I'm happy to say that all the BIRDS have migrated safely to Colorado to kick off the Fall Migration tour. They arrived from Paraguay, Luxembourg, Belgium, Tennessee, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, England, California, Georgia, Ohio and Michigan. (Oh, and if you count us, from Alaska, too!) The "paranormal" activity at the beautiful Stanley Hotel in Estes Park serves as a great gathering point for this paranormal gang! :)
The countdown is on for the upcoming "Fall Migration" tour, scheduled to begin October 2. In the past week, I've received some amusing articles about the National Parks or, more to the point, VISITORS to the National Parks. Read on to see what folks have been up to and complaining about as we tour America's treasures.
MOTHER JONES: I Can't Stop Reading One-Star Yelp Reviews of National Parks
SAFE BEE: The Dumbest Things People Do in National Parks
There have been some interesting articles recently related to the America's national parks. Among them:
And the more worrisome news from today, at least for Cat Herder, is this tidbit from ABC news about the potential for a government shutdown later in 2015. Let's hope that the infamous, last-minute shutdown of 2013 doesn't repeat itself this year. It wasn't much fun for a National Parks tour guide, let me tell ya!
But not the "pair" that Parkwest normally flies with!
This time, Roberto (aka Beto aka Silver Fox) came with his son, Rodrigo, to experience the Last Frontier. Roughly speaking, that's an 8000-mile journey to reach us, and Cat Herder is impressed! We pulled out all the stops to help them see Alaska "Parkwest-style," meaning: cram as much action as you can into a few days' time!
Let this serve as an invitation to the rest of you Parkwest family members: come see us!!
Thanks for the calls and emails of concern, everyone. Collin is doing well, but working a LOT of hours in the far reaches of the Last Frontier. Below is a snapshot of the statewide fires in Alaska. If you ever want to know where he's currently flying, you can click here, or go to the bottom of any page and follow the Where is Parkwest links?
Check out this recent NY Times article about the proposed development of a Chinese National Park System. Doesn't this view of the Huanglong alpine park look like a great Parkwest destination?
As some of you know, Parkwest friends Mark and Kathie Cassidy have caught the National Parks fever. Several years ago they showed up for a Parkwest trip and, after receiving their National Parks Passport book, they've worked overtime at collecting in the pages. One of their most recent accomplishments was traveling to the National Park of American Samoa (NPAS). They have this great program, where they encourage folks to buy a NPAS t-shirt, and wear it around to other National Parks around the country, sending photos to their website and Facebook pages.
What a nice surprise when Cat Herder opened her mail one day to find that the Cassidys had sent HER a NPAS t-shirt, to help the traveling t-shirt effort. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to contribute as we traveled the Denali Highway. Can't miss that lime green t-shirt--it's pretty unique! I'll have a great opportunity to collect some more Parks in the shirt this fall, on our Fall Migration tour.
Thanks, Mark and Kathie, for the t-shirt and the continued sending of postcards from your National Parks travels (the most recent installment from Weir Farm NHS in Connecticut).
Thanks to Paul H. for sending this to us:
For Immediate Release
U.S. Pilot’s Aviation Nightmare in Mexico
Think Twice About Flying Your Plane to Mexico
The press release on Mexico's extreme treatment of a private pilot in Cancun has identified even more concerns about Flying to Mexico. But first the specifics of the C210 incident.
The pilot was cleared to land at Cancun Feb 27 and the plane was immediately impounded and held until March 6. He and his wife arrived Cancun from a two night visit to Belize following a Fly In to Guatemala with Caribbean Flying Adventures.
There is a 2008 Mexican Civil Aviation (DGAC) regulation requiring aircraft arriving Mexico airports from other than the U.S. to land at Tapachula in the southwest or at Cozumel. Unfortunately, this restriction is not posted as a NOTAM. The average GA pilot would not have a clue as to its existence and would not even think to look for it beyond checking NOTAMS for Cancun airport which is listed in all directories as an airport of entry. The C210 pilot checked NOTAMS, filed a Mexican APIS, filed an international IFR flight and was in constant radio communication with ATC including Cancun approach and Cancun tower.
DGAC knew the aircraft was arriving from the south and nevertheless cleared it to land. It then immediately impounded the aircraft and kept the pilot waiting for six days before making him pay a $1,000 fine. The only aircraft authorized to land at Cancun from the south are those carrying very senior Mexican government officials and diplomatic flights with very senior officials from other countries. The other 99% of the flights from the south must land at Cozumel. It remains inexcusable that Mexican Civil Aviation chooses to clear the 99% to land - knowing that they are arriving from the south - and then immediately impounds the aircraft and threatens the pilot with fines up to $25,000.
Caribbean Flying Adventures (CFA) has made two requests to the Mexican DGAC: 1) please publish a NOTAM for Cancun instructing pilots to land at Cozumel when arriving from other than the U.S., and 2) instruct Cancun approach and tower to notify aircraft coming from the south to land at Cozumel. These two actions would easily prevent future incidents. When the C210 arrived on Feb 27 it was one of two planes in the same predicament. The C210 was not an isolated incident. How many more unsuspecting private pilots wishing to spend their tourism dollars in Mexico must be put through this same nightmare? Obviously, there is a critical need for a NOTAM. Mexico's Civil Aviation Authority has refused both requests.
Hopefully, those with an interest in advocating for U.S. private pilots will encourage the Mexican Civil Aviation authority to issue a NOTAM at Cancun.
Send an email, if you like, to the following DGAC officials suggesting that their harsh treatment of private pilots is discouraging private aviation tourism to Mexico and would they please publish a NOTAM for Cancun regarding arrivals from the south. Would they also please instruct their officials at the major airports of entry to follow existing regulations consistently and welcome private aviation tourism with open arms instead of open palms: Enrique Moreno Navarro email@example.com and Guillermo Alberto Magana Hernandez firstname.lastname@example.org
Caribbean Flying Adventures recommends that private pilots with limited international experience who are used to landing in the Bahamas and clearing customs in 10 minutes not fly their aircraft to Mexico. There are simply too many hassles and potential pit falls. To mention a few . . .
1) a recent aircraft was cleared for takeoff but was escorted back to the terminal by police vehicles because Mexican authorities had made a $3 mistake with the airport fees. He paid the $3 and was then charged another $100 ramp fee; 2) last year CFA obtained a multiple entry permit coming from the north and was forced by Cozumel to buy another multiple entry permit coming from the south; 3) Chetumal (MMCM) insists on making payment with credit cards for airport fee and charges $95 for a multiple entry permit - Cozumel insists on paying with dollars and charges $140 for a multiple entry permit; 4) Cozumel does not require immigration forms or passenger departure taxes for a fuel stop (as is the internationally accepted rule for "technical" fuel stops) - Cancun and Chetumal insist on immigration forms and collecting passenger taxes for a fuel stop; 5) a fuel stop in Cozumel takes approximately 90 minutes - in Chetumal, 3 aircraft spent 2.5 hours for a fuel stop in February; 6) a private pilot last year was invited to the Commandante's office at Cancun and invited to pay a $100 fee to expedite his airport experience; 7) Mexican regulations for the new APIS remain unclear. Currently, Mexico does not respond to APIS submissions so the pilot is completely exposed should some local official decide to create a problem; 8) Mexican management of the now strictly enforced overflight permits and fees are unreliable. There have been instances in the past six months where highly experienced pilots whose overflight fees have been paid have been turned back at the boundary for lack of payment!
To repeat, for those pilots accustomed to flying to the Caribbean islands with a flight plan and few General Declaration forms and clearing customs in in 10 minutes, Mexico may not be a good choice for a you and your aircraft. Unless your Spanish language skills are passable and you are comfortable "tipping" officials to resolve " problems" you should think twice about flying your plane to Mexico.
Mexico is a great tourist destination generally but Mexican airports and local Civil Aviation authorities seem to operate on whims. On the other hand, the Baha side of Mexico is much more inviting and less problematic than the east. And of course when Flying with an experienced tour operator such as the Baha Bush Pilots, there are no worries at all.
Communicating in English is problematic and the entry and departure procedures are overwhelmingly bureaucratic. Go if you are confident or are flying with the Baha Bush Pilots. Otherwise, fly your plane to tropical destinations where you are welcome and safe.
President and Pilot
Cat Herder (aka Marisa) has been guiding pilot tours in the American West for over a dozen years. Keep tabs on your Parkwest pilot friends, National Park news and other tidbits here!