Is this the right airport?

We make fun of Chuck always flying into restricted areas. In real life, these incursions are taken very seriously.

A few years ago, while working in Nevada for a fire contract, we were based at a very small airport for a while. Other than the occasional fire traffic, we were usually the only ones there since the airport didn’t even sell any fuel.
One fine day, with little fire activity while hanging out and waiting, we suddenly had all kinds of law enforcement show up and park by the very small ramp. A little further back there were a few unmarked black vehicles who kept their distance.
They all waited for this little Piper Cherokee to land. After the plane landed, they met the pilot by the plane and drove off with her. We didn’t see her back at her plane until later in the afternoon.
Turns out she was a student on a solo cross country flight when she got a little confused on her exact location and accidentally flew right through what is called “The Areas” and clipped a tiny corner of what is called “Area 51”. I have blogged about this before; they have zero sense of humor when it comes to these things.

Foreflight has since been invented and made things a lot easier for new pilots flying on their first cross countries in the greater Nevada area, but I’m sure the sense of humor of the folks running the areas has not changed.

Stay vigilant, my pilot friends! This sort of thing will probably stay on your pilot record for quite some time.

Mike

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9 comments on “Is this the right airport?
  1. Quill says:

    In regards to accidentally flying over restricted areas in Nevada, I recall another challenge with avoiding them. On a cross-country a few years ago with my mom, we found they jammed GPS signals in the area, so you didn’t have location data for avoiding them. She had to use the VOR, which she’d not used in years!

  2. Tampa says:

    Page is reporting mixed content meaning something isn’t https, some browsers block that now maybe want to check that 🙂

  3. Rwill says:

    Nothing in the air, but when I was in college a bunch of use went to a open house at a SAC base. And it was rather confusing to find where you were suppose to go. The car I was in almost headed to a taxiway before we turned around and headed in the right direction. But the other car with us drove into the ready area with the armed bombers. They said a jeep ran up and a group of guys with M16s surrounded their car, until they showed them the open house flyer and were told were to go.

  4. Joshua says:

    I recall a story about a guy flying a 172 out of Vegas. He got a bit lost and landed at the first strip he could find. After he was arrested and interrogated all night they decided he was just a lost pilot low on gas. They fueled his aircraft and gave him the you-didn’t-see-an-airport speech.

    The guards where astonished to see the same 172 landing later that day with two people on board. As they pulled the pilot out he was screaming, “I don’t care what you do to me, just tell my wife where I was last night!”

  5. Karel A.J. ADAMS says:

    I so like the combat plane dooming up in the last frame – F16? Well, not really the plane, as such, that one is common enough – even my poor BE air force can afford to operate a handful – but the way it quietly sneaks into the strip is really well done.

  6. Fbs says:

    Yes, they take this very seriously. Back from a cross country flight, I was flying VFR heading south and west of a class D airspace (Beauvais), and descending to avoid a class A airspace (Paris) that was further in my way. I arrived on an urban area and decided a little heading altération left to overfly fields instead. I didn’t figured out, and I received later a letter about this, that I clipped the class D airspace for less than a minute and for a few tens of meters…:-(. I had to write a full letter of explanations about that. Nothing happened, but yes, that’s on my pilot record now…(and yes, flying VFR near Paris is a real mess..)

  7. Fbs says:

    Yes, they take this very seriously. Back from a cross country flight, I was flying VFR heading south and west of a class D airspace (Pontoise), and descending to avoid a class A airspace (Paris) that was further in my way. I arrived on an urban area and decided a little heading altération left to overfly fields instead. I didn’t figured out, and I received later a letter about this, that I clipped the class D airspace for less than a minute and for a few tens of meters…:-(. I had to write a full letter of explanations about that. Nothing happened, but yes, that’s on my pilot record now…(and yes, flying VFR near Paris is a real mess..)

  8. Mo Davies says:

    Several years ago, I was flying a very small, very underpowered,Microlight aircraft near Scampton, then home of the Red Arrows, a strictly enforced “no go” area. I was talking to the MATZ Clutch Controller, and making him aware that I was being pushed “down and left” by a thunderstorm. His response was “stay alive, but do your best to avoid the airfields.” I ended up flying directly overhead the runway at Scampton. The controller said nothing more, but, I made him fully aware of my position at all times. I guess we have a slightly more relaxed attitude to some controlled airspace in the UK compared to the US.

  9. J Z says:

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, it’s true, they take it very seriously; although if you have an operational need to do so, they’ll usually be very willing to accommodate, as Mo found out. [I did too, on a couple of occasions, but not giving any stories; they’ll take too long to tell, and they’re not directly relevant.]

    Maybe you got lost, maybe you had to enter for safety reasons. If you need to, you need to, but if able, don’t keep people in the dark. Everybody, controllers especially, want to see you get home safe, and they may have the capability to help. An extra pair of eyes, an extra head or two, and access to quite a few tools can make quite a difference. The most you’ll need to do in most cases is to make a phone call, maybe fill out a letter and/or a NASA report. (Actually, a NASA report doesn’t hurt anyway, even if nobody says anything, and can only help. In certain circumstances, it can even help keep your record clear, too. See AC 00-46 for details. Certain restrictions apply.) Hotdogging is not tolerated, though.

    As a reminder, 91.3 allows any rule to be broken as necessary to meet the extent of the emergency. This doesn’t give carte blanche to do whatever you like; it just means that if you don’t have a choice, you don’t have a choice.

    Vigilant is right. In my experience, I’ve seen more people get dinged for a TFR than for airspace. Not that we don’t have a lot of people get dinged for airspaces around here, we do; it’s just that when a VVIP comes around every couple of weeks, there always seems to be someone that hasn’t done their due diligence and gotten a briefing.

    Fly safe — JZ

    P.S. One last note. The following was the last line of a supposedly-true story posted to the AOPA website, which showcased a slightly clueless pilot who eventually entered the DC SFRA without clearance. (Story is attributed to Ron Levy and reproduced with permission.) Types and numbers have been changed to protect…well, Chuck…and because only Chuck could have come up with this one, you’re welcome to use it as you like, Mike:
    “This is [Aircraft] 12345 on Guard. There’s an F-16 on my wing. Does he need help?”

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