A “MONUMENT” TO ATC EXCELLENCE – Okay, maybe I’m going overboard a little (just a little), but we had a friendly 172 pilot named Tim heading towards Monument Valley Airport recently who needed a little extra help. Natalie, one of the newer “hole”meisters was working Tim towards the airport, but it was getting to be dusk and Tim was having a hard time finding it, it’s not easy to find in broad daylight. I’ve read about the lodge down there, and it’s pretty rare to actually get someone to go in there, they usually are VFR way before they get to that point. Natalie asked me to jump in and help him find the airport once he passed it up and was heading toward Kayenta, so I did.
I got him to find the road that runs up the valley itself and he did eventually find the airport and land safely. We spoke on the phone once he landed, he let me know about the fine, ahem, employees down there. Coincidentally, I was working the “hole” when Tim came out to go back home, we got to say hi. A couple of weeks later we received his kind letter giving Natalie and I a nice pat on the back. These are always appreciated, yet rarely given, as 90% of these kinds of situations go unnoticed or unreported.
Tim has threatened to visit us again! Go a little further northeast and visit the facility when you’re out this way.
ADDITIONS TO THE HOLE – As I wrote earlier, the “hole” was absorbed into a larger low altitude area. Along with the airspace comes some new characters we have to deal with. Of course I’m talking about not just different users/pilots, but the dreaded (okay, not so dreaded really) tower controllers! I had the pleasure of visiting some of these fine facilities last week, unreimbursed of course. I also got to visit a non-controlled airport, although some would argue they all were in some way or another. Anyway, on with the report:
Eagle County Airport (EGE)– My first stop was this gem of the rockies, yeah I know, laying it on thick. At first I felt as I was Maxwell Smart getting into Control’s headquarters with the speaker and buzzer at the gate, then the door, then the elevator, I think MW (EGE’s best female controller) was having fun with me. This was a pretty nice, and fairly new I hear, facility, very impressive. Met 3/4’s of the staff and they were as friendly in person as they are to work with (don’t worry guys, that’s a compliment). I got some good pictures, got windblown on the catwalk, saw some cool military helicopters, and shot the breeze for a couple of hours. They had me fill out their visitor log, under “reason”, I put “your education”, hehehe. Then it was down the road to:
Rifle Garfield County Airport (RIL) – I had to go here to personally thank them for the awesome drinking mugs they gave to us. I got to talk to the person responsible for that on the phone (Airport Manager), then chatted with the FBO on the airport. We talked ATC, got some headsup on future airport plans, and got a sweet panorama shot of the field from end to end. I then took the family around Rifle and saw Rifle Falls and Caves State Park, highly recommend it. The next day it was on to:
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Sardy Field (ASE) – What the heck is a “sardy”? I dunno, but I checked this airport out a couple of days before it shut down for runway resurfacing. Once again, friendly folks, glad to see me and vice versa. Per FAA rules(?), it’s not easy getting into the facility, but eventually got through the gate. Got to meet the chief and a few controllers before I was summoned to save the wife from Aspen and our kids($$$). Up in the tower cab they have the local/ground controllers, with the radar approach controller right behind them, never seen that setup before. It was cool and different to see the radar guy/gal work the airplane in, be able to look up and actually see the airplane, then watch him come around and land. Remember, lifetime Center guy here, easily amused. Very interesting operation, with the head-on arrivals and departures due to the rising terrain in all directions.
As a side note, we also visited the Woody Creek Tavern, off the beaten path, a little screwy, but good atmosphere and great food. Thanks to ZDV’s XJ for that suggestion.
All in all a great trip, look forward to visiting again. Of course it goes without saying their feeling is mutual!?
CHANGING OF ASPENS (RUNWAY) – For the next couple of months, Aspen Airport will be closed for runway resurfacing. Oddly, the controllers remain, perhaps doing some air quality control as opposed to air traffic control. Well, they still have their approach control airspace to babysit. Once nice side effect is that we get to have the shelf above Eagle and can climb unrestricted. I could almost get used to that! Next we need to work on a shelf to run Rifle ILS approaches. Better yet, have Aspen run both of those airports! Yeah, getting ahead of myself again. The poker and monopoly games must be grueling down there during this closure. They could always come visit us!
TRAINING IN PROGRESS, PLEASE REMAIN QUIET – As in, don’t complain about “the hole” (the original, that is) for the next couple of months as I’m training a new guy down there. Of course, this takes away my quality time from our friends at Eagle, but they’ll get over it. I already warned Farmington and invited them to pull the usual practical jokes on the new guy.