In the Chart Supplement, the tome formerly known as the “Airport/Facilities Directory,” (or A/FD, which ForeFlight helpfully still calls it) one airport listing says:
CAUTION—FISH SPOTTING ACTIVITY—CHESAPEAKE BAY AND COASTAL WATERS. Caution is advised for extensive fish spotter aircraft activity between May 1 and December 1 upwards from 1500 feet above the surface over the Chesapeake Bay and adjacent coastal waters. Pilots should be alert for this activity.
Isn’t that last sentence “overkill?” I will go out on a limb and put forth a “yes” answer. I daringly hypothesize that the whole “Caution is advised” part means “pilots should be alert.”
How about this entry for Devils Lake, North Dakota (KDVL): Numerous waterfowl and other birds, deer and jack rabbits on and invof arpt.
The Chart Supplement can spell out the huge words “waterfowl” or “jack rabbits,” but can’t spell out the word “airport,” but instead uses “arpt?” Or “invof” versus “in the vicinity of?”
Why not abbreviate bears, to “brs?” Or “buffalos” to “bfflo?” Reason?—because all the bfflo were sht by bfflo-hntrs in like 1885, is why. But there are still bears. No, not like the bears at South Bend, Indiana International Airport, where they have a “Bears In The Air” program. They give teddy bears to kids in hospitals. Of course they are playing off the lyrics to the 1975 song “Convoy,” by C.W. McCall:
“Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper
They even had a bear in the air
I says, “Callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Duck”
“We about to go a-huntin’ bear”
Bears—we’re not talking about the stuffed polar bear in the Anchorage, Alaska airport either, though it gets “honorable mention” on account of it being really scary-looking. We’re talkin’ bears near, say, Baldwin County Regional Airport (KMLJ), in Georgia where a young male bear cub was seen frolicking.
And you have your huge brown bear that made it through security at an airport in Far East Russia— at Yelizivo Airport, Kamchatka, to be precise. People arriving at the airport were “advised to take extra care.”
Passenger: “Let’s see, luggage, boarding pass, neck pillow, cell phone charger, .45 caliber bear pistol.
How about American bears near American airports? English-speaking bears, is what I’m saying.
The Chart Supplement says, about Virginia’s highest-elevation airport, KHSP, Hot Springs: Wildlife, including bear on and invof airport. Be advised low pass to check/clear wildlife when arprt unattended.
Nothing like buzzing the field to scare off bears—watch the mountains!
Enough about bears already—how about birds?
Out near St. Louis, Missouri, there are a bunch of bald eagles living there. Their mission is to terrify you with their seven-foot wingspan, never mind the white “death head” and white tail feathers. This symbol of American freedom coming at you at about 200 miles an hour is enough to make you wish, all of a sudden, that you were flying in another country that has a lot smaller birds. Like Afghanistan. Wait, not there. How about Antarctica. Wait, I think there are albatrosses there, with wingspans 8-11 feet. Liechtenstein?
Anyway, bald eagles aren’t only in Missouri. They fly around in Minnesota and Virginia, scaring years off of pilot’s lives.
“Good news, bad news.” Good news: the bald eagle isn’t near extinction anymore. Bad news: you age eleven years for every eagle near-miss.
Speaking of near-misses, near Laughlin Air Force Base in southwest Texas, near Del Rio, we had turkey buzzards with eagle-like wingspans. Were they scary? Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope go “#2″ in the woods?
These monster birds would come right at you, some 350 miles per hour, 300 of that speed generated by the T-38 at pattern airspeed. At the last possible second, the huge ugly dead-carcass-eating bird would fold its 25-foot wingspan and tuck and dive—at the exact same moment I’d quickly duck my head so as to get hit in the top of my helmet if the bird came through the windscreen for an “interior cockpit tour.”
We T-38 drivers had all heard the story of a pilot driving down the highway from Del Rio to San Antonio, and hitting a turkey buzzard which blasted right through his windshield and exploded all over the back seat. Guts everywhere—from the bird’s stomach, from eating road-kill. The pilot ended up just throwing away his rear seats. The buzzards probably ate it at the junkyard, springs and all.
We Undergraduate Pilot Training Instructor Pilots, and our students, would often have to show up in the morning at like 0455. Sometimes-tired students would get grilled on procedures, general knowledge, and emergencies. We had large poles, padded with black-and-yellow striped padding, in the middle of the room, part of the building’s roof support. Students would walk right into these sometimes—“pole-strikes,” which are kinda like birdstrikes.
How about deer? Do they run across runways? Why yes, they do.
Do they run across holding a rabbit in their mouth and get hit by aircraft? No, but a coyote did just that at my old base, Beale Air Force Base, California, one fine day.
There was recent fatal crash of a KC-135, where the pilots dorked up the landing. Right after that crash, the Air Force, mother-hen-style, implemented a videotaping program, where all future landings of all KC-135s would be videotaped from beside the runway, using a video camera mounted on a little freshly-poured US Air Force concrete pad.
One taping crew of pilots came into the squadron building chattering excitedly, and punched the tape into the VCR machine. They had been out by the runway, filming tanker crews landing, and a coyote ran across the runway with a rabbit in its mouth at JUST the right time, and the nose gear of the landing KC-135Q hit it broadside. We watched the tape about six times, of course, stopping it and commenting. “Eeeeeewww!”
How about birdstrikes?
The first reported bird strike was recorded in 1905 by Orville Wright. I mean, who else, besides his brother, was flying at that time? Birds, that’s who.
According to his diaries, Orville was conducting a practice flight that lasted a little under five minutes total, during which time he covered three miles and completed four circles. During two of these laps, he used his aircraft to chase a flock of birds, killing one, which landed on the top surface of the plane until he was able to shake it off with a sharp turn.
Fast-forward to 2021. I was walking back on the ramp toward the FBO at KJYO, Leesburg Executive Airport, with my student pilot after a late night flight. There were two guys near an aircraft parked near the building. They said they were flying along fat dumb and happy just before midnight at 5,500 feet MSL and BAM! Birdstrike, right in the upper-right windscreen. Sure enough, we could see blood and feathers on the windscreen. I asked them what it sounded like, and one guy said “BAM! It was loud!” They said they figured it was a hawk.
Oh yeah, back to deer.
I was coming in for a landing on runway 16 at Creve Coeur (“broken heart”) Airport and I spotted a buck to the right of the runway.
The deer was well clear to the right of the runway—until he wasn’t. He bolted across the runway in front of me at the last second, when I was on short-short final, a fine rack of antlers on his head. This is the animal kingdom’s sign for “go-around.”
I went around, thinking that even if I can miss this buck and land, there may be another suicidal deer, (some “John Doe”) that I don’t see until too late.
(Non-controversial idea: The FAA could shoot some deer—heck, all of them, while they’re at it—with tranquilizer darts and while they are sleeping spray paint “GO AROUND” on their sides in huge letters with flourescent spray paint.)
How about the pilot who had two deer-strikes in three weeks at Marion County Regional Airport (KMAO) near Flippin, Arkansas. He said it was the second deer strike in three weeks, and now he had “bagged his limit.” No, not really, he didn’t say that. “That Flippin runway!” he said. OK, he didn’t say that either.
Never mind the living, breathing wildlife—check out this Chart Supp entry for KFAR, Fargo’s “Hector Intl,” named, of course, after Martin Hector:
CAUTION: Use extreme caution for UAS ops in vicinity.
Technically, the North Dakota Air National Guard UASs aren’t “wildlife,” but they look like giant cockroaches, and hearing their radio calls is scary because there’s no windows or pilots on those grey things: “Starship Trooper Bug 25, left base, gear down.” (Is this reference too obscure? The 1997 movie Starship Troopers? The big “Arachnids?”)
By the way, “UAS!” Is the noise you involuntarily blurt out when you first see one of these death-drones up close and personal—and those are the “cockroaches” without missiles hanging on them.
How about the Chart Supplement description of Gackle, North Dakota Municipal Airport, 9G9, conveniently located one nautical mile southwest of Gackle, ND, population 282:
Pilots at end of rwy cannot see acft at opposite end of rwy due to rwy gradient. Rwy 17–35 and Rwy 08–26 turf surface rolling; grass clumpy and possible animal holes. Be alert.
I see. Runway 08 is 2,000 feet long and the first 200 feet has a 5-degree up gradient so you can’t see the other end. So a pilot couldn’t see, say, an unpainted deer charging across the runway until YIKES! And mind the holes.
Ya don’t say, “be alert.” Also, the Chart Supp says: Arpt CLOSED winter due to lack of snow removal.
Welcome to North Dakota. The Chart Supp should say “Note: ND clsd to all human actvty Nov-May.”
And finally, a fish-strike. A Boeing 727 took off out of Juneau, Alaska, and an eagle—probably one that got banned from Missouri by the FAA for one too many close calls—dropped a salmon on the jet that it was carrying in its talons.
Just think if the eagle had been carrying a moose. Think!
Is what I’m thinking.