Back Country Airstrips Get Support

Congressmen Denny Rehberg (Montana), Allen Boyd (Florida), Vernon Ehlers (Michigan), Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Walt Minnick (Idaho) have jointly introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives supporting recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips on America’s public lands.

“With 147,000 square miles, there are plenty of places in Montana that you just can’t get to by road,” Rehberg, a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, is quoted in a story in the The Clark Fork Chronicle of Montana. “That’s why aviation is as important to modern Montana as the horse was for frontier Montana. During a time when our lands are under threat from drought, insect infestation and wildfire, and when our economy continues to struggle, backcountry airstrips serve a valuable role for land managers and visitors alike.”

“As a pilot, I know that many of us combine flying with other recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing and camping,” said Boyd, co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus. “This legislation recognizes the important role rural backcountry airstrips are to general aviation enthusiasts and tourists across the country, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this resolution.”

Read the full story here.

From Idaho

To All Fellow Aviators,                                                                                                 July 13, 2010

It is our responsibility as pilots to ensure an orderly and safe flow of traffic in and around Idaho’s backcountry airports.  The FAA Airport/Facility Directory, the Idaho Division of Aeronautics Airport/Facility Directory, and Galen Hanselman’s Fly Idaho are three sources that provide the most current approach and departure recommendations to the most popular airports.  Information passed by word of mouth or over the Internet, although well-intended, can skew these recommendations and inadvertently mislead others into attempting maneuvers beyond their abilities or better judgment.

Recent events indicate that misinformation about the traffic pattern at Johnson Creek is being circulated, creating a potentially unsafe situation.  The following is meant to correct any misunderstandings as to what patterns are flown, when, and why.

It was Emma Bryant’s graciousness and generosity that provided the land on which Johnson Creek now sits.  The Bryant family, whose ranch house sits on the hill at the south end of the airport, fully supports all flying activities at Johnson Creek.  However, they have three requests of those flying into Johnson Creek:  First, under normal conditions, make all landings to the south and all takeoffs to the north.

Second, landings to the north are permitted whenever the pilot decides, based on weather and not convenience, that a landing to the south is unsafe or unwarranted.  However, offset your base leg to the south and final approach to the east to avoid overflying the house.

Lastly, takeoffs to the south are strongly discouraged:  your takeoff path is directly toward the ranch house; you are taking off toward rising terrain; and a marginally performing aircraft, struggling to stay airborne, flying passed their living room window is very disconcerting.  In the recent past, high density altitudes led to three accidents and seven fatalities, each aircraft failing to out climb the rising terrain to the south.  Unfavorable southerly winds generally occur in the late afternoon when aircraft should remain on the ground until more favorable conditions prevail.

As a courtesy to the Bryant family, we should honor their requests.

One last item:  noise is our greatest enemy in the backcountry.  Most of the airplanes we fly are noisy and sound travels great distances in the canyons.  That sound amplifies tremendously when we fly in formation, make low passes, and multiple takeoffs and landings.  Johnson Creek and the nearby village of Yellow Pine represent a cross-section of the local population and those that come to enjoy our pristine mountain beauty.  Not all of them are pilots, yet all of us share the same purpose and must find a way to enjoy our pursuits without treading on those of our neighbors.

Please enjoy our airports, but also be considerate.


Frank W. Lester, Jr.
Safety/Education Coordinator
Idaho Division of Aeronautics