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Rendezvous at Lakeway Airport

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  Lakeway Airport 3R9 The COVID-19 virus has thrown a wrench into family gatherings. For Thanksgiving, this was really sad. But there is a cure: Hop into your airplane, fly to an airport near family, and meet them at the airport with social distancing. Did just that: Flew from Dallas to the Lakeway airport (3R9) near Austin and met with son Martin. It was a perfect day: Clear sky, reasonable temperatures in the 60s, modest tailwind going to Lakeway flying at 2,500 ft, and then another tailwind going back in the afternoon at 5,500 ft. Lakeway airport terminal Distance about 200 nm one-way, took a bit more than two hours for each trip. Son Martin brought two lawn chairs. We sat next to the terminal building in the shade, out of the wind, and had a great time together. Am writing about this since that airport is a lovely place to meet. The runway is in excellent condition, though there is a rise in the middle and you cannot see the other end. Hence radio communication about entering and l

Colorado and Utah Wonderlands: The Dolores and Colorado Rivers

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  The Dolores River near Dove Creek The COVID-19 has forced an unwelcome simplification of life style. For example, it has ruled out commercial air travel for the entire family. As an antidote, daughter Ingrid and I went on a full-day excursion trip with our Zenith 601HDS, with homemade sandwiches for lunch. That way, we traveled quite some distance, but avoided hotel stays and restaurant visits. All photos of this trip were taken by Ingrid. We mixed in three photos from an earlier trip to add some vistas. The Route We start in my daughter's hometown, Albuquerque, NM and head north. The first refueling stop is in Cortez, CO.  Continuing north, we trace the Dolores River all the way to the Colorado River. Then flying west along the Colorado, we land at Canyonlands airport near Moab, UT for a second refueling. A final, long leg brings us back to Albuquerque. Below is the portion of the route from Cortez to Canyonlands airport. Route from Cortez, CO to Canyonlands airport near Moab, U

We Go West But Not Viral

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FBO of Hale County airport, Plainview, TX If there ever was an understatement for the year 2020, it is "The COVID-19 virus is affecting our lives." Yeah, like staying home almost continuously for weeks and weeks. So, we decided to do something about it: A flight to visit daughter Ingrid in Albuquerque, NM. We called the FBO in Plainview, TX to inquire how they handled refueling. Then contacted Albuquerque about refueling and hangar storage. Both answers satisfactory: Masks in use, a promise to keep distance. But that really isn't good enough. What happens when we enter the FBO building? The air in the building, surfaces in the office, and restrooms? So we decided to work out a system that eliminates potential virus transmission as much as possible. The key is: Do not enter the FBO building during refueling. That requires some care. Fuel Input As we were about to land in Plainview, we requested refueling with the fuel truck, as opposed to self service.

Two Airport Gems of the East Coast: Florala, AL (0J4) and Marianna, FL (MAI)

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We are on a two-day trip from Dallas to the Tampa, FL area. For day 1, we have planned to reach Marianna, FL. Starting at the Aero Country airport at 8 am, the first leg brings us to Vicksburg, MS around noon. We refuel, take off, climb to our cruising altitude of 5,500 ft, open the Garmin Pilot on the iPad to look at the weather ahead, and are in for a surprise. Minor thunderstorms northeast of Marianna have begun to blossom and start to form a thunderstorm cluster. The intense lightning and heavy rain is moving southwest and will engulf the airport before we get there. We use the Garmin Pilot to check out alternate airports along our route: We go to the airport page, bring up the airports one by one and look for runway conditions, available fuel, and NOTAMS (Notices to Airmen), which tell about special facts and conditions affecting landing and takeoff. The autopilot takes over navigation during that checking process, and the ADS-B system informs us about any airplanes near u

"Big Tree" Alligator Juniper

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"Big Tree" Alligator Juniper At sunrise, we have taken off from Aero Country Airport north of Dallas toward Deming, NM, 600 nm away to the west. The AOPA radar has shown intense thunderstorms north of the center portion of the route near Abilene, TX, and we have changed the refueling stop from the originally selected Andrews, TX, which is covered by thunderstorms, to Odessa, TX, south of Andrews. We expect to be in that portion of the route in another 3½ hours. But 10 minutes after liftoff, an unexpected thunderstorm pops up northwest of us, with heavy rain and dark clouds illuminated by lightning flashes. The thunderstorm does not move toward us due to the high pressure system to the south of us. So we just maneuver around the thunderstorm and continue westward. Approaching Abilene, the cluster of thunderstorms seen four hours earlier on AOPA radar is still active. We contact Flight Watch to get an assessment of the coverage of the storms. The

MAI, the Friendly Marianna, FL Airport

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Terminal of Marianna, FL airport The dramatic reduction of personal flying has caused many small airports to scale back services. Often refueling can only be accomplished with self-service equipment that relies on those blasted hard-to-read LCD displays, and there is just one person, or even no one, manning the FBO.  We refuel, say “hi” to the attendant if there is one, use the facilities for input and output of liquids (i.e., water cooler and restroom), and then take off again. But there are still old-style airports. “Old-style” here means that the airport is well-equipped and that there are plenty of people around. It is a pleasure to land there. Such is the airport in Marianna, FL. We had visited a few years ago, when the airport was undergoing a major renovation process. On a recent visit we saw the impressive results.  The entire airport building has been remodeled, and the facilities — reception area, lounge, snack area, restrooms — are first-rate. And then there are

Safe VFR Flight Over the Top of Clouds

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Flight above clouds Our Zenith 601HDS plane, N314LB, is not equipped for flight under instrument flight rules (IFR). Nor do we have the appropriate rating for that kind of flight. Hence, we are restricted to visual flight rules (VFR). They demand that we cannot fly into clouds, let alone fly while embedded in clouds. VFR Cloud Conditions Below 10,000 ft MSL, VFR flight must be at least 500 ft below clouds or 1,000 ft above clouds, and horizontally must be at least 2,000 ft away from clouds. Above 10,000 ft MSL, two of the conditions are stricter: The 500 ft condition for flight below clouds is increased to 1,000 ft,  and the horizontal distance condition becomes 1 mile. The conditions are relaxed close to the ground: Up to 1,200 ft above ground level (AGL), VFR flight only needs to stay clear of clouds. Near airports, indicated by magenta shading on maps, that limit is lowered to 700 ft AGL.  The above summary is incomplete since it ignores conditions for night flight, w