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Backcountry caution advised

Growing crowds, aeronautical challenges

The AOPA Air Safety Institute cautioned pilots and organizers of backcountry events to be prepared for wind shifts, traffic management challenges, and high density altitude at larger events as interest in off-airport operations continues to grow.

AOPA Air Safety Institute
Photo by Mike Fizer.

As summer heats up (literally and figuratively), pilots are heading to their favorite fly-in events in large numbers. Type clubs and event organizers are busy preparing for aircraft parking, food, transportation, and event promotion. Pilots are eagerly looking forward to these events and are preparing their aircraft, camping gear, and passengers for the fun that lies ahead.

Plan for success but be skeptical if everything seems perfect. If the weather is cool and clear with a steady breeze aligned right down the runway, if the aircraft performs perfectly and air traffic control clears you direct, and the event organizers have lined up plenty of parking with a well-organized traffic flow, these optimal conditions are signals to increase your vigilance.

Do you know the airfield diagram and arrival procedures cold? Does the nontowered airport you are heading to have a published unicom or advisory frequency to help the arriving masses sort out traffic pattern congestion? Have the event organizers published clear arrival and departure procedures? Are you ready to handle a runway shift due to changing wind conditions while the traffic pattern is full? Are you ready for the pilot who “didn’t get the memo” and might be on the wrong frequency or didn’t even know a big event was planned?

Pilots and fly-in organizers should plan for success, expect big crowds, and be ready to handle the dynamic environment that always accompanies busy aviation events. This is especially true at the many backcountry events planned over the next few months, where density altitude can change significantly between morning and afternoon—which could be the difference between an unremarkable takeoff and climbout and an emergency, or worse.

Check out the AOPA Air Safety Institute Backcountry Resource Center for helpful tools to plan a successful and safe fly-in experience.

AOPA Air Safety Institute staff
AOPA Air Safety Institute Staff members share a deep passion for aviation safety. As compassionate pilots, we bring together safety research, analysis, and knowledge in creative ways to share aviation safety education with you—with the ultimate goal of one day having zero fatal accidents in GA.
Topics: AOPA Air Safety Institute, Backcountry, Situational Awareness

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