Sunday, July 13, 2008

Airplane Camping

I still dream of some airplane camping; this is part of the reason I chose to buy a Cessna 182 and currently don't have the wheel pants on. Flying to a location and hopefully camping right there on the field. Hopefully, a nicely wooded area next to the air strip which is probably a backcountry airstrip. There are a few paved strips that seem to have some good camping next to them.

I will try to capture a few ones higher on my list to go check out. Please comment and tell me if you have some favorites or really enjoy these. I have not camped at any of these yet and have just landed at the Idaho ones. Beware that a number of these are more difficult backcountry strips and need training by an instructor such as the ones at McCall Mountain/Canyon Flying Seminars. I have taken the basic course and written about my experience, and it was a good one.
Web sites

I ran into this web site which has some interesting airplane camping info and list of airplane camping places. SW Aviator has a number of interesting articles on some of the strips and airplane camping in general. I found an interesting article on airplane camping on

Guide Books

There are crutial backcountry guide books available for Idaho, Utah, and Montana at QEI Publishing. These and The Flyer's Recreation Guide and The Western US Pilot's Guide are available at the Pilot Getaways Web Store.


Idaho has many backcountry strips. The strips were put in place many years ago since there are many ranches tucked into the mountains without any easy access other than planes. Then some wilderness areas were established, but the air strips remain and are needed/used.

3u2 Johnson Creek. Very well known and a beautiful strip. It has sprinklers to keep the grass strip nice along with nice camping facilites including showers. You can see it live with the Johnson Creek web cam or with a time lapse here. Fishing is nearby.

U60 Big Creek. This one is nice since it has both camping and a lodge. So if you get tired of camping you can go over to the lodge for food or sleep. There is horse riding available; fishing is down the hill. Here is some information about the lodge at Big Creek.

U87 Smiley Creek. A little bit easier strip although high altitude. There is the Smiley Creek Lodge nearby with food and lodging. There is camping on the field too. Here is the web cam for Smiley Creek.

Many, many others exist. Those two are the ones I wonder about taking my family to first.


Kwys West Yellowstone. I have talked about this one before in my blog about Yellowstone and Teton. It is a paved strip with nice camping on the field.

Many backcountry strips exist in Montana. Here are a few.

53u Ferndale : Near Glacier National Park

8u2 Schafer, MT I saw this mentioned in the SW Flying Guide book being a good one for camping.

8u4 spotted bear, MT

3U7 Benchmark, MT


3s7 Nehalem Beach State Park, OR. This looks like a good one for the future. Right near the beach and part of a state park. Other camping exists on the field for car campers and the plane campers are separate. There is some good information on the Nehalem state park on the Oregon State Park web site. The map on that web site gives a good idea of the facilities and area around the airport.


The one I have looked into already is Big Bend Camping. I did one post earlier in my blog on Big Bend. Texas is a big state, so I wonder if there are some other good ones.


Camping is available on these fields according to the Western US Pilots Guide:
0Q5 Shelter Cove. Miscellaneous information on Shelter cove.
S51 Klamath Glen. Information around Klamath Glen Camping Resort from


Utah Backcountry pilots association is key for checking out this area.
Mineral Canyon UT75. Southwest Aviator article on Mineral Canyon.
Mexican Mountain. Southwest Aviator article on Mexican Mountain.


kors Orcas Island. Not camping on airport, but camping on the island

A Possible Airplane Camping Trip

Here is a possible week long trip idea. Idaho, California, Oregon Beach, San Juan Islands, then back through Idaho and Yellowstone:

Maybe someday...


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Aircraft Batteries

Well, this past weekend I had some fun with cancelling a flight. Luckily, I have not had too many times of this. I had everybody in the plane including my son and his friend and the plane would not start. Whir, whir, stop. Whir, whir, stop. The propeller turned very slowly, but the engine would not catch. Then I grabbed the guy from the FBO and tried to jump the plane and got the identical whir, whir, stop.

First look

I suspected the battery, but why did the jump not work? So I went searching connections. Tugging on connections under the cowling and looking at the terminals on the battery in the back of the plane. This did not seem to help quickly. And was a little bit of a challenge with two 6-year olds running around. Luckily, the other dad helped out great with that. After a little investigation, I called it off for the afternoon and decided to check things more later. Luckily, we had only planned a short little hop in the plane for a BBQ and fire station visit.

Further investigation

Later in the day, I worked on the terminals and connections more and the plane did not react any differently. I made sure when working around the battery to disconnect the negative wire first then the positive before checking any other connections; this is indicated in the Cessna 182P Service Manual that I purchased on-line. If you bump the airframe with the wrench when taking off the negative wire it is then ok. If you bump the airframe with the wrench next on the positive wire, there should not be a connection since the negative wire is already disconnected. I still am careful to not touch the airframe just in case. Then I did cleaning with wire brush and then baking soda solution as well.

I did also notice a loose connection to the jump connector; maybe that explained the jump problem? There is an extra solenoid and diodes between the jump connection and where the battery hooks in. This is for protection of reverse hookups during jumping. So maybe there are other possibilities to check there with the A&P. Maybe I have two problems: battery problem and jump connection problem?

After looking further in my airplane logs, I noticed that the battery had been in use for 4 years and the previous battery had last 5 years. So... I started thinking more about a new battery.

Checking on a new battery

I took the battery out and had the FBO check it. One cell ended up looking bad with a hydrometer test, and they put the battery on a charger just in case. So time to start looking into new batteries.

I found a reprint of a recent Aviation Consumer battery article. It can also be found on the Aviation Consumer web site if you have a subscription. This is an excellent magazine for the plane owner. The article mentions a bit about both Gill and Concorde batteries and of both the flooded and sealed types. It mentions that sealed gill batteries had some problems, but should be ok now. Otherwise Concorde seemed to be a little better than Gill, but Gill was still ok. The article also talked about a number of other intersting things. Sealed batteries need to be new from the factory or kept good by charging periodically. The charger for the sealed battery is a special kind. The flooded battery should be charged before putting into use. It seems the sealed battery is not as important for this (maybe due to periodic recharging?), but still a good idea.

I also found some possible places to get batteries on-line: Aircraft Spruce batteries, Chief Aircraft Gill and Concorde batteries, and Air Power has some good deals on batteries.

In the End

On Monday, I checked in with the A&P and he indicated that battery was bad (one cell was bad) and they did have a Gill G-35 battery. So he got one ready for me. I really needed to either have my plane working that morning for an aerial photo mission, or I had to rent. So the Gill G-35 looked like the way to go. The previous battery in my plane was a Gill and lasted 5 years, so it must be ok.

It is interesting that the batteries are stored at the FBO without any liquid. Then the acid is added at the time the battery is put into service, and then it is charged. In my case, it was charged for maybe 1/2 hour with the filling caps off, then they waited for bubbling to stop, topped off the acid, and it was ready to go. There price was a little more than the on-line prices, but not too far off. $206 after base battery cost, acid, and tax. And not having to rent made the price even more worth while.

The time to put the battery back in the plane. First clean the battery box with baking soda and water solution, clean the terminals, coat the connections with petroleum jelly, and I was good to go. It fired right up like it used to, and I was off on my photo mission.

Another day and experience in owning my own airplane. I am sure it will be easier to recognize and diagnose next time.