A flight to Key West Airport definitely ranks among the highlights for pilots in Florida. Caribbean ambience, gorgeous flight over the Keys and a place that even cast its spell on the likes of Ernest Hemingway. This and much more make Key West Airport an interesting destination. Coming from the North, you generally fly along the coastline. However, one controlled air space follows another in quick succession. Air space transitions are usually granted as long as you stay low enough to avoid interfering with take-off and landing traffic. That’s why you are often directed to fly at altitudes between 500 and 1000 ft. If you fly low over the shoreline, there is an outstanding view over the ocean, and you might even see devil rays, whales, and dolphins. You fly along the Fort Lauderdale and Miami skylines, sometimes lower than the top stories of the skyscrapers and directly over the beach. South of Miami Beach are Fisher Island, Virginia Key and Key Biscaine, the first of the small offshore islands. The northern ridge of the actual Keys begins at about the level of Homestead, which is where Elliott Key and Key Largo are located.
Marathon, between Homestead and Key West, is the last public airport before arriving at Key West Airport.
After Marathon, you should pay special attention to a restricted area (R-2916), which protects a balloon that is tied to a steel cable and floats at a height of roughly 14,000 ft. If you have good eyes, you’ll see the balloon, but you can’t see the steel cable unless you’re really looking for it. That’s why disregarding the restricted area has not only legal consequences, but can also ruin your entire day. Shortly before Key West, you first fly over a Naval Air Station that looks incredibly inviting due to its crossed runways, but unfortunately, it is taboo for civil aircraft. After flying through the Navy air space, you are handed over to Key West Tower for landing.
Once on the ground in Key West Airport, a relatively inconspicuous FBO awaits you with services that leave nothing to be desired. You can rent a car here either from enterprise or AVIS. For a quick trip to town, it’s better to take a taxi (about $15 for two people) and enjoy the 10-minute drive to Duval Street, the epicenter of Key West. At the south end of Duval Street, there is a somewhat bulky buoy that marks the “Southernmost Point of Continental U.S.A.“ The harbor is located at the north end of the street. There are several inviting cafés and restaurants with a relaxed atmosphere and a great view of the nearby islands, at least as long as a cruise ship is not moored at the pier, which blocks the view.
The city of Key West has many museums, including Hemingway Museum, the Shipwreck Museum, the Audubon House and Garden as well as the Little White House, where President Harry S. Truman vacationed. You should check out this gem for aviators: the first office of Pan American World Airways at 301 Whitehead St. What began here in Key West with a promising name, later to become known as Pan Am , became one of the world’s leading airlines. Its first flight took off from Key West to Havana in 1927. Located today in the former Pan Am building is Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery with a beautifully shaded courtyard and a diverse menu.
Naples Municipal Airport is just a few minutes by car from downtown. The crossed runways make landing easier and the FBO’s fantastic service takes care of the rest. If you refuel here, you can park your plane free of charge and are offered a courtesy car for 1.5 hours. Otherwise, the parking fee is $21.
Even if Naples doesn’t have Vesuvius, this city on the Gulf of Mexico still exudes a Mediterranean feel. Skyscrapers are huddled together at the north end of town, while the downtown has low rises and a long white sandy beach. The city has 22,000 inhabitants, though this number rises considerably in the winter. Naples is frequently called the Palm Beach’s little sister on the Gulf. You have to have a good income to live here. Either during the approach or the take-off, you shouldn’t miss flying along the coast at a lower elevation to enjoy a fantastic view of the mansions and gardens.
If you drive into town using the crew car and have limited time, it’s best to drive to Naples pier. Like most port cities, life centers around the water. For eating and shopping, I recommend Tin City (1200 5th Avenue South Naples, FL 34102). Here, right on the water, you will find a large selection of shops and several good restaurants that leave nothing to be desired. My favorites are Riverwalk and Pinchers Crab Shack.
Right near Naples Municipal Airport and popular among pilots is Michelbobs, a BBQ restaurant famous for its spare ribs. However, it is only open seasonally and even opening hours can be a bit unpredictable. It’s best to ask at the FBO or to check their website (see below). Alice Sweetwater an Joes Diner are good alternatives.
If the crew car is not available or you want more time, car rental companies enterprise, Hertz und AVIS have offices in the FBO.
St. Augustine is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America. It was founded on August 28, 1565—feast day of St. Augustine—by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Although there were already other European settlements in Florida, many were abandoned in the meantime, which makes St. Augustine the oldest continuously populated city in the United States. The Castillo de San Marcos fortress built between 1672 and 1695 located in the center of town was witness to an era during which the Spanish had total control. The fortress and the old town are well preserved and lovingly maintained. St. Augustine was the capital city of Florida for many years until the capital was moved to Tallahassee in 1824.
Due to its unique historical status, St. Augustine is among the most popular travel destinations in North Florida, especially among the locals. Many Europeans choose St. Augustine airport as their base for flyer holidays because of its excellent tourist infrastructure and its convenient flight connections via the Jacksonville airport. However, if you want to fly here during the peak season, book early, then you will have no problem finding a hotel in any price category. The local flight schools are usually able to help you find the right hotel or lodging and often have discounts with some of them. It always worth asking!
Yet St. Augustine has much more to offer than just its history. Miles and miles of sandy beaches are ideal for sunbathing and swimming. At Alligator Farm (with ropes course next door), you learn all there is to know about Florida’s omnipresent reptiles. The old town also has good pubs and restaurants, offering much more than the usual chain restaurants.
Because the St. Augustine Airport is at the north end of town, it’s a short drive from there to Jacksonville. Galaxy Aviation unfortunately does not offer courtesy cars, but it does arrange for rental cars from Hertz. You can get to downtown Jacksonville in about 30/40 minutes from the FBO.
The St. Augustine Airport is a lively place with two large flight schools, many local airplanes and sometimes brisk jet traffic. The main runway runs parallel to the coast which means that there is often a side wind. If air traffic permits, the tower tries to use the other runways for take-offs and landings.
Galaxy has a well-organized FBO that leaves nothing to be desired. If you refuel here, you won’t be charged a parking fee.
The Fly-by Café with a slightly raised outdoor patio is located right at St. Augustine Airport (next to the FBO) where you will get a good view of take-offs and landings. With a bit of luck, you may catch some outstanding stunt flying during training. A separate aerobatic box has been set up for this purpose. Prior to landing, make sure you listen in on ATIS to find out whether the box is active (hot) or not.
Apalachicola Regional Airport
Those who visit Apalachicola today may have a hard time imagining that this quaint fishing village used to be the third most important port in the Gulf of Mexico. At that time, sponge diving, driven by the Greek immigrants who settled there, was the port’s economic engine. Nowadays, its most important product isoysters. Almost all of Florida’s oyster production takes place in the Apalachicola bay. Protected by the offshore islands St. Vincent and St. George, the breeding conditions for oysters are perfect there.
Apalachicola is a nice small American town. There are still mom and pop stores, restaurants, cafes, and ice cream parlors and no shopping mall for as far as the eye can see. Of course, eating oysters here goes without saying. Though unlike Europe, they are not served raw, but are usually roasted or fried. If you want your oysters raw, you have to order them that way especially.
The approach to Apalachicola is definitely one of the most scenic in North Florida. The Apalachicola River forms a wildly extensive river delta that flows out into the ocean, and from the cockpit, it is the perfect landmark. Those who want an extended approach can also fly over the offshore islands. If you choose this approach, then make sure you check the departing and approaching traffic on St. George. Prior to flying in, it is highly recommended that you contact the Tyndall MOA Approach (124,15 or 125,2) to register and obtain traffic information. If the MOA is active, you can then expect intense military flight traffic.
The Apalachicola Regional Airport with its cross runways is convenient to fly into, the FBO is small but very easy to find. The airport courtesy car gets you into town in just a few minutes with enough time for a bite to eat and a walk through town.
Airspace around Los Angeles
The airspace around Los Angeles area is one of busiest in the world. In 2012, Los Angeles International (LAX) alone recorded almost 700,000 aircraft movements, which makes it the world’s third busiest airport behind Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare. Within a radius of approx. 30 nm, there are three Class C airports (Burbank, Santa Ana and Ontario) as well as several other airports, which include Van Nuys, Santa Monica and Northrop Hawthorne, to name just a few. They all attract a lot of jet traffic. Van Nuys, for example, recorded an average of almost 1400 aircraft movements per day. (Source: Airnav.com)
One might assume that general aviation traffic is not welcome in such busy airspace. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, air traffic controllers treat general aviation just as professionally as major airline traffic. Though they naturally have their hands full, they do their best to respond to all VFR flight following requests. Aviators and air traffic controllers alike have found that this increases everyone’s safety and is in no way disruptive to regular airline traffic. Also, there are no less than five VFR routes through the LAX Class B airspace. Of them, the Mini Route is probably the most spectacular because at 2500 ft it goes directly above the numbers of both LAX runways. Each of these routes requires strict compliance with all stated airspace regulations. That’s why, prior to flying in this airspace, it is a good idea to find out who you have to talk to and when in order to fly safely through this sector of airspace. As long as you comply with the rules and regulations that are described in the Los Angeles Terminal Approach Chart, you are in no way the exception to flying these routes, rather the rule and it becomes a true pleasure using the airspace around Los Angeles.
On March 4, 2014, Kermit Weeks, owner of the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft, announced that his Fantasy of Flight attraction in central Florida will be closing its doors to the public on April 4, 2014. In his video message he explained that his business model was no longer economically viable in its present form and his operations were in urgent need of restructuring. Although we regret the fact that this outstanding collection will no longer be open to the public, we wish Kermit Weeks all the best in finding a new way to display his airworthy museum pieces to a wider audience. He has yet to reveal the plans he has in this direction, but we are hoping for a further announcement soon.
Shell has developed unleaded 100-octane fuel to replace 100LL
Shell Oil announced that is has developed an unleaded 100-octane piston engine fuel to replace 100LL. Presumably, the fuel will enter the FAA’s recently established fuel testing and certification process. Shell said the fuel is a culmination of 10 years in R&D and initial testing has been done with two OEMs, Lycoming and Piper. None of the companies offered any information on what the new fuel might cost.
While the German language version is already on the market, we are still working on the English version at full speed. Some parts of the translation are already done, so we have provided a preview on Createspace (Amazon). We hope that you like it.
After months of hard work, the Aviator’s Guide to Florida is now finally complete and ready to be presented. And this August there’s surely no better setting for its introduction than Tannkosh. Anyone who wants to take a look at the Aviator’s Guide will find it directly on the stand belonging to the fliegermagazin, which is supporting the guide. We look forward to seeing you there and to finally being able to present the Aviator’s Guide to Florida to the public. See you soon in Tannheim!