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Challenging Airports

Posted: Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:26 pm
by RigaRunner
We've been having a discussion in the Washington, D.C. area about what are the most challenging airports at which to land a GA aircraft. (I'm sure Jeb will have a view on this subject.) This came up after AOPA Pilot carried an article on the nation's most challenging airports, all of which seem to be in Colorado (like Leadville).

So far the D.C. pilots' list seems to revolve around the same few airports, ones with narrow runways, some with roller-coaster runways, and some with obstacles at one end or the other.

This might be a good topic for Jeb, Dave and Jack to discuss -- what makes a difficult airport? What are your personal minimums when it comes to such airports? Note that we're not counting airfields that are really just someone's cow pasture. The country is full of those. To qualify, an airport ought to be listed in or in the facilities directory.

Here are the Challenging Airports in the DC Area:

Falwell W24 2932 x 50 ft. asphalt 10/28
Lake Anna 7W4 2560 x 25 ft. asphalt 8/26
Sky Bryce VG18 2240 x 50 asphalt 5/23

Clearview 2W2 1840 x 30 asphalt 14/32
Lakeshore MD43 1800 x 100 turf, 9/27
Davis W50 2005 x 25 ft. asphalt/turf 8/26
College Park KCGS 2607 x 60 ft. asphalt 15/33
Suburban W18 2324 x 40 ft. asphalt 3/21 .
Freeway W00 2420 x 40 ft asphalt 18/36
Hobie Wolf 1W5 2000 x 60 ft. turf, 2/20

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Sun Apr 05, 2009 11:01 pm
by fordan
I haven't been there, but I hear that Tangier Island Airport (KTGI) out in the Chesapeake Bay was interesting with a bump in the runway until they repaved it recently. There's also the note from the A/FD:


Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:09 am
by mdpilots
Sounds like a great topic. Two of the airports on your list are near and dear to my heart.

Davis W50 2005 x 25 ft. asphalt/turf 8/26

Like all 25' wide runways, if you're not on or very close to center line, you're in the grass. Power lines on approach to rwy 26 or trees on approach to rwy 8...pick your poison. It's got a hump about 2/3 the way down rwy 26 which will allow you to become slightly airborne again if you carry too much speed. The "asphalt" is a bit rough, but not terrible. On warm days departing gross off of rwy 26, you can turn slightly south where there is a gap in the trees. Lookout for traffic approaching GAI on the 45 at TPA of 1540', as the Davis pattern TPA is 1400'. Nostalgic and rustic airport with NO FUEL and no lights. Great read about the former owner here -> She had a mixed reputation. You either loved her or feared her.

By the way, I got my private at Davis. Spent my first 70 hours flying their C150 - N8839S, which unfortunately overturned in her tie down during a thunderstorm. I assume that she is now keeping someone's beer cold, as she was totaled. By the way...I think the airport is still for sale if you're in the market.

Clearview 2W2 1840 x 30 asphalt 14/32

Ah...Clearview. Runway 14 is a 2%+ uphill gradient. 32 is obviously fairly downhill. There are trees on both sides, but these drop away fairly quickly. The runway lists at 1840, but the threshold is displaced on both sides. 32 is displaced by 280' and is painted so. I understand that 14 is now displaced 330' and marked with traffic cones, but I haven't been there since that happened. That means (drum roll) you have 1560' for landing on rwy 32 DOWNHILL. So bone up on your short field and don't come in hot. But the gas is always the cheapest around. So if your skills are up to it, it's worth the trip. It is lighted with low intensity lighting for those brave enough to fly in at night. I've done it once with an instructor. It was exciting.

Some of my favorite Bravo Sierra hangar stories come from this airport. I've tried unsuccessfully to kill myself there several times. But I digress.

I've been to a few of the others, but not enough times to comment.

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 5:31 pm
by Aerco
In Episode 130 mention was made of challenging airports and Dave brought up Big Bear, CA.

I just went up there this very morning; beautiful day for it, but HOT - about 95 down in Corona where I started from. Cessna 152, full fuel, one person at about 195 lbs. Took a 45 minute climb to get high enough to clear the surrounding mountains, but it coped fairly well. The wind that day was from the east so the approach was from a right base to runway 08.

Yes, the airport has mountains on either side, but unless you fly 747 patterns it's not really a problem. The approach ends are nice and clear, with one real lake and one mostly dry.
Landing at such an altitude does not really feel any different. Density alt. was 8,300 ft, field elev. is about 6,700. Odd thing was the AWOS gave an altimeter setting of 30.32! (29.95 where I took off) I don't think I ever cranked one up that much, but it seemed correct as I landed.

When taking off at such an altitude and a warm day, even with only one person , a 152 will take its own time getting off the ground; I used most of the runway and it is about 6000 feet. It takes quite a while to get high enough to attempt to turn crosswind. But worth it for the views!

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 12:09 am
by PilotBillFromTexas
I flew to Fort Worth Meacham tonight. They are repaving the runways and taxiways. So, runway 16/34 is now taxiway zulu and taxiway alpha is now temporary runway 15/33, the cross runway is now a taxiway, etc, etc.... It's a mess. Flying there was a piece of cake. Taxiing was a PITA.

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 3:01 pm
by Pilot_MKN
I nominate my grandfather's airstrip. I've posted pictures of it before, but here are two youtube videos of me landing there.

The strip is about 1800 feet long, slopes downhill to the south, has a drop off, power lines and a highway off the south end and a fence bordering a cow pasture on the north end. The trees are real close here, so its not recommended to fly on windy days. There are 4 planes based here: my grandfather's 172 and other aircraft owned by his friends: a Cessna 150, a J-3 Cub and a Rans S-12

Landing to the North:

Landing to the South:

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:35 am
by Soccer-Jock
Great videos! And nice landings.
Watching trees pass by my wings (what appears to be just a few feet from the wing tips?!) would freak me out. Seems like the wrong gust at the wrong time could wreck your day!

In some ways it makes me a little jealous, in that as a "renter"'s next to impossible for me to get any real grass/soft field experience. The FBO has restrictions against it in their planes. :cry:
Yet we have so many great soft/grass fields nearby me.

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:45 pm
by jackhodgson
I agree, great videos. Looks like a fun place to operate in and out of.

-- Jack

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:16 pm
by pilottony
Cool ,The videos remind me of the strip that I learned to fly my quicksilver out of, narrow, short, and trees on both sides. TONY

Re: Challenging Airports

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:47 pm
by Pilot_MKN
Its definitely a different experience the first few times you land there. We generally don't fly out of there unless the winds are light.

I didn't get any grass experience at flight school either until I started flying out of this strip. There's a public grass strip with an instrument approach nearby, but they still wont allow us to hop over there.