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.
Great article — funny and enlightening! I had a non-flying close-encounter with a bird when I was cruising at 80+MPH (maybe more) from Laredo AFB to Randolph AFB (heading to the Auger Inn) in my ’71 GTO sporting a 455 CI V-8 (I got 8 MPG going downhill with a tailwind!). Suddenly, a hawk come up off the shoulder of the road with a snake in its clutches. I very nearly had both the hawk and the snake in my lap, but I guess the airflow over the windshield and the hawk pulling a lot of G’s kept all parties unscathed.
Matt, did you know either of two KC-135Q pilots — Greg Goin, a U of Arkansas grad in my ROTC unit or Tom Prior, in the same Daedalian Flight with me here in ‘Lanta?
I fail to see how FF referring to a publication by an antquated name is being “helpful”. I was under the impression that part of being a good pilot is clear communication and proper terminology.
The way I look at the airport information you first encounter in ForeFlight happens to be extracted from the A/FD in the Chart Supplement. It is Section 2 of the Chart Supplement for those good pilots who stay up to speed on the changes occurring to useful publications.
Love your sense of humor. Yes it ridiculous when I still run into abbreviations I’ve never seen before from the age of teletype right after getting a 1080p weather chart on my iPad
Matt, please, please write some more articles for this site. You are very good at this, though I didn’t need to tell you that. You broke the old laugh-per-minute meter with this one.
Hilarious article! Thanks!
In the early days of computers, we had abbreviate everything due to limited storage. There just was not enough space to put full words. Then one day we had all this gigabyte stuff! We quit abbreviating. Time for the FAA to do the same thing, abbreviations are ridiculous with today’s technology and only add to confusion at times.
Hit a juvenile coyote with a Falcon 10 on the Opa Locka (KOPF) airport on my first part 135 rotation a few years ago. I was the pilot monitoring and was calling variance from VREF to the captain. Once the mains were on the runway I looked up and saw ‘something’ run from left to right in front of the airplane – bad decision. Then it apparently thought better of that decision and turned around to exit from whence it came – worse decision. Have you ever run over a squirrel with your car? It just goes thump thump. That is exactly what running over a juvenile coyote feels like when you hit it with the left main at about 105 knots. It broke the landing light, flattened one of the tires, and ripped off the landing gear door, which by some miracle didn’t touch the flap which was at 54 degrees. Took a few days to fix that one.
Even Russ Niles and Paul Bertorelli would be giggling at this one. Great stuff. Keep writing!
“ICING, THE FACE OF GOD, AND ILLUSIONS”
I live in Fargo, North Dakota where winter last anywhere from six to thirteen months of the year. (We use a “Frozorian calendar” up here which has an extra month.)
When I first moved back to Fargo after living elsewhere for quite a while—Fargoans call it “living abroad”—I asked the Fargo airport manager how much it would cost per month to tie down my airplane on the ramp. He looked at me across his desk as if I had asked him “How long will it take me to drive a car from my side of this desk where I’m sitting over to your side of the desk?” but he answered politely like Fargo people do saying “Well, that would be free. But nobody does that.”
So it’s cold here, is what I’m saying. That explained the ice building up rapidly on my wings as I stupidly flew through the clouds at 8000 feet on April 29. I was flying on an IFR flight plan from Flying Cloud Airport, KFCM (motto: “Wrong Runway Landings RUS”) Oh, you scoff, but just go fly there sometime. Better yet, don’t.
I was flying along at 14,000 feet toward Fargo on an IFR flight plan, fat dumb and happy. Filing and flying IFR is SO much easier than flying VFR, I was thinking.
But then it wasn’t.
I’m working on a NOTAM article, over
NOTAMs, NOTAMs, which one has the NOTAMs?!
“Step right up, lay your money down, take your pick!” said the con man standing behind a card table on a street in Amsterdam. He had three cups, and he tipped one of them up to show that there was a small 3X5 card with NOTAMs printed on it underneath. Then he covered the NOTAMs, and quickly rearranged the cups, moving them around, and then….
No, no, the guy wasn’t really in Amsterdam, he was in the FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Wikipedia says about Washington D.C.: “A city that houses the federal government’s four branches: the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court, and the FAA.”
The FAA spook wasn’t using mere cups on a card table to jumble the NOTAMs to fool people. He was using a top-secret device called the NOTAM GENERATOR DEVICE (NGD), and he wasn’t jumbling NOTAMs, he was jumbling the alphabet, the English language.
See, this NOTAM generating device is a lot like the German Enigma code machine from World War II, and in fact it is. (Drawback: now the Germans can read our top-secret NOTAMs.)
Why does the FAA use the NGD to spew out NOTAMs instead of using plain English? Think, man! Do us pilots, I mean does we pilots, I mean, do we pilots want the general public, Germans excluded, to be able to read our NOTAMs? NO! Just like doctors take a sixteen-week secret handwriting course in the underground doctor bunker (located beneath the Washington Monument) we pilots have to communicate in secret language. Partly because of terrorism, partly because we pilots want to be cool and brag that we can read a foreign (alien) language, but mostly because the FAA wants to weed out, in their NOTAM words “SLKRS AND NON-HKRS.”
Minneapolis Center said “Lancair 214DK, descend and maintain 8000 feet.” I thought “I have to do that, because he told me to,” and did. Turns out I shunta. Shunta, shunta, shunta.
I entered the clouds at about 9000 feet and immediately ice begin to build up on the wings. I didn’t see the wing ice at first because I was busy looking for ice on the the windscreen. But there was none. Finally when I looked left, then right I saw ice on my wings from wing tip to wing root. Yikes! All white, the edges, and getting whiter.
Suddenly I was William Shatner in the Twilight Zone (heavy on the “shat”) turning to my buddy in the right seat and saying “Look—at that stuff—on the wings.” He’s not a pilot so he didn’t have the same near- panic as I did. See the Lancair has this thin, laminar-flow wing that if you get ice on it, well, bye-bye “lifties.” Ice is bad for my little wings, I was told when training, and I thought “Ho ho, I’ll never get into icing conditions. Not me!”
I keyed the mic and said in what I hoped was a cool pilot voice “Minneapolis Center, this is Lancair 214DK I am picking up icing, rapid buildup, request an avoidance vector.”
ATC said “Do you want a vector?” I said “Yes I’d like to turn left immediately to avoid the icing, 4DK.”
ATC: “Lancair 214DK, you are free to maneuver as needed to avoid the ice. What altitude would you like?” All this as I was in a forty-five degree bank doing a 180, looking out the cockpit at my white wings. I said “Stand by one.”
Then I looked up and saw a blue hole in the clouds—blue sky! I think I saw the face of God, even. I said “4DK, request 12,000 feet. I’d like to slip the surly bonds of icing.” No, I didn’t say all that.
more preview–any more and it’s no longer a “preview,” I guess, over.
Minneapolis center snapped me out of my near panic, which I bet is a lot like real panic. They said in a clear, slow-paced voice: ”214DK, you want to climb to avoid the icing?”
Well that snapped me out of it. I said “Center, thank you for asking that— request lower, Lancair 214DK. I’ll go touch God’s face later.” (I may be embellishing here.)
ATC: “4DK, you are free to maneuver as necessary to avoid all those icebergs bobbing about in the North Sea, descend and maintain 5000, cleared direct Fargo when able. Godspeed.”
I dive down to 5000 feet like a P51 chasing a Messerschidt, boards out, and hey!—I see ground! Clear sky beneath me and around me! Fergus Falls Municipal Airport never look so good. In fact, I had never seen it before, but still. The Minnesota State Mental Hospital used to be in Fergus Falls, I idly thought, thinking about how insane it was that I descended into ice-filled clouds from blue sky, no traffic within a hundred miles of me—just because some guy told me to.
The good news about this little icing scare is that I “got on the instruments, believed the instruments,” when I was doing all that yanking and banking the clouds.
These are really funny. Please let’s see the whole article!
Sorry buy my brain went all W0X0F over this one. NOTAMR 2305071755 WIE UFN FRT TMP LMB OTS due BFO.
Could you be kind and translate this one for us?
You make some great points about safety, reading NOTAMs, and the crazy conventions of our FAA communications – and you do it in a way that everyone laughs. Keep it up. Maybe contact Rod Machado – the other aviation-focused author whose humor aligns with mine.
Love the humor, respect the hazards, but I was shiney’d. What was the point you were trying to make?
Such a humorous read along with offering some insights into navigation charts. Hope there are more to come!