Training Tip: Discovering the destination

April 7, 2014

Preparing for next week’s cross-country flight, you study several possible destinations, noting their runway bearings and lengths, airspace class, communications frequencies, and other key details. Your instructor moves the process along by asking you to extract information about each from your study resources.

"Is there an attendant on duty at La Grange, Texas, at 8 p.m.?" she asks you. "If not, can we buy fuel? How would you turn up the runway lights? Are there any unusual traffic considerations to know about? What is a GCO?"

Reviewing the airport/facility directory listing for the Fayette Regional Air Center in La Grange, you look up answers. It’s daylight saving time these days, so local time is UTC minus five hours. (Find that information on the listing’s top line.) At 8 p.m., it is 0100Z; the airport attendant will have gone home. But fuel is available with a credit card.

The preset intensity for runway lights is low. A pilot can change the intensity on the common traffic advisory frequency, 122.7 MHz. (Check out the Air Safety Institute’s safety quiz, Airport Lighting: VFR). Runway 16/34 seems to have no unusual considerations such as a displaced threshold or a nonstandard traffic pattern, and it has precision approach path indicators to both approach ends.

"Do you see anything else?"

The question speaks for itself, so checking further, you find the answer: a note after the airport remarks: "See Special Notices—Aerobatic Practice Area."

How do you find out more about that?

The notation "See Special Notices" in an airport listing is detailed in the Special Notices section of the A/FD. (If you are reviewing the online A/FD, click the link shown under the heading VOL/BACK PAGES to bring up the information.)

There you find this cautionary information: "Aerobatic flight activity will be conducted within a 2 NM radius of the Fayette Regional Airport (3T5), from 900 feet MSL up to and including 4,000 feet MSL. The practice area is for waiver holders only. Pilots should use caution when operating within this area."

As for GCO, the directory’s legend explains that it is a ground communications outlet, usable at some nontowered airports to contact air traffic control or flight service. The GCO also provides a way to close your VFR flight plan and activate the one filed for your next leg—a westbound flight to San Marcos Municipal Airport for the AOPA Regional Fly-in.