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After the Checkride: Camp with your airplaneAfter the Checkride: Camp with your airplane

Use the wing as your cover

Preflight Checkride
Photography of AOPA's 2014 Spokane Fly In camping area.Felts Field (FFA)Spokane WA USA

Camping with your aircraft is one of the most joyful ways to enjoy general aviation. Who doesn’t love sleeping under the stars and waking up to a beautiful natural setting? Beneath the wing of your high-wing Cessna is a perfect spot for putting up a tent.

First, choose a destination. Do you want to fish, swim, hike, bike? Or would you be happy to set up camp at the airport and chill? In other words, should you make the camp the center of the event, or your home away from home?

Second, what kind of facilities do you require? Search your destination city in AOPA’s online Destinations database and filter by amenities to find nearby airports with camping on the field.

Some airports advertising on-field camping are only saying that if you pitch a tent next to your airplane, the airport management won’t kick you off the property. These locations may have no amenities, such as 24-hour-accessible bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, and/or fire pits. Call ahead to see what is on the field. Some strips adjoin conventional campgrounds, giving access to typical amenities. Another source can be the state board of aeronautics—many of these agencies keep track of airports that have bona fide camping facilities.

Many prime camping spots are at short, unimproved grass or gravel strips. With your family in tow and the airplane filled with gear, this is not the time to exercise short-field skills for the first time. Be sure of your skills and carefully research the performance of your airplane. Stay alert for shifting winds below the tree line and resist the temptation to carry excess speed into narrow, short strips. Also pay attention to the airport topography; because of terrain, many backcountry runways are used in one direction for takeoff and the other for landing, unless extreme winds demand otherwise.

Careful planning includes all the normal cross-country planning tasks (checking weather, planning a route, looking for alternates and alternatives) plus ensuring you and your aircraft are capable of operating at the intended airport. Some of these airports are surrounded by mountains, at high elevations, or at high density altitudes, and some have only gravel or grass strips with rising or descending terrain.

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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