3 posts categorized ‘Airports’

Choosing the Right Airport

I’ve previously written about shopping around for the right airport.  I would like to revisit that topic by listing some things to look for when choosing an airport.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will provide you with some things to think about before choosing which airport to fly from.

Costs

  • Aircraft rental
  • Hangar rental
  • Fuel

Convenience

  • Distance from you
  • Accessibility of aircraft

Pilot Community

  • Available to meet
  • Willing to give advice
  • Willing to share experiences

Availability

  • Aircraft rental
  • Hangar rental
  • Fuel

Runways

  • Size
  • Obstructions
  • Upkeep
  • Approaches
  • Lights

Obviously not all of the above will apply to you.  If you do not own an airplane, hangar rental and fuel can be ignored.  Likeweise, if you own an airplane, and have no intentions of renting one, the price of the rental will not be a factor.

If you are a student pilot or looking to become a student pilot, you should also add the flight instructor as criteria.  The person that you are learning from is quite possibly the most important factor in making your training successful, and helping you to become a pilot.

Hopefully this list will help you to choose an airport that will provide you with the type of flying you wish to do.  I wish I would have used this list instead of just flying out of the most convenient airport.  If I had, I would have switched to my current airport long ago.

If you have anything that should be considered, leave a comment below. (more…)

Shop Around For the Right Airport

I am fortunate enough to live within 25 minutes of three different airports. If you are in a situation similar to myself, do yourself a favor and do some shopping before choosing one to fly out of.

The first airport that I flew out of, AOH, is the biggest and is more business oriented than the other two. This airport has the newest, most modern airplanes to rent, but this also translates into being the most expensive to fly out of.

At AOH, you will likely see other pilots, but most will be commercial pilots that are transiting the area. It is always interesting to talk to these pilots; however, since there are few locals to be seen, it isn’t easy to build pilot relationships.

The second and third airports would seem very similar at first glance. Both are smaller general aviation airports with little business traffic. They have comparable runways and both rent a single Cessna 172 for roughly the equivalent price. Because of this, I didn’t think the experience would be any different at these airports.

Thinking the experience would be the same, I next flew out of OWX since it was closer to where I worked. Most days this airport is like a ghost town. There was almost never anyone hanging out at the airport. People would come, fly, and leave. This makes it difficult to build pilot relationships.

After changing jobs, I now work closer to VNW, so that is where I am now flying out of. This airport has pilots hanging out most of the time. Every time I go to this airport, I see at least one pilot that is also there.

In my first 5 times flying out of VNW, I met as many local pilots as I did at AOH and OWX combined. This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It is wonderful to have more experienced pilots around to gather knowledge from.

It is nice to actually feel like part of a community rather than a lone pilot operating from a ghost town. If I could turn back time, I would still learn to fly at AOH because I had such an awesome instructor. However, I would have skipped over OWX. Even though it was closer to where I worked at the time, there just wasn’t that feeling of community that exists at VNW.

So if you have multiple airports to choose from, when shopping around do not only take into account the cost and convenience, but also look at the quality of the instructor(s), and especially the atmosphere and community at the airport.

Doing so will not only make your flight experience more enjoyable, but it will help keep you flying since you aren’t going it alone.

Visit Your Local Airport

If you are interested in cars, you can go to a car show. While there you will see some great cars, and you often also get a chance to talk to the owners about the cars and their experiences restoring them.

If you are interested in flying or airplanes, you can get that same experience by going to an airport. If you have ever dreamed about becoming a pilot or flying in an airplane, I urge you to go to your local GA airport.

There are many small general aviation airports that you can go to and learn a lot of information about airplanes and flying while talking to pilots themselves. Some airports are better than others, but every airport I have been to has pilots that love to talk about airplanes and flying.

Many people think of pilots as the stuck-up rich. I challenge you to go to an airport and see for yourself that the aforementioned stereotype is simply not true. Pilots are some of the friendliest people you will meet, and most can’t wait to find someone to talk to about flying.

Who knows, you might even run into someone willing to take you for a free flight. I know it is possible because I used to do it when I owned an airplane. Most pilots not only enjoy talking about flying, but also enjoy sharing flight with others.

If you don’t want to just drop in at an airport (which is what I did when I wanted to learn to fly), call the airport and ask to talk to an instructor. Let the instructor know that you have always dreamed of flying, and see if he/she will show you the airplane.

Most instructors will be more than happy to show you the airplane, let you sit in it, and explain what everything in the airplane is and what it does. You are likely to get that same experience just dropping in at the airport and talking with people there, but calling ahead and asking for the instructor is easier for some people.

General aviation airports are some of the most misunderstood and most overlooked properties a city or county can have. Even if you aren’t looking to become a pilot, but you are interested in airplanes and flying, or even just wanting to know what the heck goes on at the local airport, pay it a visit.

Most general aviation airports are paid for by money from the taxpayers. So go check out what your tax money is being spent on. Go see how the airport is working for your local economy. Go see how “General Aviation Serves America”.