Person County (KTDF)

Person County Airport (KTDF) is a nice little airport near Roxboro, NC, about 25 miles to the north-northwest from Raleigh (Radial 242/46.6 RDU VORTA 117.2).

Unlike, say, Louisburg, which often has glider or parachuting activity, Person County is not very crowded. Usually I’m the only aircraft in the pattern. There are few obstructions, and the folks at the FBO during normal business hours are friendly.

Fuel is reasonably priced ($5.99 for AVGAS as of 6/22/14) but is only available from a truck when the FBO is open. If you want gas after hours, you need to make prior arrangements and possibly pay a call-out fee.

The airport is just to the west of Durham Rd., and about 10 miles south of Roxboro.

Early evening landing at KTDF in June 2014 in preparation for my Check Ride

Back from the Coast

BeaufortTripThat’s me somewhere near Wayne Executive (KGWW). We returned today from Beaufort (KMRH) departing runway 26 (right pattern) and then to the northwest.

The plane was gassed and ready to go. After a pre-flight inspection and run-up, we were off. Weather was a little bit of concern because of the threat of thundershowers.

At breakfast, I checked ForeFlight and saw bands of clouds between Beaufort and Raleigh, with the threat that some of the clouds would get worse. When we got to the airport, things looked a bit better, and were basically clear, with scattered or few clouds near the airport.

KMRH KRDUWe took off at about 10:30 or so, and after achieving an adequate altitude, headed northwest, contacting Cherry Point approach to request flight following through the Cherry Point and New Bern airports. I requested an altitude of 3,000 up to Raleigh, but deviated – with notice to flight following – to avoid clouds.

I had alternate airports picked out – Wayne Executive/Goldsboro, for instance – in case weather got worse rather than better. But the clouds were burning off as we flew, and RDU turned from marginal VFR to VFR, so we pressed on.

Approach into Raleigh was smooth. We were given 32. I have to say the landing was quite good: a greased it on the center line in calm weather. It was a nice way to end the beach trip, and to show my wife that, hey, the landings can be super smooth.

A Great Trip: Ocracoke

Ocracoke-W95If you’re looking for a day great trip from Raleigh, I’d suggest Ocracoke, NC for a couple of reasons. First, getting there by car from Raleigh (or points north or south for that matter) is difficult and time consuming. It’s remote. A trip that could take five or six hours from Raleigh by car, however, took me about an hour and fifteen minutes at 110 kts (with a good tailwind) in my Piper Cherokee 140.

You’ll want to avoid the Restricted space around Cherry Point. From Raleigh (KRDU), I flew to the intersection VPKJU to avoid the restricted (R-5306A) space to Ocracoke (W95).

I used flight following from Raleigh all the way down to Ocracoke. You can contact Cherry Point Approach on 124.1.

Ocracoke is a 3000 foot by 60 foot runway about 5 feet above sea level with runways 6 and 24. Since the winds generally blow along the coast, either 6 or 24 generally work, although it gets crosswindy as you come in to the actual runaway for the landing. A windsock near the helipad helps.

There are no nearby obstructions, and night time operations are prohibited.

Ocracoke has an air conditioned pilot’s room with a working computer with internet access, and a VHF radio to listen to the CTAF – 122.9 – or to call from a pick-up by golf cart from Howard’s Pub

Howard’s Pub is the go-to location on Ocracoke. While it used to be open year-round, now it’s open from late March to around Thanksgiving. Visit its website or call ahead at 252-928-4441.

If Howard’s is not open, try Gaffer’s at 252-928-3456.

If no golf cart ride from the airport is available, walking is an option. Take a left at the road (Irvin Garrish Highway / Rt 12).

The beach is just to the right of the ramp as you walk out of the gate. It’s a beautiful beach, with very few people. There are no facilities, however, and no bathrooms at the airport, although I suppose you can change in the Pilot’s Lounge which is accessible by “squawking VFR” on the door lock.

After having a great lunch at Howard’s, we walked around town, got decent latte, and then got a golf cart ride back to W95. We ended up flying south, southeast along the coast, careful to avoid the Cherry Point restricted space, and ended up landing about 30 minutes later at Michael Smith Airport / Moorehead / Beaufort County (KMRH) where we stayed for a few days at Atlantic Beach. While it was windy, Beaufort has three runways, which means you can find a runway where operations produce very little crosswind.

The FBO we used at KMRH was Southern Air where you can get fuel and pick up a car. Unfortunately, the FBO is not cheap: AVGAS is $6.50/gal or above, and the FBO imposes a $20/day surcharge on Enterprise rental cars. While its convenient to pick up the car straight from the FBO, the price is a little hard to swallow.

Flying into RDU

I’ve had the great fortune of parking my Cherokee 140 at Landmark, a fixed base operator at Raleigh Durham Airport. Landmark caters to corporate clients, but they have treated me and my little plane well thus far. The AVGAS is more expensive – $7.49 – than I’d like and I will often fuel up elsewhere. But the tie-downs are reasonably priced, and the service is generally very good.

The other great thing about learning to fly at RDU is learning how to talk to and deal with Air Traffic Controllers, large airplanes and their wake turbulence, and vectoring into a runway. Raleigh’s Air Traffic Controllers are generally very pleasant and always professional. They will also accommodate requests when they can. As a student pilot, I would sometimes request one of the longer runways – 5R or 23L – rather than the short runway 32, especially at night. RDU controllers were usually willing to accommodate my request.

Raleigh is big enough to be a Class C airport, but not so big that it is difficult to deal with for a new pilot like me.

Passing my Check Ride

Burlington Alamance FBOI took my check ride earlier this week with Zenda Liess at Burlington/Alamance Airport (KBUY).

I went in with about 120 hours of flight time, which is three times what is minimally required to take a check ride. I decided to try to be super proficient (as much as a new pilot can be) before taking the check ride. While some people may feel comfortable being a private pilot with less than 100 hours of time, I wanted to be sure before taking people up in the aircraft, that I was comfortable flying the plane and handling emergencies.

I took my written exam at a computer testing center at Burlington in the spring. My flight instructor had taken many of his check rides with Zenda, and had had students take check rides with her in the past. He explained that she is a thorough designated pilot examiner who is fair. In short, he explained that if you pass your check ride with Zenda, you will have earned the certificate.

We arrived at just short of 2:00 – my flight instructor came with me. After confirming that my IACRA was properly submitted, we went in for the oral exam which started with airspace questions, then moved to talking about the sectional, then about my flight plane, regulations, aircraft performance information, weight and balance and so forth.

Zenda had a checklist of question areas that she marked as we went through the oral exam. I flubbed a few questions at the beginning related to G and E airspace, but have since reviewed that material.

After completing the oral exam portion, she sent me out to the airplane to do my walk around and pre-flight inspection. She came out a few minutes later. We took off at 3:30.

Zenda had me disable my GPS so I that I would be forced to navigate by pilotage and use the sectional and ground references for navigation.

We did a short field take off to start, followed by a climb out to my altitude to begin my planned route to Charlotte (KCLT). I identified my first landmark that I had included on my flight plan which was Lake Mackintosh about two minutes after taking off and about 260 from the airport.

Zenda asked me to point out my second landmark – which was SE Greensboro. I was a little off course initially, heading too far to the north. But I saw my error, pointed out Route 40 off in the distance, and corrected for the issue.

About 8 minutes in, I located the SE Greensboro. She then had me divert and locate Causey airport, a somewhat larger airport to the east of SE Greensboro.

With pilotage complete, she then asked me to fly to 3,000 feet and get comfortable to begin maneuvers. Before each maneuver, I asked her whether she wanted me to perform a clearing turn, and before each one she did, except when I went from one maneuver into another which I did on a few occasions.

First she had me go into slow flight, turn to a specific heading in slow flight, and then perform a power off stall. From there, she had me do a power on stall. And she had me do a step turn to my left.

We did a positive exchange of flight controls, and then I retrieved my foggles, and she tested me on recovery from odd attitudes.

Following the simulated IFR conditions, she pulled the power and instructed me not to put it in. I pitched and trimmed for best glide speed, identified a field and maneuvered so that I would make the field, and walked her through the check list I would perform to try to get the engine restarted or to prepare for an emergency landing if that failed.

After she saw I would make the field and we had descended enough, she said “Let’s go!” and I put the throttle back in.

Once we had recovered altitude, she asked me to navigate to the Greensboro VOR and, after I showed her that I could do it, she told me to head back to Burlington.

During various maneuvers, landings, I was careful to explain what I was doing

We then returned to Burlington for some full stop landings. The first landing was a soft-field landing, followed by a soft field take off. The second landing was a short field landing. Zenda asked me to specify my landing mark, which I told her on downwind would be the 1000 footers. I came in a little steep, but was able to hit the mark at the beginning of the 1000 footers as promised.

At that point, just shy of an hour had passed, and so we taxi’ed back to the FBO at Burlington where as we exited the plane, she congratulated me and asked for my log book.

We went in for a check ride review. Zenda had some feedback, but in general said I did an excellent job. She made an entry in my log book, and then printed out my temporary airman’s certificate.

My experience with Zenda was very positive. On the one hand, it was clear that this would be no cakewalk. On the other hand, she was very clear in her instructions and what she wanted. There were no surprises. Everything completed during the check ride was something I had gone over many times before.

But I felt I earned the private pilot license. The check ride was no gimme.

A Student Pilot and his Cherokee 140

I started training for my private pilot’s certificate in August 2014 at Raleigh-Durham Airport. In October 2014, I purchased a Piper Cherokee 140 from Todd Huvard at Aircraft Merchants at Louisburg – Triangle North Executive Airport (KLHZ)

I had previous flown most in a Cessna 172 – the most popular general aviation and pilot trainer in the country – for the first twenty-five or so of my hours. I also flew in a DA-40 and a Cessna 182 for a few hours.

In the fall, I purchased N6177W with a 150 hp Lycoming 320-E2A engine. The plane had previously been owned by an airport manager who upfitted it with an S-Tec 50 autopilot with altitude hold, a Garmin 430 (not the WAAS), a mounted Garmin 396. It also has a secondary VOR receiver.

The plane has been a very reliable trainer, and I’ve made a couple of truly cross country trips: to Freeport, The Bahamas (MYGF) in March and to Nashville (KBNA most recently.

Now I have just over a hundred hours as a student pilot, and more than 70 in the Cherokee. It’s been through two oil changes – one I was a “helper” on to learn how oil changes are done – and is nearing its annual at the end of this month.

General Aviation in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the best states for general aviation for three reasons: a large number of GA-friendly airports, a public roads system that isn’t always conducive to getting around by car, and distances that make flying in a single piston engine plane practical, and not too taxing.

This website is designed to focus on general aviation from a new pilot’s perspective. Currently a student, I own a Cherokee 140 based at KRDU, and have already flown to something like 25 airports in North Carolina, a half dozen or so in Virginia, and a string of airports on my way to MYGF in March of this year.

Mostly I’m hoping to make this website a place to find information about local airports around North Carolina, attractions around those airports, with information for pilots who want to explore the state.

General Aviation in North Carolina