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Greetings fellow pilots,

Monsoon Season! Fire Season! Monsoon Season! Fire Season! It’s a classic argument, or so it seems. Monsoons dictate that we need to fly earlier in the day. Fires dictate where we can, or more accurately, can’t fly.

Let’s focus on fire season first. This is a banner year for some abnormally large fires. Many of these fires are near the busiest airports in the valley. While smoke and haze can certainly impact our visibility, the more important aspect is the near instant pop up TFRs that accompany the firefighting crews. From Cave Creek to Mesa, from Highway 87 to New River, there seems to be a new fire each week, and the aerial crews are working overtime at general aviation altitudes and through populated practice areas. Part of FAR 91.103 Preflight Action has you checking for TFRs. That’s all well and good, unless one pops up 15 minutes after the briefing. Please be on the lookout for smoke, and assume that if there’s smoke, there’s a TFR around it. Assume there are multiple aircraft at various altitudes around the fire. Assume there’s a low altitude bomber en route to or from the fire. Pay attention to your ADS-B In readout, and just stay clear. 

Volunteers who participated in one of the several work parties to restore the Grapevine Airstrip can take pride knowing that your hard work is DIRECTLY helping to combat the fires in the East Valley. Multiple firefighting aircraft are staging at Grapevine, refueling and refilling. Crews are resting and prepping for more missions. Grapevine is a perfect location for many of the fires and is well-suited to the needs of the fire crews. Without the work completed by volunteers, these teams would need to stage elsewhere and waste valuable time. Thank you for the hard work you put in – it is paying off big time! Please check our Facebook site for notices on our backcountry airstrips like Grapevine. These airstrips are charted as private, and thus NOTAM’s are not available for them! We do our best to get notices up on our Facebook when we are aware of special conditions or use by firefighters. 

Monsoon season is upon us and in full swing. While the rainfall may be sporadic and intermittent, the dust storms, lightning, hail, downdrafts, and microbursts are observed nearly daily. Last week, right near the north end of Scottsdale Airport, what appears to have been a microburst struck near sunset. Multiple trees, street signs, and light poles were downed right near the approach end of Runway 21. Had a light jet, or worse, a student pilot, been on final, the outcome would have been awful. Pay particular attention to weather briefings and the time that conditions are forecasted to change. Plan for the fact that EVERY afternoon in the desert southwest will bring turbulent conditions not optimal for flying. Please do not become a statistic that armchair pilots will talk about for years to come. Plan smart, fly safe. No flight is worth your life.

Blue Skies,

Brian

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