Pilots are always out for a new adventure. General aviation pilots want to enjoy the freedom to fly and explore new places along the way. So Lightspeed asked our GA pilot community to share about their favorite GA airport and what makes it special to them and the pilot community it serves.
Enjoy reading about these notable GA Airports from the following pilots in the Southern U.S.
Shakira Baly: Tennessee
While Nashville, TN is gaining popularity by the thousands, daily, BNA is definitely finding itself faced with more construction, congestion, and renovation to cater to changes in the Class C airspace, making the need to highlight the other smaller, great neighboring airports a necessity to get to know. From Music City Executive (KXNX) hosting the Nashville99s Airplane Wash, with their unofficial mascot of the “Aerial Mermaid” , to John C. Tune (JWN)’s new tower concept, with plenty of renovated hangars, to Lebanon Airport (M54) with its open airspace to land without congestion. My ultimate favorite, though, is Smyrna Airport (MQY), a public general aviation and military use Class D airport, also houses two flight schools, one of which I attend. Also, did you know NASCAR race driver Dale Earnhardt parks his private jet there? And EAA goes through each of these airports to host its Young Eagles; and one of those flight schools (Flying High Again) is in talks with the owner of HydroplaneAero, to swap the powerplant of the single-engine airframes to the new hydrogen fuel cell power plant! How forward thinking is that? This is just to say Nashville’s surrounding smaller airports are hidden jewels within themselves for pilots to discover for the perfect landback Southern Hospitality charm and laid back, engaging energy that literally welcomes all pilots to explore!
Katie George: Mississippi
OLIVE BRANCH AIRPORT in Olive Branch, Mississippi, is the airport I love most. With its close proximity to Memphis International Airport, Olive Branch is the perfect choice for GA travel into the Memphis area. Olive Branch is where my love of aviation began–and I know it has the same impact on many other aviation enthusiasts in the Mid-South.
While many people would rather not be at an airport at 5:00am in the summers, I will always treasure Olive Branch at this time. After a quick hello to Derrick, a fueler at the local FBO, I would run through preflight procedures and takeoff fifteen minutes later, amazed at how the sun spilled over the horizon, casting Memphis in all shades of pink and red and orange.
Most of all, however, I love Olive Branch for its people: The air traffic controllers are some of the friendliest out there. They’ve helped me through engine failures and bird strikes, students’ first solos and bad weather moments. The fuelers update me on their travel plans, and we chat about the weather (and we Memphians love to talk about the weather). Local pilots are quick to share stories, and the next thing you know, now we’re lifelong friends. And, most importantly, the student pilots at Olive Branch: Those student pilots are the ones who inspire me the most, as though I was only in their shoes a few years ago, I see the future in them. And what an exciting future lays ahead!
William Dubois: New Mexico
Every landing on Runway 08-26 at the Santa Rosa Route 66 Airport is touching history. That’s because when you touch down on our east-west runway at KSXU, you’re landing on, well, Route 66.
Yep, it’s true! When the Interstate came to eastern New Mexico in the 1960s, a new route was chosen through and around Santa Rosa, leaving an isolated strip of the original mother road on the outskirts of town – an arrow-straight strip of asphalt west of U.S. 84. It seemed that something useful should be done with it, so the City Fathers had a difficult decision to make: drag strip or airport?
Given we are talking about a historic highway, a drag strip might have been more appropriate, but thankfully, the airport option won out.
So come land on the original Route 66 without breaking any FAA regs, and grab some ice cream from our terminal’s freezer. Want to check out 1950s roadside architecture, visit an awesome classic car museum, or dine on authentic Southwestern cuisine while you’re here? Simply call the Police Department and they’ll send out a cop out to pick you up and give you a ride. Yeah, we know, it sounds a little creepy, but the guys are really nice, and as an extra benefit, you can startle your friends and family by telling them how you had to ride in the back of a police car – after getting your kicks, on Route 66.
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