How is Parkwest different from other flying services?
Parkwest is the original air safari company in the western US, with over twenty years' experience guiding tours. We have flocks of satisfied customers who would be more than pleased to attest to the quality of our tours and our expertise.
We cherish our National Parks and protected lands, and we plan tours to help clients experience their beauty and serenity to the fullest-- from the cockpit and on the ground. No other area in the world can boast our incredible scenery, nor provide the opportunity to overfly it. We've spent years researching the most beautiful routes, and it was worth it. Clients who have traveled the world over tell us that our flying routes are among the most spectacular they've encountered.
We provide quality activities and education on the ground--and pilots and spouses alike have raved about them! We add value to your trip by providing tours with Park Rangers and local guides. And yes, we sprinkle in some free time for you to enjoy the area all to yourself.
We try to always stay at historic lodges in our National Parks, not run-of-the-mill tourist motels. The National Park lodging and transportation logistics are difficult, but we handle the hassle months in advance so you don't have to.
Could we stay at less expensive places and provide fewer amenities on our trips? You bet. But you would miss that sunrise stroll at Grand Canyon, the meteor shower from Death Valley's Furnace Creek, and sampling a hearty buffalo steak in a charming "locals" restaurant. Believe us, these are experiences you'll cherish forever.
Who can participate in these tours?
All pilots and their guest(s) can fly as part of these tours. A minimum of 100 hours of flying experience is recommended. All pilots should be comfortable with cross-country flying, including pilotage and radio navigation techniques.
Do I need an instrument rating?
No, an instrument rating is not required, but competence in your ability and confidence in your aircraft performance are paramount. Tour destinations are rarely, but sometimes, planned in coastal areas, or other regions that may be prone to IFR conditions. In these instances, we do recommend instrument capability and competence, but we can usually accommodate those without an IR by modifying our activities or schedule, as needed.
What about aircraft rental?
If you need to rent an airplane to fly on tour, a good option is to coordinate with an aircraft rental facility near either the start or the end of the tour. Please contact us for recommendations depending on your specific tour.
What is the impact of the Western Wildfires?
The Western U.S. has experienced some severe fire seasons the past few years. The impact of these fires on general aviation is reduced visibility and some Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). However, the Parkwest tour leaders monitor the situation daily and before each flight during each tour to ensure that the tour route does not encroach on any TFRs and that visibility remains "good VFR." In general, the smoke may reduce visibility to about 50 miles, from our normal 100+ mile visibility. These conditions are generally localized, and will probably occur only on isolated days during the tour. For the locations of all current large fire incidents, see the National Fire News.
How can weather affect my trip?
Flying weather in the West is generally good; clear skies and unlimited visibility are the rule rather than the exception. Summertime spawns thunderstorms over the mountains, especially in the afternoons. For this reason, flights on these tours are scheduled almost exclusively for the mornings, with afternoons reserved for non-flying activities.
As with all flights, these tours are subject to weather conditions. Free/non-flying days are built in to the tour itineraries so you can enjoy the National Parks, but also in case weather conditions force a delay in the itinerary. Free days will be used to make up lost weather days whenever possible.
Each morning (on flight days) the guides will acquire and distribute all available weather information. The guides will discuss the forecast weather with all pilots and make a go/no-go decision for that day's flight. If appropriate, the scheduled flight will be revised to a different destination. If a flight is cancelled or revised, the trip itinerary will be adjusted accordingly. If necessary, the tour will skip a destination or "free day" in order to get back as closely as possible to the original itinerary.