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  • February 08, 2021 13:04 | Anonymous

    The North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame committee announces that William A. (Bill) Beeks has been selected for induction into the state’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Bill will join the prestigious aviation hall of fame group that currently includes 45 other individuals who have all had a significant impact to the growth, development, and promotion of aviation in North Dakota. For more information on the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, visit www.fly-nd.com/HoF.

    Bill Beeks was born January 21, 1941 in Bismarck, North Dakota. In 1957, he completed his first flight on his 16th birthday and moved on to earn his private pilot’s license at the age of 17. Bill grew up in Washburn, North Dakota and after his High School graduation in 1959, he continued his education at the University of North Dakota and received a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Arts. 

    Bill returned to Washburn in 1967 to assist his father, Clifford H. Beeks with their family business, Central Flying Service. The business was incorporated in 1969 and Bill worked hard to eventually purchase and become the primary owner. He married Mary Ann Guenthner on July 26, 1969, and together they raised their daughter, Lara. During this time, Bill began his many years of working in North Dakota as a flight instructor, aircraft mechanic, aircraft inspector, and aerial applicator. 

    Whenever friends and family would visit Washburn, Bill took time to give them an aerial tour of the area and share his love for North Dakota, the Missouri River, and its rich history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In the 1980’s, Bill flew for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Civil Air Patrol, where he helped to gather counts of campers and boats on Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River. He also provided critical surveillance for area storm damage, range fires, and ice jams.

    Bill served as the manager of the Washburn Airport for many years and was well-known around the area for his love of aviation and the services that he provided. His desire to improve the Washburn Airport prompted him to lead the effort to successfully advocate for the construction of a new concrete runway which occurred in 2002. 

    Bill was active in many different community and church organizations but was especially involved in the state’s aviation-related organizations, where throughout the years he served in multiple leadership roles. His early and active participation with the North Dakota Agricultural Aviation Association and the Airport Association of North Dakota led to many positive evolutions within both organizations as they matured. Bill also volunteered his time to act as a lobbyist for the aviation community, where he would represent the best interests of the industry during multiple state legislative sessions.

    Bill had a passion for his local community that was hard to match, and his sense of citizenship led to help place a small North Dakota farming community on the map. Bill will always be remembered for his love of aviation and his work to tirelessly show others that the front door of any community can truly begin - at the airport. 

    Bill will be honored at the upcoming Fly-ND Virtual Conference that will take place March 8-9, 2021. To find more information on the virtual conference, visit: www.fly-nd.com/events/Conference. Tentative plans are also being made for an in-person summer induction ceremony and information regarding that event will be provided at a later date.

    Questions can be directed to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission at 701-328-9650. 

  • February 08, 2021 12:59 | Anonymous

    Carol on wing of the Piper Archer II at a fuel stop enroute to Florida, October 1976. The brown bag was full of Twizzlers.

    By Rob Spiekermeier 

    Carol and I were married Saturday evening, October 16, 1976, at St. Patricks’ Church in Enderlin, ND. On Sunday, we drove to Valley City Municipal Airport in light snow flurries and cold. On the ramp was a nearly-new Piper Archer II Airplane that Larry Lindemann had serviced and fueled earlier that morning. With it, he had left a note wishing us a safe and fun trip. I did my pre-flight, checked fuel and oil as Carol secured our baggage. I called Flight Service and checked weather and winds aloft enroute. Earlier that year, I had earned my commercial license on Carol’s birthday, March 17. I had considerable time in this aircraft. It was fully equipped for IFR flight, we were ready to go!

    We blew out of there down 3-1 into light snow and wind, it was 24 degrees. We turned southeast climbing steadily and flew out of the snow into clear skies before we grazed the edge of South Dakota. I leveled and stabilized the craft at 9,500 feet and engaged the autopilot. This plane had a full panel and the latest avionics of the era. As I recall, it had two quality Nav-Com radios, Automatic Direction Finding (ADF), digital Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), a transponder, an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), and a good Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) display. It was a comfortable, quiet, dependable aircraft. I only wished it had retractable wheels.

    I was busy dialing in VOR stations, trimming the plane, leaning the mixture, and we had a nice tailwind at 9,500 feet. I had all the avionics humming and autopilot engaged, when Carol asked if I would mind if she took a little nap? “Sure,” I said, thinking about her big day yesterday. She folded her arms, leaned against the window, and fell asleep. Carol was a beautiful young woman with long dark brown hair that fell below her shoulders and eyes you could drown in. One of her special qualities was that she slept beautifully; her face was relaxed and peaceful, she was stunning!

    That’s when it happened; I looked over at her, the brilliant afternoon sun reflected off the wing, diffused slightly through the plexiglass, sparkling through her long hair. The effect was a heavenly glow about her face. Her beauty was overwhelming to me at that instant, she was my best friend, now my wife, and I loved her so much! I thanked God right then for where we were, for my blessings, and her.

    Here I am 44 years later, and this memory is still as vivid as that day so long ago. Carol died on a clear sunny morning on February 25, 2020, in our home with me by her side. Although cancer had consumed her, she died in no pain and was at peace with God. The remarkable thing was her face was just like that day in the sky when she was 18 years old. She was even more beautiful now and I loved her so much more! This was surely God’s handiwork now as it was way back then.

    I never told her or anyone else about this memory before; now, my grief has inspired me to honor her with this poem.

    God’s Grace at 95 Hundred Feet

    She was only eighteen years young, girl so sweet,

    Wed on Saturday, Sunday in snow down 3-1 we sped.

    Lifting gently, south towards Florida’s warmth we flew,

    Climb mechanical bird, leveled at 95 hundred feet.

    The Lycoming’s reliable drone, the rush of the air,

    Pointers confirm our course steady and true.

    New young couple very at ease in God’s domain,

    My glance caught her asleep, with nary a care!

    Air so clean, that only a pilot can see,

    Brilliant west sun, glistening off the wing,

    Sparkled through her lovely long dark hair,

    God’s light revealed, that girl was the world to me!

    Lord protect us from the many perils above,

    Thank you God for the gift of flight.

    Pilots do get just a little bit closer to thee,

    Help me God, to give you and her my love!

    Carol, flying with the angels.

                  All my love! Rob 8-1-2020

    Dana (Paul) Lindemann (left), Carol (Rob) Spiekermeier (center), Dani (Jarrod) Lindemann (right) at the shop in Valley City a few years ago. Three women with time in the air!

  • February 08, 2021 12:52 | Anonymous

    2021 North Dakota Aviation Association Fly-ND Virtual Conference will be held March 8-9, 2021. Join us virtually this year to:

      Learn from industry leaders


      Make Connections

    •  Associations annual business meeting –  Learn more about the association and member benefits 

    •  IA Renewal credits

    Dick VanGrunsven – Founder of Van’s aircraft

    NDAA Members attend the 2021 Fly-ND Virtual Conference for FREE!

  • December 31, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    Did you know that both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Mayo Clinic recently launched aviation podcasts?

    The FAA’s new podcast, “The Air Up There,” is a show for ““anyone who is interested in learning more about aviation — whether you’re an aviation geek (av geek, for short) like us or just getting started,” FAA officials say. The podcast covers all things aviation, from airlines to general aviation to drones.

    The Mayo Clinic’s podcast, “Clear Approach,” aims to provide health information related to FAA medical certification. It is designed for pilots to ask Aerospace Medicine experts questions about medical conditions and medications pertinent to certification issues. The podcast is hosted by Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, Senior Associate Consultant in Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine.

    You can listen to the podcasts on popular podcast platforms or online: 

    The Air Up There:


    Clear Approach: 


  • December 27, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    Eloise Ogden/MDN Several of the World War II planes are lined up in front of the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot. The planes are, from the left, “Lope’s Hope 3rd, “Miss Kitty” and “Little Horse, all P-51s, and the British Spitfire. The Minot museum has the largest collection of World War II planes in one spot in central United States.

    By Eloise Ogden, Regional Editor

    The largest collection of World War II planes in one spot in central United States is located here in Minot at the Dakota Territory Air Museum.

    These warbirds – from a legendary British Spitfire MkIXc that flew 74 missions in World War II including over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day to four P-51s, a C-53, a Canadian Harvard Mk IV and an FM-2P Wildcat.

    The planes are owned by Bruce Eames of Houston, Texas, and housed at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot. Minot Aero Center does the maintenance on the planes.

    Warren Pietsch, Minot, is the chief pilot of the fleet and also a Dakota Territory Air Museum board member.

    An Interstate L-6 Cadet “Grasshopper,” a utility transport, liaison and observer plane used during World War II owned by Cindy Beck of Wahpeton, also is at the museum.

    The collection of warbirds being in Minot got its start when Dr. Hank Reichert of Bismarck, owner of a P-51 Mustang “Dakota Kid II, “ displayed the plane at the Minot museum.

    “Dr. Reichert had allowed us to use ‘Dakota Kid’ for a number of years,” said Pietsch.

    When Reichert decided to sell his plane, he asked Pietsch to sell it for him. “People from Houston saw the ad and came here with the intent of buying that airplane – only that airplane – and to have me fly it in four air shows a year for two years. At the end of that period they were going to donate the plane back to the air museum,” Pietsch said.

    “They came here, we had lunch and they saw what we were doing for kids’ educational programs and for honoring veterans. They thought that was pretty neat,” he said.

    Pietsch took the Mustang to Houston to fly the first air show that fall. Ed Bosarge of Houston bought ‘Dakota Kid’ and another plane, a Japanese Zero. Bruce Eames, also of Houston, bought “Little Horse,” another P-51, at the same time.

    “They got pretty enthused and we had a museum in Houston that we were in. That went on from 2010 until now,” Pietsch said. He said the hangar in Houston has been sold and Bosarge has decided to direct his interest elsewhere and has sold all of his planes except one which is being sold. The rest of the airplanes belong to Eames.

    The Houston group also contributed along with the city of Minot to building the hangar, said Pietsch, referring to the hangar in Minot that houses the warbirds.

    “We did a fundraiser and got half a million dollars from the city of Minot. They told me for every dollar I raised they’d give me two so that’s how we built this hangar. They (Houston group) paid for two-thirds of it,” Pietsch said. The hangar was dedicated July 4, 2013.

    The planes have participated in air shows all over the country.

    “We did a lot of air shows – in the Caribbean, Oshkosh… – all the major air shows in the country for the last seven, eight years,” Pietsch said, adding, “This collection of airplanes is probably the largest collection of World War II aircraft in one spot in the central U.S.”

    Along with many air shows, the planes and pilots were in special observances including a 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E Day) commemoration in Washington, D.C., in May 2015.

    When people visit the museum in Minot, Pietsch said they are quite surprised what they see there.

    “People are amazed when they come in here – people in the industry and others just never expect to see what they see when they come to Minot and see this museum,” Pietsch said. He said the warbirds are part of it. “But the facility is beautiful, the people here – the volunteers and the workers here – do a great job in keeping the place nice and that has helped us maintain this fleet and have the people from Houston willing to leave their airplanes here plus we don’t have hurricanes.”

    All of the World War II planes at the museum are flyable.

    “Some of them have actual war history,” Pietsch said. “The Spitfire flew 74 missions in World War II. It was flown by the Polish Volunteers in the RAF, and then transferred to the Free French and flew over Normandy Beach during the invasion. It’s an extremely historic airplane,” he said.

    Warren Pietsch, pilot, with passenger Brinlee Sisk, Dakota Territory Air Museum staff member, prepare to leave the air museum in “Little Horse,” a P-51 Mustang, for a flight over Minot on May 8. The flight, presented by the air museum, was done in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day and to honor front-line medical workers and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Little Horse” is one of several World War II planes at the air museum.

  • December 24, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    Photos Courtesy of North Dakota Air National Guard.

    The Fargo Air Museum recently received a MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), which was originally a North Dakota Air National Guard (NDANG) aircraft, on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (NMUSAF). The 119th Wing, known as the Happy Hooligans, operated the MQ-1 Predator from 2007 until 2018, when it was replaced with the MQ-9 Reaper. 

    You may have seen the MQ-1 Predator flying around town for training purposes in years past, but now you can see one up-close and personal. 

    The Fargo Air Museum was granted full civilian museum certification from the NMUSAF in December of 2018, which allows it to request loans of aerospace vehicles for display. The certification, coupled with the ongoing, positive relationship with the NDANG, makes this a very special addition to the museum. “We are very excited and thankful to the North Dakota Air Guard for its continuous support of the Fargo Air Museum,” said Ryan Thayer, Executive Director. “Having this aircraft on display will allow us the opportunity to educate the public on the role of RPAs and the 119th Wing’s mission. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Happy Hooligans and are also actively working to assist with recruiting efforts.” 

    The MQ-1 Predator is operated by a crew, consisting of a pilot and a sensor operator, from a ground control station (GCS). The aircraft stands 7 feet tall, measures 27 feet in length and has a wingspan of 48 feet 7 inches. Although equipped with surveillance technology for the primary purpose of reconnaissance, the Predator can also be armed for light attack in warzones. To protect the legal rights of U.S. citizens, surveillance technology on U.S. Air Force RPAs is not used during training sorties over non Department of Defense controlled territory.

    The Fargo Air Museum was founded with the nonprofit mission of promoting aviation through education, preservation and restoration. Located on 19th Ave N, just east of Interstate-29, the Fargo Air Museum is home to aircraft of all eras. Visit www.fargoairmuseum.org for additional information. 

    The North Dakota Air National Guard is a trained and highly motivated force of about 1,100 Citizen-Airmen executing world class MQ-9 precision attack and reconnaissance, kinetic and non-kinetic target intelligence production, and expeditionary support capabilities for the nation and state.

  • December 20, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Jason Myrvik, Midland Door Solutions General Manager

    It’s a beautiful day for flying. The flight plan is filed and airplane checks are done. A push of a button and the hangar door will open to the airfield. 

    That’s how it should happen. But, without regular maintenance checks, there could be a headache ahead rather than blue skies.

    As with any moving piece of equipment, regular hangar door maintenance checks and services will prevent problems and the downtime and expense that come with them. After all, it’s much cheaper and faster to prevent a problem than to fix one. These tips will help do just that. 

    Take a wide-angle view. Before each use, look over the whole door for any damage. Ensure the hinges, rollers and structure all appear serviceable.

    Examine the movement mechanisms. On bi-fold doors, ensure the cables or straps track correctly over the drum before each use. Each month do a closer visual inspection of the cables or straps to look for frays, tears or breaks. Check the cable tension by pulling each away from the door while it’s closed, ensuring the straps are equally taut. Confirm, too, that the cables or straps hold the door in a straight, vertical position when it’s closed. If any adjustments are needed, be sure to do it while the door remains closed. For hydraulic doors, inspect the lines, hoses and cylinders for leaks, and repair anything that’s out of spec. 

    Grease and oil. Each year grease the door’s operating mechanism and lubricate the hinges. On hydraulic doors also check the oil reservoir before operation and, if it’s low, refill with hydraulic fluid. Also inspect the gearbox fluid level and drive chains for proper alignment. If the gearbox is low on lube, check that none of the seals are leaking, and then follow the manufacturer’s instructions for viscosity and quantity of gear lube. The drive chains should be lubricated every six months, if needed.

    Latch on to durability. If the door does not have automatic latches, make sure the manual ones fully disengage before opening. Some manufacturers simplify this maintenance point by using a single manual latch rather than two. No matter the number or style, ensure the latches remain tight against the door jamb, which will prevent potential injury or damage in strong winds.

    Look and listen. When opening and closing the door, watch the motor and brakes to ensure both are not over-working or dragging. Listen for anything that sounds different from the norm. If something sounds off, consult the owner’s manual or call the dealer or manufacturer.

    Put the brakes on. While closing the door, hit stop when it’s 4 or 5 feet from the ground and observe if it stops right away or coasts a few inches. Over time, the gearbox teeth can wear and cause the door to continue to move. If the door coasts 3 inches or more, a brake system will need to be maintained or added. 

    Keep it taut and tight. On bi-fold doors, look over the belts, sprockets, chains and chain links each month for damage, ensuring everything is properly aligned and tensioned. If it’s not, contact a dealer for service. For hydraulic doors, inspect the fittings on the hydraulic lines and hoses every three months to ensure they are tight. Also check the hydraulic pressure during operation. On both door styles, ensure receivers and remotes are undamaged.

    Don’t skimp on the opening. The limit switch, which controls where the door stops when opened or closed, may need to be reset occasionally if the door stops just shy of closing or doesn’t go up all of the way. Manufacturers typically provide adjustment instructions in operator’s manuals, but some manufacturers ensure it’s at the user’s fingertips, placing the instructions under the control box cover. If the limits are off, avoid slippage by ensuring that the control box sprocket screw is tight and the chain tension is correct. For added safety, use override switches that will stop the door from moving past its fully open point should the limit switch fail. 

    Check on safety. Look over the safety guards and shields every to ensure they are installed correctly over the operating system’s lifting drums, chains and sprockets as well as over the automatic latch components. If the door uses manual latches, test them by holding the switch while attempting to open the door; the door should not move. Also, ensure all safety decals are still in place and readable. 

    Keep an eye on it. Regularly clean the photo eyes and sensing edges, which detect objects in the door’s path, to ensure the door continues to open smoothly.

    Just like any other piece of equipment, repairs tend to be needed more frequently as a door ages. If repairs are needed every six to 12 months, it will be worthwhile and more cost-efficient to explore purchasing a new door. When that time comes, work with an experienced manufacturer that will manage the entire process, from carefully checking the building’s specs and providing a design and accurate estimate to engineering a safe, all-steel door to fit the opening. Their service should not end there but should continue through the installation and finish work as well as after-sale check-ins to address any concerns. 

    When choosing a new door, ask about maintenance-friendly options and modern conveniences, such as override systems, high wind-load ratings, automatic latches, brake systems, insulation and door liners, photo eyes, sensing edges, walk-through doors and windows and variable speed drive systems.

    Whether new or old, periodic checks will ensure the hangar door operates safely and efficiently for years to come. 

  • December 17, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Jakee Stoltz NPUAS Test Site

    In May 2019, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and the North Dakota Department of Commerce announced a $30 million dollar investment to be used to build out infrastructure to support Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) across North Dakota. The goal of a statewide BVLOS network is to enable UAS efficiencies for state agencies, local communities, and commercial sectors, including automated farming, utility inspections, and disaster response. The future of our statewide BVLOS network can be likened to common aviation infrastructures, such as navigational aids and runways which support manned aviation activities in North Dakota and across the country. Instead of each company deploying their own technology to support advanced UAS operations, North Dakota will deploy a common infrastructure that can be used by all UAS operators. Northern Plains UAS Test Site, headquartered in Grand Forks for the past seven years, has been chosen to manage the implementation of this network. 

    Immediately, Northern Plains UAS Test Site began working diligently with State and other partners, such as the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the MITRE Corporation, to plan the initial deployment of the system. The statewide BVLOS network will consist of technology to detect other aircraft and assist UAS pilots in avoiding them, technology to reliably command and control the unmanned aircraft at extended distances, and technology to monitor the entire system so as to ensure it is running at the intended performance levels. All these technologies must be robust, secure, and able to gain the necessary approvals from agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission. 

    The initial deployment of the system, called the Key Site, is beginning to take shape with the signing of several agreements with leading UAS companies. L3Harris Technologies and Thales USA have been selected to provide technology, such as radars and radios, and build out the initial Key Site infrastructure.  Volansi has been selected to provide an advanced UAS for network testing and use-case development. The Key Site location has also been chosen as the area surrounding Watford City and Williston, due to proximity to many potential use cases and existing state and local government infrastructure that can be leveraged for deployment. 

    The goal is to have an operational Key Site by the summer of 2021. At that time, UAS operators will be able to leverage the statewide BVLOS network to conduct advanced UAS operations that cannot be done today and that support their business needs. For example, the statewide BVLOS network might support an oil and gas company flying UAS with advanced sensors to inspect long distances of pipeline for integrity. Or the network might support law enforcement flying a UAS to quickly cover large areas to search for a missing person. Perhaps the network may even support the UAS being flown to deliver your packages. In all cases, the statewide BVLOS network will provide technology and support to enable these advanced operations safely in the North Dakota skies. 


    The FAA recently selected 26 schools across the United States to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI). This program recognizes institutions that prepare students for UAS careers and was launched in April 2020. Two North Dakota schools were selected:  Dakota College in Bottineau and the  University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

  • December 13, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Reed Groth, Safety Officer, Sanford AirMed

    School has started and signs of fall are here. Another great North Dakota summer is in the books. However, with the changing of seasons, winter weather will arrive and begin to play a major role in our daily lives. With that knowledge in mind, the air medical community is asking for your assistance. 

    When thinking of air medical transport, most people picture helicopters landing on a road and taking the patient from a car accident straight to the hospital. Sanford AirMed is more than that.  With two fixed-wing King Air 200s stationed in Dickinson and Fargo, they are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Flying 24/7, 365-days-a-year, these fixed wing aircraft annually log more than 400,000 miles. Serving North Dakotans for more than four decades, over 70,000 patients have been safely transported to higher level of care facilities, providing them with necessary lifesaving interventions. 

    Sanford AirMed, along with other air medical services, are calling on local airports across North Dakota for their support and assistance. Picture this: someone you know and love is having a heart attack. You are located in rural North Dakota, miles away from a hospital that has the critical interventions required to help. It is the middle of winter and a blizzard has gone through, leaving roads nearly impassable. The forecast is calling for icing, leaving the helicopter unable to respond. Your next point of care is a fixed wing transport. The good news is these weather conditions allow Sanford AirMed’s King Air 200 to accept the mission.  The only requirement is an accessible, clear, and uncontaminated hard surface. 

    Flight conditions for the fixed wing aircraft look good. Sanford AirMed is cleared to fly and the crew is ready. Unfortunately, our pilots are unable to reach personnel at the destination airport to check runway conditions; therefore, we may need to land at an airport further away, thus delaying our team’s arrival to the patient. Every minute equals precious heart muscle lost. 

  • December 10, 2020 07:30 | Anonymous

    By Leisha Lunnie, Assistant Professor of Aviation, University of North Dakota

    Fall in North Dakota is a beautiful time of year. The temperatures have dropped, the air is smooth, and it is wonderful weather for flying. Aside from what the dates on the calendar indicate, it sometimes feels like we only have a couple of weeks of these temperatures and beautiful colors associated with the season. Some would say that North Dakota only has two seasons and fall is not one of them. Regardless, fall in North Dakota can be compared to a toddler: precious and short. So, before the last of the leaves fall from our few trees and the frost covers our vehicles and airplanes in the morning, North Dakota aviators will try to log some time in that perfect flying weather where it’s not too hot and not too cold.

    I use this time of year to reinforce the dangers of wildlife to my aviation students. Bird strikes are a serious threat. They like to congregate on the runway and do not seem to be in any hurry to get out of the way. A bird flying at an altitude higher than you will usually dive, if it feels threatened. It really makes one wonder at their intelligence. Of course, a bird strike can happen at any time of year, as proven by possibly the most famous bird strike in recent history: U.S. Airways Flight 1549, nicknamed ‘The Miracle on the Hudson’ and piloted by Captain Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles. In January 2009, the Airbus A320 struck a flock of Canadian geese not long after take-off from LaGuardia and lost power, forcing an emergency descent into the Hudson River. 

    Whether it’s geese while flying an Airbus or a barn swallow while flying a Cessna 150, the potential risk for a bird strike is always present. Late summer and fall pose more of a threat, simply because of the number of migratory birds sharing our airspace. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports, approximately 53 percent of bird strikes occur between July and October. This is when fall migration occurs, as well as young birds fledging from their nests. 

    We have covered birds, but what about other wildlife pose a threat to pilots? Rabbits, squirrels, and deer do not compete with our airspace, but they may very likely be occupying space on our runways. Wait, deer? Yes, you read that correctly. While they are less common than seagulls on the runway or a jackrabbit, there’s nothing to stop a deer from venturing across a runway at the absolute worst time. 

    This, as I can share from experience, was one of my least favorite adventures in my flight career. As a college sophomore, I often flew home in my Cessna 150 on weekends. When returning that Sunday, I had borrowed my dad’s Mooney M20C, as it was faster and more fun to fly than my little 150.  

    It was about 10:30 pm, and it had been a beautifully uneventful flight, followed by a perfect touchdown. My landing rollout was suddenly horribly jarred by the impact of a large white tail deer hitting the right side of the aircraft. I didn’t immediately know what had happened, just that I needed to maintain control of the aircraft and get it stopped. It was a quiet night; the control tower had closed by this time, but the runway lights were still on from my approach and landing. The engine was already stopped due to the impact and it had already been at idle upon touchdown, so I stopped the plane right on the runway and got out to investigate. I’m sure I was shaking when I called the General Aviation terminal for assistance. It was worse when I had to call my dad. That is not a phone call I would ever want to repeat!

    We towed the plane onto the ramp and the city took care of the deer carcass, which seemed to have a broken neck from the impact. It hit just in front of the wing, right at the firewall, then rolled under causing damage to the belly of the plane. There were only a few drops of blood, so while it did a healthy amount of damage, it could have been significantly worse. I am relieved it did not happen in December, as I have already heard all the jokes and they would just be worse if there was any chance I had killed one of Santa’s reindeer. 

    This time of year, aviators need to be especially vigilant, particularly when flying at low levels over bodies of water. While I do not know of a foolproof plan to avoid wildlife, there are some things we can do to try to avoid wildlife strikes:

    Always maintain control of the aircraft (aviate, navigate, communicate)

    Have a plan for what you would do during each phase of flight in the event of a wildlife strike

    Be prepared to abort a takeoff, if needed

    Be prepared to go-around, if needed

    Avoid low level flying over bodies of water

    In cool weather, a warm windshield will have less likelihood of shattering upon impact 

    Consider keeping shatterproof glasses or goggles, in the event your windshield is broken

    Before takeoff, ask the airport manager to clear the runway of any congregating birds or animals

    If you see birds or other wildlife making a nuisance on the airport, call the airport manager or airport authority board. It is their duty under FAR Part 139 to mitigate wildlife hazards. At a tower controlled airport, you can also report it to Air Traffic Control. They have a duty under FAA Order 7110.65 to inform other pilots of a hazard. If you do have the unfortunate experience of being involved in a bird or wildlife strike, you need to report it to the FAA once you are safely on the ground and out of harm’s way. The FAA Bird/Wildlife Strike Report can be found online at www.wildlife.faa.gov. You can also submit an Aviation Safety Report online to the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) at asrs.arc.nasa.gov The ASRS collects and analyzes this data and uses it to lessen the likelihood of aviation accidents. 

    Wildlife are naturally camouflaged to blend into their surroundings. Some will bolt, others will freeze, especially with a landing light blinding them. Deer can run at speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour and do not let runways alter their course. Fences will not keep wildlife out, and to them it’s just another field to cross, whether on the ground or airborne, leaving us with the responsibility to avoid them.

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