Last month’s Airport Focus column on Sierra Vista presented the attractions and activities in the area. This month, we’ll focus on the VFR approach and departure procedures. Sierra Vista is unique in that it is not only a joint-use military and civilian airport, but it is also under Restricted Areas and is home to many Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), better known as drones. While you may see some unique aircraft in the pattern with you, it’s not any different than any other Class D airspace.
Located approximately 75 miles southeast of Tucson, just south of the rugged Whetstone Mountains, the Restricted Areas R-2303A, R-2303B, R-2303C and R-2312 surround the Sierra Vista airport (KFHU). This can be intimidating because, as students, we’re taught to avoid Restricted Areas. When the tower is open, the R-2303 areas are active and ATC will provide instructions to enter them for landing. Please keep in mind that the R-2312 airspace is for a tethered balloon and should always be considered active, even when the tower is closed.
Let’s take a hypothetical flight to KFHU together and walk through the communications steps. Assuming you’ve already cleared Tucson’s Class C and frequency change has been approved, tune in KFHU ATIS on 134.75. After hearing that the tower is open and UAS activity is to be expected, we’re directed to contact Libby Approach on 127.05 for further instructions. We quickly tune Approach and report our position and what version of ATIS we have. Approach responds, indicating they have us on radar 15 miles North of KFHU at 6,500ft. They give us vectors to put us on an extended right base for Runway 26. After just a couple of minutes, Approach asks us to contact Tower on 124.95 and we oblige. After reporting in to Tower, Tower confirms there is a drone on final approach and clears us number 2 for landing Runway 26. The final approach leg is smooth, and the landing is smoother. It’s hypothetical, right? The civilian terminal and parking areas are on the north side of the runway, so we make sure to turn north on Taxiway D and stop to contact Ground on 121.7. After reporting our intention to park at the GA terminal, we’re cleared across Runway 30 and to the ramp for parking. It really is that easy.
For IFR folks, KFHU offers many approaches in a less-congested environment than most of the Valley airports can provide. VOR, GPS, ILS and a PAR. Yes, the Libby Army Airfield tower controllers offer Precision Approach Radar approaches. If you’ve not flown a PAR, you’re missing out. Think of it as an audible ILS approach with your glideslope and course corrections read to you by a controller using very precise equipment. Simply follow the verbal instructions and you’ll be on the ground quickly.
Even though the communications and approach are simple enough to understand, our goal is to ensure you do not break airspace rules unintentionally. Please study the sectional on your favorite EFB app. Study the A/FD and become familiar with the nuances of this joint-use airfield. Study the taxi diagrams to ensure you know where you’re headed once on the ground. Honestly, these are the same steps you should perform before any flight, so this one is no more difficult.
As for the fee structure, there are no landing fees. The Sierra Vista airport website lists a $5/day parking fee for singles, $6 for twins, and $10 for jets and helicopters. 100LL is available full or self-serve at $5.36 and 4.95, respectively. Jet A is $4.91 and is full-serve only.
Ground transportation is available via rental car with Dollar, Hertz, and Enterprise serving the airport. Uber and Lyft also provide service, as do a few shuttle/taxi companies.
Please visit our Facebook page or our website for details on the upcoming barbeque and ATC briefings at KFHU we’re planning for October. Details are being finalized and we’ll announce them soon. I hope to see you there.