Expanding Your $100 Hamburger Horizons

Improve your skills and have fun in the process.



Many pilots have a list of favorite airports where they know they can get a decent hamburger or engage in some friendly banter with the locals. If you fly a minimum number of hours a year and tend to stay in your local area, however, it’s easy to lose the skills you attain by varying the airports at which you choose to land.

If you’re so familiar with your own airport and the handful you regularly fly to that landing at a new one feels strange, its time to expand your horizons. The best way to improve your “adaptability” skills is by actively seeking out new airports. Make it a goal to visit as many new airports as you can, perhaps by planning trips to every one in your county or state. The more “strange” airports you have under your belt, the more it will improve your overall skill as an aviator.

When landing at a new airport, make it a personal goal to try to touch down in the first 600 to 800 feet of runway, regardless of how long it is. The idea is to become comfortable consistently landing on runways that are less than 2,000 feet long, even if your home airport has much more than that length of hard surface available.

For the typical light single-engine airplane, 2,000 feet actually isn’t that short. Still, for pilots who never fly into short runways, landing in that amount of room can seem daunting. If your short-field skills are rusty, find an instructor who is an expert at getting in and out of tight spaces and head for the shortest runways you can find. In no time, 2,000 feet will seem plenty long. The added benefit is that you’ll get to visit lots of great little airports that you might not have realized even existed.