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'Fall into flying' at grass strips in September'Fall into flying' at grass strips in September

Pilot Passport challenge celebrates autumn's arrival

Autumn arrives September 22, and with it comes fall flying fun, including leaf peeping and camping. Enjoy both with AOPA’s Pilot Passport September Fall into Flying Challenge to land at grass strips during the month.

With a 3,250-foot-long-by-250-foot-wide grass runway, Sunbury Airport on an island in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania is a great grass strip to visit during the Pilot Passport's Fall into Flying Challenge in September. Photo by Alyssa J. Cobb.

To take part in the challenge, use the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature to check in at grass strips in September. The long Labor Day weekend could present the perfect opportunity to enjoy flying and checking off lots of grass strips, not to mention camping and taking in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, or canoeing as your destination allows.

For many tailwheel pilots, this challenge is a match made in heaven. We love landing at grass strips, and whenever possible we like to base out of an airport that at least has a grass runway option.

For nosewheel pilots who haven’t yet ventured onto unpaved runways like grass, it can be a little intimidating at first. Designated Pilot Examiner Jason Blair offers some excellent tips for landing on grass in “Sod season” in the August 2019 issue of Flight Training magazine. If you rent a nosewheel aircraft, check your flight school or FBO’s rules to make sure you are permitted to operate at a grass strip.

Grass strips range in difficulty from their accessibility to their length to the extent in which they are maintained. Some grass strips in the backcountry are short and rough with difficult approaches. Others are almost as smooth as a paved runway with manicured golf-course grass and have open approaches, like the 7,000-foot-long turf runway at the famed Triple Tree Aerodrome. Because of the differences, it’s good to check out the chart supplement to learn about the strip before you go. And use AOPA’s Airport and Destinations Directory to read comments from other pilots who have landed there.

One of my favorite grass strips is Sunbury Airport on an island in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. The 3,250-foot-long-by-250-foot-wide grass runway is surrounded by a campground, so don’t be surprised if you see RVs parked around the island on either side of the runway. Landing on Runway 23, you turn base over a mountain ridge and descend to fly final over the river. The approach for Runway 5 is over a small town. Bridges connect the island to the mainland on either side where you can walk for a bite to eat. Also, not far is the Shikellamy State Park.

You might already have a few grass strips in mind. If not, look for some nearby or plan a weekend camping getaway at one by using AOPA’s Airport and Destinations Directory. You can filter search results to grass runways, camping, and outdoor activities, for example. Some airports, such as Arcadia Municipal Airport in Arcadia, Florida, pride themselves on offering great camping accommodations. Arcadia offers paved and turf runways.

The top three AOPA app Pilot Passport winners in September will receive a noise-canceling Tone Ultra Bluetooth stereo headset provided by Jeppesen. Photo by David Tulis.

If fall foliage is what you are after, look for grass strips in New England, the northern Great Lakes area, or the Rockies for trips toward the end of the month.

While you are having fun at grass strips, don’t forget to check in via the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature. The top three participants with the most grass strip airport check-ins in September will each win a noise-canceling Bluetooth stereo headset provided by Jeppesen. See the official rules.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: Travel, Apps

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