos you need. But the real treasures are to be found in the sights and sounds on the beaches and shoreline.

After I returned home I discovered that Anne Morrow Lindbergh was so inspired by Sanibel and Captiva that she wrote a series of essays that became “Gift from the Sea.” The book was published in 1955.


You’ll find some good variety for dining choices. The Sanibel Café is a popular family restaurant that offers American fare and seafood, and The Island Cow has a similar family-casual ambiance along with outdoor dining. 

The Green Flash Restaurant has gourmet food and waterfront seating, and is located on Captiva. The Bubble Room Restaurant, also on Captiva, offers diners a fun atmosphere with eclectic décor and cleverly named entrees (“Anything Grows,” “Errol Fin”).

Newer restaurants on Sanibel include Sweet Melissa’s, which has dishes made from locally-sourced items, and Sanibel Sprout offers visitors an organic and vegan menu. 

In addition to many others, you will find ethnic restaurants here, too: Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, Bleu Rendez-Vous French Bistro and Cantina Captiva (Mexican and Southwestern).


Whatever you might seek for accommodations, Sanibel has it ready for you. From larger resorts and hotel complexes, to condo rentals, to smaller inns, to campgrounds, you have options. 

During our stay we found a nice, clean two-bed, two-bath condo on short notice without too much difficulty. 

And of the dozens of options for lodging on Sanibel and Captiva, many (23, by my search) show they are pet-friendly.

Tied to the sea 

Elevation on Sanibel averages just four feet above sea level, and you’ll feel that everywhere you go you’re only a step away from the water’s edge. Everything here is tied to the sea, and marine wildlife of all kinds are embedded with the local human population. For a Midwesterner, it was like stepping into an alternate universe.

Despite a touristy feel on first blush, there are many things to like about Sanibel Island. Give it a chance; I think you’ll find more than one thing on this island that makes it well worth the flight.

Heather Skumatz is managing editor for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, Gopher Enterprises of Sanibel and Captiva Corp.


Pilot and visitor information
Base Operations at Page Field
Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce
Sanibel and Captiva Islands Visitor’s Center
Vacation rentals
Billy’s Rentals
Cart Rentals
Gopher Enterprises 
Activities and attractions
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Sanibel Dolphin Tours
Sanibel Lighthouse
Tarpon Bay Explorers
Oregon Coast: Choose Your Adventure

Oregon Coast: Choose Your Adventure


Fall is the best time of the year on the coast, and you have plenty of airports to pick from. 

Welcome to the (Oregon) coast. 

First things first: if you want to try to blend in, even as a temporary interloper, it’s “the coast.” Yes, I know, elsewhere you may take trips to the beach, to the shore, to the oceanside, to the waterfront… but here in Oregon, it’s not any of these, or anything other than simply the coast. 

The Oregon coast is 363 miles long, bordered to the north by the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, where Lewis and Clark first sighted the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. At the southernmost end of the coast, you’ll find the redwood forests of northern California. In between is some of the most beautiful, wild shoreline in the Lower 48, with attractions and outdoor-centric activities to appeal to just about everyone. 

Perhaps you’ll build a sandcastle, fly a kite and take a hike through the dunes, or maybe you’re after no activities at all. The Oregon coast is a great place to grab a well-loved book, a warm cup of cider and a blanket next to a roaring fire. 

A drive to the coast from Oregon’s inland population centers of Portland, Salem or Eugene takes around 90 minutes. Two-lane highways wind slowly up through Douglas fir forests, then over low Coast Range mountain passes before following sparkling rivers down to the sea. 

For those of us who are blessed with the gift of flight, our airplanes can spirit us to the ocean’s edge in 30 minutes or less. From any of the inland cities, it’s only around 50 nm to the Pacific as the Piper flies.

When you begin your descent toward the ocean, you’ll have your choice of 15 airports, evenly spaced along the coast. Your pick will no doubt be guided by your aircraft, your skill, your intended ground destination and the weather. 

It’s time to choose your adventure.

Pacific City: Weekend getaway

Despite its name, Pacific City isn’t a big place. Around 1,000 people call the town home year-round. Pacific City used to be a quiet backwater with a small fishing fleet and a few dairy farms. Things have changed in the past two decades; it’s now a trendy destination in the summer tourist season and the beach can get quite busy (by Oregon standards). 

Fly in to Pacific City in March or November, and you’d never suspect all that hubbub. You might well have the place to yourself.

Activities and amenities at Pacific City are centered around Cape Kiwanda and its signature offshore sea stack, Chief Kiawanda Rock. (Not a typo; the cape and the rock have different spellings.) Chief Kiawanda Rock is hard to miss from the air and even harder to miss from the ground. 

To get to Cape Kiwanda from the airport, walk a few blocks to the west toward the sound of the waves, turn right and stroll up the beach. It’s about a 20-minute walk over the sand to the cape. 

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive is the funny-looking boats on the beach and the boat trailers backed into the surf. The Pacific City dory boat fleet launches directly off the beach to chase salmon, tuna and rockfish just a few miles offshore. You can charter a boat from one of several operators; to arrange a charter, ask the captains at the beach a day or two before you want to fish. (See Resources for a brief video showing how a dory boat is launched. —Ed.)

Cape Kiwanda is a protected natural area and marine life fills the tidepools. The rocks and pools just to the north of the boat launch give children and adults alike up-close views of sea stars, anemones and crabs. 

Feeling up for a workout? Grab a kayak from Nestucca Adventures and head off into the winding Nestucca Bay estuary. Birdwatching is especially good in the fall. 

If conditions are right, surfers play in the beach break just south of Cape Kiwanda or the point break to the north. Information, rentals and lessons are available from Moment Surf Company. 

If you see surfers here, you’ll notice they wear wetsuits—the Pacific Ocean is cold year-round. Peak water temperatures in the summer rarely exceed 60 F. 

Strong waves, cold water and lack of lifeguards make swimming here (and anywhere else on the Oregon coast) a poor and possibly dangerous idea. Wading is fine, but keep your eye toward the ocean. Occasional large waves have surprised many a beachgoer.

After you’ve explored the beach at
Pacific City, there’s no need to head elsewhere for lunch or dinner. Grab a cold Northwest IPA, a glass of wine—or an iced tea, if you’re flying out soon—and watch the people and boats come and go from a comfortable perch at Pelican Brewing’s beachfront taproom. 

Meridian Restaurant & Bar, just to the north of Pelican, offers upscale dining with locally sourced ingredients and a fantastic view. You’ll want reservations during the high season and on holidays.

Lodging books up quickly, as there are only a few boutique hotels and inns in Pacific City. Airbnb options are usually a better bet on short notice, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to snag one of the units adjacent to the airport.

As for Pacific City State Airport (KPFC), it’s a handful. The runway is a mere 1,860 feet long by 30 feet wide, and there are several buildings and trees near the runway. The runway is at only 5 feet msl and is adjacent to the Nestucca River. The runway occasionally floods. Heed the FAA Chart Supplement’s suggestion to call the Oregon Department of Aviation at 503-378-4880 before using KPFC, especially during the winter. 

Make sure your aircraft and personal skills are suited for operations here. Though the airport is challenging, it also serves to keep the crowds down; I have only once seen the six transient tiedowns full. Other than tiedowns, there aren’t any aviation services at KPFC.

The nearest fuel is at Tillamook (KTMK), which also makes a good alternate. KTMK has longer and wider runways, AWOS-3 weather reporting and a GPS approach with 750-1 minimums. Since it’s inland about 6 miles, Tillamook usually has calmer winds than Pacific City and other airports nearer to the beach. You can rent a car at Tillamook and make the 30-minute drive to Pacific City. If you’re there already, it’s tempting to take a quick detour and stop by the Tillamook Air Museum’s huge blimp hangar, or the Tillamook Creamery for a free tasting and tour.

The Cape Kiwanda area on a busy summer afternoon.
Sunset surf session at Pacific City.
The smiles are worth the challenge of landing at Pacific City.
Newport: Family-friendly fun

Roughly halfway down the Oregon coast, the bustling town of Newport sits on the north shore of Yaquina (pronounced “Ya-kee-nah”) Bay. 

Newport has been an escape for Oregon families since the early 1900s; the Nye Beach historic district was, and is, especially popular. Visitors can browse through art galleries, antique shops or simply just sip a cup of coffee with brunch (the best on the coast) at the Nye Beach Café. The sounds of the ocean are never far away. I’ve always found Nye Beach to be a comfortable, quiet area to stay the night; there are numerous lodging options here and throughout town.

The Bayfront District has a decidedly different feel (and occasionally, an unusual smell). Yaquina Bay is home to Oregon’s second-largest commercial fishing fleet and the Bayfront is very much a working waterfront. The fishing fleet processes most of its catch here, much to the delight of the hundreds of sea lions that inhabit the Bayfront docks. 

The sea lions are easily seen and photographed at the docks next to Mariner Square on Southwest Bay Blvd. If you’re having trouble finding them, just listen for their barks.

You could choose to battle these 1,000-pound pinnipeds for fish scraps, but it’s a safer bet to go to one of several fish markets nearby. I like Fish Peddler’s Market; they have fresh-off-the-boat seafood for cooking at home, and also do an excellent grab-and-go fish ‘n chips. 

Mo’s Seafood and Chowder is an Oregon institution and was a staple of my childhood trips to the coast. There are now several locations on the coast and the original location is in Newport. However, I think there’s better seafood at Local Ocean Seafoods. Beer hounds love Rogue Ales and Spirits’ three Newport locations. 

Newport’s premier attraction is, perhaps unsurprisingly, ocean-oriented. Oregon Coast Aquarium is open daily, both summer and winter. Its mission is “to create unique and engaging experiences that connect you to the Oregon coast and inspire ocean conservation.” 

The museum grounds cover several acres. You can easily spend a full afternoon visiting all the exhibits. My favorite is the Passages of the Deep exhibit, where visitors pass through a series of underwater walkways covering the three different ecosystems (reef, shelf, offshore) present in the nearby Pacific Ocean. For intrepid younger explorers, you can even book an overnight stay in the exhibit. To be honest, I’m not sure how well I’d sleep while surrounded by sharks.

For offseason travelers, the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival features hundreds of Northwest wines and seafood offerings from up and down the coast. The 2019 festival is February 21–24. 

Newport offers some of the most accessible whale-watching on the Oregon coast. Gray whales migrate along the coast in the early winter and again in the late spring. Several charter operators run whale-watching tours from the Bayfront District. A two-hour family-friendly “Sea Life” cruise with Marine Discovery Tours costs $42 for adults and $28 for children. 

For the do-it-yourselfer, drive just a few miles north to Agate Beach and Yaquina Head Lighthouse. You don’t have to climb the lighthouse to spot whales, but you certainly can if you’ve arranged a tour in advance. 

Newport Municipal Airport (KONP) is about 3 miles south of the Bayfront District. The airport is one of the best on the Oregon coast, with two good runways (the larger of the two measures 5,398 feet by 100 feet). KONP has several instrument approaches; two VOR approaches, a VOR-A approach, two GPS approaches and an ILS approach. The ILS and GPS approaches to Runway 16 have minimums of 250-3/4. 

Fuel is competitively priced at $5.00/gal for self-serve 100LL and $3.90/gal for full-service Jet A. The City of Newport runs the FBO and offers a courtesy vehicle during business hours (maximum two hours). For longer stays, you’ll need to call a cab or rent a car. Tiedowns are always available. If you show up on a Saturday in the summer, there’s a free barbecue at noon to welcome visiting pilots! 

A tiny crab found in a tidepool.
The Tillamook Air Museum is housed in a World War II-era blimp hangar, the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world.
Herb-crusted halibut with English peas, rhubarb, turnip, fiddlehead and asparagus.
The brave can spend a night and sleep with sharks in the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Passages of the Deep exhibit.
Manzanita/Nehalem Bay: “Roughing it”

Nehalem Bay State Airport (3S7) is a treasure for visiting pilots. Touch down, then taxi off the paved runway and onto the grass. Pull into the clearly-marked tiedown area and shut down. Unpack and pitch your tent in one of the several campsites nestled in the trees, just a few hundred yards from the beach. You’re home for the night at Nehalem Bay.

The Oregon Department of Aviation and Oregon State Parks have made six fly-in camping spots available exclusively for the aviating public. In Oregon, standard campsites at state parks are by reservation only and are often booked several months in advance. That’s not the case at Nehalem Bay’s fly-in campground. The sites are first-come, first-served and are seldom full, even on the busiest summer weekends, though you might want to come in on Thursday to guarantee a spot. 

Camping is $11 per night, per plane. That gets you access to the park facilities, including water and hot showers. For a few bucks, you can pick up a bundle of firewood from the camp host. During the summer, rangers present nightly interpretive programs about local history and wildlife at the park’s amphitheater. Pack an inflatable kayak and you can launch it right off the end of the runway to explore the bay.

The beach is about a 10-minute walk to the west through the trees; those with more energy can hike to the Nehalem Bay Jetty, a 5-mile roundtrip from the campground. Walking a mile to the north will have you in downtown Manzanita. To get to town you can also take the scenic route, via the beach.

Nehalem Bay is a straightforward small airport (the runway is 2,350 feet by 50 feet) when conditions are benign. You’ll fly your downwind over the ocean, turn base and cross over the sand spit, and then turn north on final. Final puts you over Nehalem Bay; the runway threshold is only a few feet from the water. 

Here’s the catch: when it gets windy, Nehalem Bay will bite you. There’s high terrain to the north of the airport, and on summer afternoons, strong winds can spill over and cause all sorts of unpleasantness at the surface at Nehalem Bay. Be ready to go around and/or divert if the conditions exceed your comfort level. 

Nehalem Bay has no aviation services, but Tillamook (17 nm to the south) has fuel and can serve as a diversion.

Whale-watching tours leave daily from Newport’s waterfront during the summer and fall.
Nehalem Bay is tucked into the trees, just a short walk from the ocean.
Planning your flight

You’ll want to keep an eye out for forest fire TFRs in the summer and fall. Fire TFRs often affect routes to and from the inland population hubs. Smoke can also affect in-flight visibility.

All but one of the airports along the Oregon coast are non-towered. Fourteen coastal airports share three radio frequencies: 122.7, 122.8 and 122.9. Make sure you’re on the right frequency and announce your position as well as the relevant airport. En route, I like to monitor 122.9; it’s an unofficial frequency for low-level traffic along the beach. 

Several MOAs overlie the Oregon coast and nearshore waters. I have never seen military traffic in any of these MOAs, but you should nonetheless check notams for current status.

Many of the rocks, islands and reefs near the coast are part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system. These refuges are marked on VFR sectional charts. Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum of 2,000 agl above these refuges. Low flights that disturb wildlife are a violation. 

Flying over the beach and out over the water is part of the adventure and allure of flying along the coast. Prudent pilots will maintain an altitude that allows for a safe emergency landing ashore should an unexpected loss of power occur. Beaches are usually the best option for forced landings. 

Much of the land along the coast is rocky or tree-covered. Still, land is likely a better bet than an offshore ditching in the ice-cold Pacific. For extended routes over water (as found on IFR T-route T257), you will want to bring a life raft, life vests and an extremely reliable engine (or better yet, bring a twin). 

Weather considerations

You’ve probably heard it rains a lot in Oregon—you’ve heard right. It certainly does rain, in the winter and spring. The rainy season typically extends from mid-October until mid-April. Moisture-laden storm systems roll ashore every few days and drop their cargo as they ascend the slope of the Coast Range.

Even during prolonged stormy periods, the skies will often clear up long enough for a VFR flight as bands of clouds and rain pass through. Winter winds are usually more problematic than visibility and ceilings. Icing is a concern, especially when colder systems descend from the Gulf of Alaska bringing the freezing level close to the surface. 

For as much as it rains in the winter, it doesn’t rain much at all in the summer. However, the best weather on the Oregon coast is not during the height of the summer tourist season (June–August). Summertime is fog time and wind time. Coastal fog can appear in the blink of an eye. I’ve had to hasten a departure more than a few times as the fog bank approached the airport. 

Summer surface winds are nearly always out of the north and can approach 40 knots in the afternoons and early evenings. Schedule your flights to arrive and depart early in the day and winds are usually a nonissue.

In my opinion, fall is the time to go. But if you pick your days (or bring your instrument rating), there’s great flying to be had year-round.

September is the warmest month of the year along the Oregon coast. There’s usually very little wind; the fog machine slows down and there is less traffic both in the air and on the beach. 

Fall brings warmer air temperatures and clear skies. 

You can certainly travel the coast VFR in a VFR-only airplane—I do, quite often—but you’ll run the risk of having to divert or cancel more often than if you hold an instrument rating and fly an all-weather aircraft. 

An instrument ticket will help you get to the coast—even if you’re unable to get in to your VFR-only airport of choice, you can land elsewhere, rent a car and drive the rest of the way. That’s a big deal if you’ve got a weeklong non-refundable hotel reservation. 

Four of the coast airports have GPS approaches, and three have ILS approaches. Though these approaches won’t be of much help in winter high winds, they will certainly assist in punching through the pesky summertime 600-foot-agl marine layer.

From a smiles-per-mile perspective, do everything you can to make your flight on a clear day. You want your passengers’ noses to be pressed against the side windows, watching the ocean for whales and the treetops for bald eagles. It’s not nearly as fun to stare at the inside of a cloud.

Each one of Oregon’s 15 coastal airports has its own story and set of things to see and do nearby. Load up your family and friends, start your engine and point your trusty bird toward the ocean and all the Oregon coast has to offer. I look forward to seeing you there!

Though you can land under VFR, will you be able to leave?

Scott Kinney is a self-described aviation geek (#avgeek), private pilot and instructor (CFI-Sport, AGI). He is associate editor for Piper Flyer. Scott and his partner Julia are based in Eugene, Oregon. They are often found buzzing around the western U.S. in their vintage airplane. Send questions or comments to .


Pacific City, Nehalem Bay and
other state-owned airports

Newport Municipal Airport FBO

Oregon Coast Visitors Association

Travel Oregon

Dory launch at Pacific City

Meridian Restaurant & Bar

Moment Surf Company

Nestucca Adventures LLC

Pelican Brewing Company

Tillamook Air Museum

Tillamook Creamery

Nehalem Bay State Park

Local Ocean Seafoods

Marine Discovery Tours

Mo’s Seafood and Chowder

Newport Seafood and Wine Festival

Nye Beach Café

Oregon Coast Aquarium

Rogue Ales and Spirits

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Gear Up for Wisconsin!

Gear Up for Wisconsin!

A primer of what to expect and what to do at the Annual Gathering at Waupaca and AirVenture. 

In just a few short months we’ll be heading to Wisconsin for the Annual Gathering at Waupaca and AirVenture. If you are too, here are some tips for the newbies—and reminders for the old hands.



Situated about 28 nm from Oshkosh (as the “Piper” flies), Waupaca, Wisconsin, is a small town with a population that hovers at about 6,000. It was incorporated as a city March 5, 1875. It’s situated in an area of green rolling hills, picturesque farms, lakes and rivers. Waupaca Municipal Airport (KPCZ) sits about 3 miles from the “city center.” 

Occasionally members will ask me why we hold our annual member event (The Gathering at Waupaca) in this small town in the middle of Wisconsin. It makes more sense when you know that we started the association nearby and had a hangar at KPCZ for a number of years. The other reason is that by holding our event in proximity (both in time and location) to AirVenture, we are able to provide our attendees with a really special experience. 

Many of you fly into the AirVenture grounds and camp there for the duration and we know that’s a fantastic way to experience the show. But some of you don’t want to fly in such busy airspace and/or you don’t want to camp. The Gathering provides an alternative that allows you to fly into a small and very nice airport, sleep in a nice hotel room and get dropped off near the front gate of AirVenture via a luxury motor coach. 

“Waupaca traffic...”

If you’ll be flying in for the Gathering, you need to be aware that while KPCZ is not as busy as Wittman Regional (KOSH) at this time of year (nowhere near!), it does host an aerobatic box above the field for the week and is the launching ground for the Cherokees 2 Oshkosh mass arrival to AirVenture Saturday, July 21. The aerobatic box is not always hot, and our attendees have never had a problem working around it. 

KPCZ boasts two runways and a 24-hour self-serve fuel farm offering 100LL and Jet-A. Runway 13/31 is 3,899 feet by 75 feet and Runway 10/28 is 5,200 feet by 100 feet. There is generally ample space on the ramp for aircraft parking. 

Registered attendees of the Gathering will receive an email a few days prior to the event with the most up-to-date info, as well as procedures for determining if the aerobatic box is hot. You’ll still need to be sure to check Notams and do your usual flight planning (you always do, right?) as the information we’ll provide is not a substitute for that. 

KPCZ airport manager Beth Andersen and her crew at Plane Guys Aviation are always helpful, so you can reach out to them with any specific questions regarding airport operations.

Some attendees prefer to drive to the Gathering, and that’s fine, too.

“You’ve arrived at your destination”

Upon landing and after getting your gear together, proceed toward the terminal building. Staff from the Piper Flyer Association may or may not be on the field at the time you arrive, but you should see a Waupaca School District van nearby—that’s our shuttle to and from the airport and hotel. 

If the van is not there, it’s probably
on a run and it will be a short wait for it to return. 

The shuttle will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 21. If you arrive outside shuttle hours, the Waupaca Taxi service is prompt and cheap. Besides prearranging for a rental car, these are your only options for transportation to the hotels. No Uber to be found here.

The shuttle will drop you off at the Comfort Suites Foxfire to check in and get settled, but you’ll want to catch that shuttle back to the airport by 6 p.m. for our Welcome Reception. 

We’ll have a registration table set up just inside the municipal hangar. After checking in and getting your goody bag, you can grab some grub and a drink (or two) and check out the Boss 182 on floats that sponsor Wipaire will have on site. Try not to drool on the upholstery. 

“Excuse me, is this chair taken?”

Sunday morning you’ll need to get up early, get some breakfast (provided by the hotel) and walk the few dozen feet over to the Waupaca Ale House conference center for a full slate of seminars in the morning. Lunch will be provided and we’ll have a couple more seminars after. 

One of the most anticipated aspects of the events—the door prize drawing—takes place after the last seminar. We always have really nice aviation prizes to hand out and I guarantee you won’t go home empty-handed. 

The evening’s banquet will also be at the Waupaca Ale House beginning at 6 p.m. 

“On to Oshkosh, on to Oshkosh” (sung to the tune of “On Wisconsin”)

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the chartered motor coach will be in front of the hotel by 7 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. departure. 

Many of our past attendees rate the bus ride to and from AirVenture as one of the best aspects of the event. It allows everyone time to relax and socialize. Beverages are provided on board. 

“It’s a really big show”

If you’ve been to AirVenture, you don’t need an introduction and if you haven’t been, no description will prepare you for what you’re going to find when you pass under “the gate” and enter pilot nirvana. 

Suffice it to say that AirVenture is the biggest, baddest, best airshow you’re likely to attend. And it is truly huge. There is so much to see: hundreds of vendors selling aviation products, static displays of new aircraft, row upon row of warbirds, a virtual sea of vintage aircraft, ultralights, the “North 40” jam-packed with aircraft that have flown in, seaplanes at the seaplane base—if it’s part of aviation, it’s at AirVenture.

 Stats from 2017 tell the story: there were 17,223 aircraft operations in the 10-day period from July 21–30 at Wittman. Showplanes on site numbered in the thousands, including 1,107 homebuilt aircraft; 1,162 vintage airplanes; 351 warbirds; 168 ultralights and light-sport aircraft; 79 seaplanes; 54 rotorcraft; 60 aerobatic aircraft and 10 hot air balloons.

There are seminars and fun events throughout the day, and of course the daily airshow featuring amazing aerobatic feats. 

There’s even an entire area devoted to the younger generation—KidVenture—where kids can spend the day having fun and learning about aviation.

You’ll want to map out a plan of action to get to the attractions and vendors you really want to see first. Trust me, you can’t do it all in one day. Luckily there’s an AirVenture app to help you out. Find it on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Android).


“Did I mention it was big?”

I asked Dick Knapinski, Director of Communications for EAA, for the stats on the size of the AirVenture grounds. “[The] grounds are approximately 1,500 acres, about half of which is Winnebago County-owned Wittman Regional Airport (that’s everything inside the chain-link fence). The rest of it, including the museum area, campground, maintenance buildings and the like, is ours.” 

With that much ground to cover, your Fitbit will be busy, and you’ll have no trouble racking up those daily steps. There are trams that run throughout the grounds and throughout the day, but you’ll likely still be hoofing it at least part of the time. Be sure to wear really comfortable, supportive shoes. 

ADA access is available to all AirVenture venues, including the EAA AirVenture Museum and other accommodations are available including rentals of single-seat personal electric conveyance vehicles. Please check the AirVenture website for more information.

Weather can range from just right, to cool and windy, to hot and muggy—with a chance of thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. Bring sunscreen and a rain poncho and insect repellent. Every day.


“See you there”

We sure hope you’ll join us in Waupaca, but if you’ll be heading directly to AirVenture, please stop by booth 3126 in Hangar C (Note: new booth location this year) and say hi to the friendly staff and volunteers of your Piper Flyer Association. 


Jennifer Dellenbusch is president of the Piper Flyer Association. Send questions or comments to


The Gathering at Waupaca


EAA AirVenture


Plane Guys Aviation LLC 


Waupaca Municipal Airport (KPCZ)



"The Paris of the Plains" - Kansas City, Missouri

"The Paris of the Plains" - Kansas City, Missouri

You won’t be let down by the Heart of America.

Kansas City is the closest major city to the geographic center of the contiguous United States. As such, the city has been a hub throughout U.S. history. Officially deemed the City of Fountains—but colloquially referred to as the “Paris of the Plains”—Kansas City is now a burgeoning city for vacationers. Tourism grew by a whopping 500,000 visitors from 2015 to 2016 according to VisitKC.com. You can add yourself to the tally if you venture to the Heart of America this spring.

Getting there by air

It’s pretty easy to get here from anywhere, and there are plenty of choices for the GA flyer.

Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (KMKC)

The GA-friendly Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (KMKC) immediately north of the Missouri River will put you in the middle of the action. This historic airport was dedicated by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 and was one of the headquarters for TWA.

With a 24-hour control tower and FBO, Category I ILS, plus full maintenance, decent self-serve fuel prices ($3.99/gallon at the time of this writing), aircraft leasing, flight instruction, hangar rentals and car rentals, KMKC is a busy place for GA, charter and corporate operations on the Missouri-Kansas border. 

Operations at KMKC average around 200 per day according to airnav.com, and the runways (01/19 and 03/21) are long and wide—and well maintained, too: both are listed as excellent. There’s another nice perk at KMKC. A free-of-charge wash bay is provided by the Kansas City Aviation Department for owners to wash their aircraft (cleaning supplies not included). 


You’ve got plenty of GA alternates to choose from—it is the Heart of America, after all. The closest three are all to the east of KMKC. One of these is the non-towered East Kansas City Airport (3GV) in Grain Valley, Missouri, a privately-owned airport that’s been open to the public for more than six decades. Fuel here is also $3.99/gallon.

Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport (KLXT) offers two 4,000-foot runways and two crew cars. The FBO service gets high marks from pilots on Airnav.com. While Avgas is a little higher here ($4.79/gallon for self-serve), KLXT also has Mogas available. That’s not something you’ll find everywhere. 

If you want a super-smooth landing—or at least, all the help you can get with one—the recently resurfaced runways at Midwest National Air Center Airport (KGPH) near Mosby/Excelsior Springs might be the spot for you. This airport is northeast of Kansas City and is relatively new: it opened in 1996. Self-serve Avgas is $4.09/gallon, and the field is quieter with around 33 operations per day. A nice perk at KGPH is that you’ll earn one free night of tiedown for every 10 gallons of fuel you purchase—and they have Mogas, too.

Local pilots Dale and Carol McCaslin recommend making a stop at Miami County Airport (K81) in Paola, Kansas. It’s a short flight to the southwest of KMKC and there’s a good barbecue restaurant on the field. The restaurant is open every day except Mondays; on Sundays, they serve a breakfast menu only. The airport has one paved runway and one grass strip.

The McCaslins are based at 0N0—Roosterville Airport in Liberty, Missouri. They told me that it’s sometimes called “Oh No” because of the 20 x 2,780-foot runway with obstacles. “Some pilots like the challenge,” they said. If you’re one of them, you’ll be rewarded with a fuel price of $3.85/gallon for full service.

Transportation and accommodations

If you’re going completely car-free for your KC trip, you have options. Though Kansas City isn’t the most walkable city in the United States, it’s on its way. The recent addition of streetcars downtown and a comprehensive plan for additional transit means this city may soon be navigable without four wheels as required equipment. 

Introducing electric streetcars in Kansas City has been a resounding success, and they’re completely free to ride. Hours are generous (they run until 2 a.m. on weekends) and there are currently 10 stops.

For accommodations, I’d recommend checking out the hotel finder function at airnav.com. Type in the identifier of your planned landing airport and you’ll get a list of the closest hotels. From there you can reserve a room, as all of the listings have hyperlinks and/or telephone numbers. 

My research showed that hotels near KMKC average between $125 to $160 per night. If you base your search from Kansas City International (KMCI) instead, you’ll find many hotels that run about half that much—but you’ll need to factor in the cost of a rental car. KMCI is well north/northwest of the central city.

Museums and attractions TWA Museum

If you tie down at KMKC, your first stop could be the TWA Museum at the south end of the field. With TWA memorabilia from various decades, scaled-down airline models, a cockpit simulator and more, this is a fun spot for any TWA enthusiast. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is $10 for adults ($7 for seniors).

National Airline History Museum

Also on the field at Wheeler is the National Airline History Museum. While the exhibits are closed through the end of this month, a grand reopening is scheduled for March 1, 2018. And if the website is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be pretty awesome.

Currently, the museum is fundraising to ferry a Douglas DC-8-62—one of five DC-8s left in service—to the site. The museum has multiple airliners and two simulators, including a custom-built multipurpose simulator and a Link Trainer.

General admission is $8 for adults, and you get to see a ton of stuff, including a TWA Moonliner II rescued after 25 years outside the TWA building; a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation (N6937C) that was featured in “The Aviator”; a Martin 404 that flew for Eastern Airlines and is now on static display; a Northrop Delta 1D that was restored by Max Conrad; a KC Eaglet made by the American Eagle Aircraft Corp. of Kansas City, which produced over 700 planes in six short years; and the museum’s newest acquisition, a Boeing 727-223. 

Union Station

Kansas City’s architectural masterpiece, Union Station, is impressive inside and out. This enormous building saw its prime in 1945, when a million passengers traveled through on their way across the United States, including thousands of returning U.S. soldiers. But by the 1980s, the station had closed. A renovation of Union Station was completed just before the turn of the new century; Amtrak returned in 2002. 

Today, Union Station is also the terminus for the streetcars, and is open daily from 6 a.m to midnight. Inside there is lots to see, including a permanent exhibit called the KC Rail Experience, plus other galleries that feature international exhibits, a science center called Science City, a 200-seat live theater and an 80-foot 3-D movie screen.

National World War I Museum and Memorial

Heading south from Union Station you’ll encounter the Liberty Memorial Tower and the plaza that commemorates the sacrifices of the soldiers of World War I. This National Landmark is over 200 feet tall and quite stately. The observation deck is currently closed for a modernization project, but a museum representative told me it’s targeted to reopen by mid-March of this year. 

The National World War I Museum is recognized as America’s official memorial to World War I and has one of the largest collections of Great War artifacts and documents in the world. The array offers an excellent record of all of the nations involved in the “war to end all wars.” The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with expanded hours in the summer. If you can’t make it to the museum in person, the website offers three online exhibits accessible via the Google Arts & Culture project.

Federal Reserve Bank/ The Money Museum

South of the World War I Museum is the Federal Reserve Bank and inside the bank is the Money Museum. This museum is free and open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (The building is closed on bank holidays, of course.) You’ll need a state-issued photo ID or a valid passport to enter. Photography inside is permitted—provided you conform to the policies.

A one-hour guided tour or the self-guided tour allows you to see Harry Truman’s coin collection (500 historic coins on loan from his Presidential Library); the $40 million wall (a giant stack of cash!); educational exhibits on the functions of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy and counterfeiting; plus a design-your-own-currency activity for kids. 

Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace

Aviation trailblazer Amelia Earhart hailed from the Kansas City area. To make a pilgrimage Earhart’s birthplace, you’ll have to cross the Missouri River and head to Atchison, Kansas. 

The Gothic Revival home home at 223 N. Terrace Street was declared a National Historic Site in 1971 and was privately owned until it was purchased by the Ninety-Nines Inc. in 1984. 

The museum inside the home offers the public a look at Earhart’s personal and family memorabilia along with displays that highlight Earhart and other female aviators. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults.

The Best Barbecue

Now it’s time to eat! Kansas City is getting high marks from the foodies at Zagat: it was declared one of the “30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America 2017” by the organization, with a number of award-winning chefs and bartenders. But I’m here for the original “slow food”—the barbecue! What about you?

A few of the more noted spots include Gates Bar-B-Q, which has six locations, and Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, which gets a nod from Anthony Bourdain as one of his “13 places to eat before you die.” Joe’s has four locations; three are on the Kansas side of the metro area.

Perhaps the most legendary spot for Kansas City-style barbecue is at Arthur Bryant’s, founded by “King of Ribs” Arthur Bryant. The restaurant has been around for almost a century and though its namesake passed away in 1982, the recipes are going strong at two Kansas City locations.

These are just a few of more than a hundred restaurants that specialize in barbecue in Kansas City. If you really want to try one of everything (well, almost), consider taking the KC Barbecue Tour. You’ll be bussed around to sample various restaurants’ offerings with little to no wait time. Tickets are $65 for the Original tour with four stops, and $70 for the three-stop “‘Cue and Brew” tour that includes a complimentary beer or soft drink at each stop. The tour is a hit with locals and visitors alike.

Kansas City isn’t simply an old rock ‘n roll tune, or a place to eat barbecue before you die. It’s not even the only of the United States’ “twin cities” to share a name across two states. With a reputation for being both down-home and up-and-coming—and now, as a growing destination city—you might want to say “Kansas City, here I come!” before the airspace gets too crowded.

Sources: airlinehistory.org, airnav.com, ameliaearhartmuseum.org, unionstation.org, visitKC.com, wikipedia.org.

Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to  



Visit Kansas City




Airnav.com’s “Hotel Reservations for Aviation”




Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (KMKC)



East Kansas City Airport (3GV)



Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport (KLXT)



Miami County Airport (K81)



Midwest National Air Center Airport (KGPH)



Roosterville Airport (0N0)




Airline History Museum



Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum



KC Barbecue Tours



The Money Museum



The National WWI Museum 



Union Station 


Destination: Miami

Destination: Miami

Though it is as beautiful and sunny as it looks on television, the city of Miami isn’t exactly like it’s portrayed. This is a city that’s best viewed in-person.

What I thought I knew about Miami, I realize now, has all come from the television. “Miami Vice,” “The Golden Girls” and “Burn Notice”—these fictional portrayals all shaped my idea of the city’s surroundings, its residents and its culture. I think I was more wrong than I was right.

When I started looking deeper, I realized why Miami is portrayed so much in films and on TV: it’s a huge hub for this kind of thing. There are more than 2,000 motion picture, music and video companies based in Miami; dozens of recording studios and sound stages; hundreds of freelance production crews; dozens of cable television networks.  

Miami looks shiny and new, and it is, relatively speaking. Nothing here is much more than a century old, as this port city was incorporated in 1896 with, surprisingly, just 300 residents. It’s a city that has made its name known—so much so that the former Dade County was officially changed to “Miami-Dade County” in the 1990s. 

Today, by some markers, Miami is considered one of the richest cities in the United States. With miles of picturesque boulevards and high-end shopping, hundreds of high-rise buildings and the most concentrated grouping of international banks in the country, this isn’t hard to believe. 

Set up for success

There is no shortage of information about Miami. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming how much is available. The 2017 Visitor’s Guide is a whopping 252 pages—and it’s one of a dozen free guides available on the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau website. 

With 22 regional visitor centers around Miami, this city was built for visitors. If you want to see the palm trees sway in real time, keep an eye on Miami through its seven live webcams. The information available online is abundant.

There are even mobile apps available for free (or nearly free; they cost a few dollars at most). With these apps you can get detailed information on the arts district, the parks, the airports and city transit, various historical sites and walking tours, locally recommended food, shopping and a lot more.

Local attractions

There are a few attractions that I think are musts when you’re visiting Miami. Here are a few of my picks.

Calle Ocho – By my count, there are at least eight cigar shops and factories on SW Eighth St. in the Little Havana section of the city. Even if you can’t tell a claro from a maduro, you can’t help but feel fascinated while watching a master cigar roller create an authentic Miami-rolled Cuban cigar. 

For a similar amount of immersion in Cuban culture with none of the nicotine, maybe order a cafecito (Cuban espresso, or Café Cubano) or stop in at El Rey de Los Fritas for a fast lunch (fritas, of course), and then walk down to Maximo Gomez Park to watch a game of dominoes—or maybe to enjoy that cigar. (I’m sure you won’t be alone.)

The Miami Circle – One highly unusual feature in the city is the Miami Circle, a prehistoric limestone building site that’s 38 feet across—in the middle of downtown, off Brickell Avenue. Though many at first doubted its age, the circle predates other East Coast settlements and is believed to have been used by the Tequesta Indians. Many Tequesta artifacts are viewable at the HistoryMiami Museum on West Flagler Street. The museum is several blocks northeast of the site, across the Miami River.

Biscayne National Park – This natural haven is within sight of Miami in nearby Homestead, Florida. This park is different than most: it’s mostly made of water. The National Park Service protects these shallow waters, coral reefs, marine wildlife and tropical hardwoods—there are no roads or bridges, and only one hiking trail.

Since the vast majority—90 percent—of the park’s half a million annual visitors enter the space by water, there is no entrance fee. There are, however, fees for special uses (overnight docking, camping at the two campgrounds in the park, etc.). 

The Deering Estate – Environmental enthusiasts can also check out The Deering Estate, a preserve in the village of Palmetto Bay, which offers hikes and science education for visitors. It’s a lot closer to the heart of the city (and a little easier to access than Biscayne National Park if you don’t have a boat with you). The estate runs a moonlight canoe tour, which takes paddlers across Biscayne Bay to a waiting campfire on Chicken Key. The tour costs $40 and is open to adults only.

Art Deco Historic District – Lastly, Art Deco architecture is a worthwhile sightseeing trip from downtown Miami across the causeway to the east end of Miami Beach’s South Beach neighborhood. Tours of all types—guided, private, self-guided—are available seven days a week through the Visitor Center. There are more than 800 buildings to see.

Other ways to spend your time in Miami might include beaching it—no explanation necessary—or window shopping at one of Miami’s many retail districts. For an indoor (read: totally air-conditioned) experience, look to the Brickell City Centre. 

If you want the full “I’m in Miami!” retail experience, the outdoor Bal Harbour Shops on Miami Beach are a fashion mecca. With an astounding number of luxury brands and an eponymous fashion magazine, I’d consider this a tourist destination in its own right. 

Upcoming events

Miami has several great events coming up in the first part of this new year. I’ve listed a few here, along with the dates. To find out more, see the Resources at the end of the article.

South Beach Jazz Festival – Latin, New Orleans-style and classic jazz music will be performed at various venues in South Beach January 5, 6 and 7. Branford Marsalis headlines this year’s event—it’s sure to be a big draw for a festival that’s just in its second year.

Miami Marathon/Half Marathon – This unique single-loop marathon has been running (sorry, I had to) since 2003. Since Miami is a Boston Marathon qualifier, it attracts 25,000 competitors from around the world—as well as 50,000 spectators. If you are in Miami on January 28 this year, you might want to be part of the cheering section.

Coconut Grove Arts Festival – A huge and highly anticipated arts festival occurs Feb. 15–17 in Coconut Grove. With fine art, food, music and performing arts all on showcase, it’s worth a trip to eat, walk and shop around. One-day passes are available for as little as $10 for this 55th annual event. 

Calle Ocho Festival – This event has the feel of a neighborhood block party, except it spans 24 blocks. The Calle Ocho Festival has 30 stages of music and its vibrant atmosphere makes it a true Pan American celebration. This year, the date is March 11. If you go, just know that it might be a little crowded: one million of your closest neighbors will also be at the party.

Flying in

Miami is a bustling place, and the Miami International Airport (KMIA) offers the largest quantity of commercial flights to the Caribbean and Latin America in the entire United States. It’s also first in international freight in the United States. There is a General Aviation Center at KMIA, and with customs there, it’s a must for international visitors. Many interstate flyers would probably look to land elsewhere, if possible.

There are a few other appealing options. The first is the Miami International reliever airport, Miami Executive Airport (KTMB). It’s located to the southwest of downtown, has 24-hour staff, three long runways and a helipad—and has about 500 operations per day. Fuel on the field averages around $6 per gallon at the time of this writing. 

Similarly, Miami Opa-Locka Executive (KOPF) to the north of the city is also a reliever for KMIA. It averages about 400 operations per day and lots of these are jets—which means the runways are nice and long. Fuel is about a dollar per gallon higher than at Miami Executive, though one of the three FBOs was comparable to KTMB’s prices. 

Miami Homestead General Aviation Airport (X51) is a little further south and west of the central city and is more set up for the DIY types, with self-serve fueling at a more reasonable cost (right around $5/gallon) and no tower. X51 has two paved runways and a turf strip along with 24-hour restrooms and lounge. Unlike KTMB, gliders aren’t restricted here, so parachutists, RC aircraft and agricultural aircraft are all in the vicinity; something to keep in mind.

Finally, North Perry Airport (KHWO) is located about 14 miles north of downtown Miami and 6 miles north of KOPF. North Perry offers four runways, a control tower, cheap Avgas ($4.25/gal) and a GA-friendly atmosphere. There are several flight schools at North Perry, so the traffic pattern(s) can be quite busy. However, you won’t have to dodge many jets; the airport is closed to aircraft over 12,500 pounds MTOW.


If you’re looking for a winter escape and like to be in the middle of the action, Miami may just be your ticket. It’s not all shady smugglers, dotty retirees and former spies; it’s oceanside beauty, mingled cultures and exquisite architecture. There’s way more to see and do here than I’d ever known if I’d stayed in front of the television.
Sources: miami-airport.com, miamiandbeaches.com, wikipedia.com, yelp.com.

Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .





Miami International Airport (KMIA)


Miami Executive Airport (KTMB)


Miami Opa-Locka Executive (KOPF) 



Miami Homestead General Aviation Airport (X51)



North Perry Aiport (KHWO) 




Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau



Miami mobile apps



Miami webcams




Biscayne National Park 



Deering Estate 



HistoryMiami Museum


Little Havana



The Miami Circle, Historical Museum of Southern Florida



Miami Design Preservation League (Art Deco Historic District)




Bal Harbour Shops 



Brickell City Centre



Calle Ocho Festival



Coconut Grove Arts Festival



Miami Marathon



South Beach Jazz Festival


Steve and Papa's Summer Trip: Eastbound

Steve and Papa's Summer Trip: Eastbound

I'd been attending AirVenture—“Oshkosh”—every year since 1994, but always by a public conveyance. For three years I had been speechifying about flying my 1960 Piper Comanche, Papa, to KOSH, but every year I found that the airplane wasn’t quite ready, so it was to the airlines (again). 

Not so in 2015. 

By early July of last year I had installed the Electronics International CGR-30P and -30C, two very sophisticated engine and systems monitoring instruments. (For more information about the installation, see “Trading Six Instruments for Two: Cluster Gauge Replacement” in the July 2015 issue of Piper Flyer. —Ed.).

I had completed the wiring to my new Aveo Engineering Ultra Galactica wingtip navigation and strobe lights system; installed new tires from Desser Tire; and repacked and serviced the landing gear struts. My portable oxygen system manufactured by Precise Flight was filled and tested.

The night before the trip, I was striving to remember everything. I would be away from my local airport for nearly three weeks: did I have the oil, tools, supplies and emergency equipment I would need? 

The launch

The next morning, I pulled my car into the hangar after I had loaded Papa with tools, a suitcase, an overnight pack and a few other essentials. (Only later, when I landed in Pierre, S.D., did I realize that I had failed to throw in my canopy cover!)

As I roll out, I review my plan. It’s 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. I am due in Waupaca, Wis. (KPCZ) to deliver a seminar at the Piper Flyer Association’s annual pre-OSH get-together (The Gathering at Waupaca) on Sunday, July 19. (I figured I would start early enough to make the 1,700-mile trip over three days; if weather blocked my progress, I still had a couple of days of wiggle room to make it to KPCZ.)

I work my way down the items on my before-takeoff checklist. I’ve checked the fuel level in both tanks and entered those totals in my monitoring system. I’ve checked to make sure there’s no water in my tanks. My camera and survival gear is at hand. The windshield is clean. I’m strapped in. 

As I start moving, I realize that I am finally going to be flying my airplane to AirVenture in Oshkosh. 

I taxi out to Runway 01 and check the time. It’s 6:40 a.m. The hour meter on the CGR-30 reads 213.5. Throttle in; noise increases; speed increases; at 65 mph I raise the nosewheel and I’m officially in the air and on the way to Wisconsin.Across the desert 

I’ve flown from my home airport in Paso Robles, Calif. (KPRB) to Las Vegas often; I know the way. KPRB to Palmdale (KPMD) near Edwards AFB (the West Coast landing spot for the Space Shuttle); then to Daggett VOR (KDAG) to avoid the military airspace near Edwards before I intercept the I-15 highway to the Salt Lake City area where I plan to turn east and cross the Rocky Mountains by following I-80. 

Two-and-a-half hours after launch, I fly over the Las Vegas area and then continue for another hour to Cedar City, Utah (KCDC), elevation 5,622 feet MSL, where I stop for fuel ($4.99/gal).*

I buy 35 gallons of Avgas; dividing that by 3.5 hours gives me a 10 gph fuel consumption figure. I’ve flown over 450 statute miles; the air has been smooth and I’m happy. 

But it’s getting later in the day, and the air over the desert is heating up.

A bumpy leg

I checked with some veteran flyers before launching and was advised to start flying as early as possible each day when the air is cool and the winds haven’t yet awakened. 

I was also told that the ride in my little airplane would continue to deteriorate due to thermal lifting. If I continued flying after noon, it was also likely that I would have to maneuver around afternoon convective activity. 

I wanted a no-stress flight, so I planned to follow this up-early, stop-early plan.

Not long after taking off from Cedar City, I realize that I’m in for a whuppin. The wind speeds have picked up, and it’s blowing at a good rate. 

Turbulence increases and I tighten my seatbelt as I’m thumped, twisted and shaken for at least a full hour before I finally give up the fight and land at Provo, Utah (KPVU), elevation 4,497 feet MSL, for the night. 

I’ve gained another 164 miles of progress, but it’s been hard-won. 

The northerly route

Before my departure from Paso, I talked to Dennis Lyons, a local retired airline pilot, about routing. Lyons has flown his single-engine airplane to AirVenture many times. 

I could have taken a southern route following U.S. Highway 40 through Barstow, Flagstaff, Gallup and Albuquerque, but Dennis suggested I cross the Rocky Mountains farther north by following I-80 as it crawls east up through Parley’s Summit (7,120 feet MSL), the mountain pass east of Salt Lake City. 

I took Dennis’s advice and was headed that way when I landed at Provo Municipal.  Even though it was just past noon, I was through for the day. 

First night

I didn’t really know much about Provo except that it had a good airport and sold Avgas. I bought 14.7 gallons at $5.80/gal. TAC Air PVU is the FBO in Provo. 

I unload my overnight bag, my laptop computer and other essentials before I brief the line crew on fueling Papa. The tach reads 218.1.

TAC has a good deal with a local motel and in less than a second, Carly had called the Hampton Inn. A van arrived and zipped me to a nice room. I asked if it would be possible to be driven out to the airport at 5:30 the next morning. After a little checking, the staff said Jon would be willing to come in early. 

Day two

Jon showed up on time at 0530. As he dropped me off in front of TAC, he thanked me for helping him—he said he had some work he had wanted to get done and appreciated the early start to the day!

Under clear skies and calm winds, I launch just before 7 a.m. I circle above the airport until I level out at 9,500 feet, then head up toward Salt Lake City, hugging the west side of the Wasatch Mountains until I am able to turn east. 

85P is ready for the task and pulls strongly as I look out. I look to the western half of the Utah which is flat and desert-like; then, within seconds, I look out at the mountains to the east. More than a few of these peaks top 11,000 feet MSL. 

The air is smooth and the views are spectacular. I can’t help but smile. This is what I love about flying. 

I head east, looking into the sun. I switch fuel tanks from left to right every half-hour for two reasons: 85 Papa flies on rails in cruise, so I need something to do; and to keep him flying straight and level I work to keep the lateral balance as even as possible. 

I note the changes in sequence along the right margin of a 5x7 notepad on my kneeboard. Along the left margin I write every frequency change from ATC. (See the sidebar on page 55 about flight following. —Ed.) 

I’ve got a good tailwind; I note a 166 knot ground speed during this leg. 

I fly over Rock Springs (KRKS, 6,764 feet MSL); Rawlins (KRWL, 6,816 feet MSL); Laramie (KLAR, 7,284 feet MSL) and Cheyenne, Wyo. (KCYS, 6,159 feet MSL) before crossing the border into Nebraska. I got a big kick out of the topography in Wyoming; here the hand of man is very light on the planet. 

My 180 hp Comanche is a pretty good performer at lighter weights and has a good high-altitude wing, but I had been concerned about the possibility of high winds in the Provo-to-Nebraska portion of my trip. I breathe a sigh of relief as I crossed the border into Nebraska and watch terrain drop away below me. I’ve entered the High Plains. 

Where to?

Taking into account my ground speed and range, I start trying to determine where to next land. As a pre-digital flyer, I break out a WAC chart (!). I use my Garmin 96 handheld GPS to determine the distances. 

I switch on the Fuel Prices page on the Seattle Avionics’ FlyQ EFB software I have loaded into my iPad. I run through the following airports: KYKN (Yankton, S.D.), KOFK (Norfolk, Neb.), KBFF (Scottsbluff, Neb.), KANW (Ainsworth, Neb.) and KAIA (Alliance, Neb.) before I settle on Pierre, S.D. (KPIR, 1,744 feet MSL). 

As I crossed into Nebraska, I altered my course to the northeast, and after another 270 nm land at Pierre, S.D. after 4.4 hours and 586 nm. The tach reads 222.5.

Pierre, S.D.

Jennifer at Mustang Aviation welcomes me. I buy Avgas (44.4 gallons at $5.23/gal) but more importantly, I meet Ed and Marsha Mason, a pair of lovable and fanatical fliers. 

The Masons are flying their Vans RV-9A to AirVenture from their home in West Linn, Ore. And they, too, are at the end of their flying day. 

Ed, Marsh and I make a plan. We rent a car—Jennifer gives us a half-day rate on the car and secures rooms at the local Days Inn—and talk about flying adventures as we hang out together. 

They are delightful companions. On their first date, Marsha insisted Ed take her for a ride in his airplane. She didn’t know he flew an open cockpit, wood and fabric, low and slow Pietenpol Air Camper. She didn’t care. 

That flight down the Willamette Valley south of Portland, Ore. sparked Marsha’s long-ago dream. She would become a pilot. The Pietenpol was donated to a museum; Ed built the RV-9; and Marsha went on to get her private pilot certificate at age 60. Their lives together rotate around flying. 

Day three

Ed, Marsha and I eat the free breakfast, pile into the car and get to our airplanes just as the sun is rising in the east. There’s a little discussion about the weather between KPIR and KOSH, with ground fog and some low scattered clouds along some of the route. 

Marsha and Ed choose to take a more southerly route, while I decide to head east and monitor conditions was I go. 

I don’t need to fly as high when I’m east of the Rockies, so I climb to 5,500 feet, set my power and lean the mixture. I again toggle the Fuel Prices overlay on FlyQ, and after 2.3 hours aloft decide to land at Faribault, Minn. (KFBL), just south of Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

I buy 27.2 gallons of 100LL ($5.05/gal) and walk up and down the ramp to stretch my legs before I again check the weather. The tach reads 224.8. Conditions are improving, so two hours later, I launch again. 

The final leg

KPCZ is only 184 nm away and 85 Papa covered those miles in 1.4 hours. 

When I land in Waupaca, Wis., the tach reads 226.2. (I wish I’d flown a much longer leg when I discover that 100LL is only $4.17/gal from the FBO, Plane Guys Aviation.) It’s taken me 12.7 flight hours to get to Oshkosh following my indirect routing. 

I had reserved a car from Enterprise out of Stevens Point—no jacked-up OSH prices—and it was delivered to the airport within an hour after landing. 

The PFA Gathering at Waupaca is always a good time. On Sunday, I stand up in front of everyone and tell them about ADs. They’re gracious and thank me. 

I’m glad I finally made the trip; I’m really happy that the weather cooperated and very happy that 85P ran so well. Next month, I’ll tell you about the trip back home.

*Fuel prices are according to the author’s notes from July 2015. They have not been adjusted to reflect current pricing, and should be considered only as general information.


Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, Calif. with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .  




CGR-30C & CGR-30P gauges – PFA supporter

Electronics International, Inc.



Aircraft tires

Desser Tire & Rubber Co.



Aviation oxygen systems

Precise Flight, Inc.




Seattle Avionics, Inc.



Ultra Galactica 3-in-1 light

Aveo Engineering Group



Pilot information





Mustang Aviation (KPIR)



Plane Guys Aviation, LLC



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