Have you ever landed on a road? On purpose? I haven’t.
But I’ve seen videos of aircraft, mostly in Alaska, taking off or landing on roads in rural Alaska. You probably have as well.
While there are many roads that would make fine runways, especially in an emergency, I have a hard time picturing myself using them as part of “normal” operations. But that’s me, and my personal minimums.
Following is a lightly edited Q&A with Dmitry, who flies a Cessna 172 and a Bellanca Citabria on his many adventures.
Q: Is landing on a road in Alaska legal? Or is it better said as not illegal?
A: This is a great question and very important when considering a landing on a road.
The FARs do not have any language that would prohibit a landing on a highway. The most important piece to consider is local and state laws. What works in Alaska may not be practical or legal in other states.
Alaska has many locations that do not have a formal airport, thus the need for alternative options to get into these remote locations. The off-airport bush flying scene is no secret in Alaska and actually quite common.
Landing on the road system is not something encouraged by local and state governments, but is not considered illegal. That said, exercising good decision making is required. If a more suitable option is available, other than the road, that would be my choice.
Q. Can you fly to the grocery store, as in normal operations, or is landing on a road viewed as a back-up plan?
A. Yes, you indeed can fly to a grocery store. In fact, many living in rural Alaska do just that. Flying the family airplane into the nearest town or city for a “grocery run” or “Costco run” is common and in some places the only option.
Q. Are there places known to be as more acceptable for road operations?
A. One particular destination where you will find airplanes sharing a major highway with vehicles is in Cantwell, Alaska. You’ll pull off the highway to access the convenience store while driving North to Fairbanks and see aircraft standing in the same parking lot stocking up on food, supplies, and fuel. Ironically, the Cantwell airport is just a short distance away, yet it’s much more convenient to fly than walk.
Q: You’ve done it. What’s it like to land on a road? What are the obvious, and not obvious, differences to landing on a runway or in the backcountry?
A. Prior to landing on a road, I did my due diligence and spoke to my friends at the FAA. They are always the best source if you aren’t sure something is legal or looking for some guidance in an area you aren’t familiar with.
The procedure I use is one recommended to me by the FAA and ones obvious to pilots:
- Clear the landing area in both directions;
- Look for traffic, wildlife, and any obstructions, such as power lines, mailboxes, signs, etc.;
- Identify the favorable winds; and
- Land with a high level of vigilance for unexpected changes.
Safety is #1. Don’t ever compromise it. If the conditions are not right, proceed to your alternate.
I do not recommend landing on a road for the sake of doing it. In many situations it can be very hazardous and can result in an accident.
The less obvious things in the backcountry to consider are:
- You don’t have a windsock, so I read the wind direction on the lakes and rivers. If there’s no water, then look at treetops or any vegetation.
- Firmness of the landing surface can be deceitful. In the spring or early summer, many backcountry destinations are soft and take time to firm up. This condition can return with increased levels of moisture. Inspecting multiple times and running the wheels across surfaces is a common technique used prior to committing to a landing. With speed, soft surface will be displaced and leave ruts. If I see ruts, I don’t land.
- Again, safety is one thing I can’t stress enough! Just because you have done it before doesn’t make the next time safer. Never let complacency settle in. The “been there done that” attitude is a trap that will result in tragedy.
- I categorize everything in life into two categories: Risk vs. recklessness. I am comfortable with managed risk, but I do not engage in recklessness.
Q: What is your story Dmitry? Are you an Alaska native? If not, where are you from and why’d you settle in Alaska?
I was born in the Ukraine and am the oldest of 12 children (eight brothers and three sisters). I am married to my beautiful wife of 14 years and together we have four children (two boys and two girls, in that order.)
In 1989 my parents immigrated to Walla Walla, Washington. We moved to Alaska in 1999 and my parents decided to home school me for high school. This turned out to be an advantage for me. Home schooling gave me the time to work a lot of odd jobs to fund flight training.
I started flying when I was 14 years old. I soloed an airplane before I could obtain a driver’s license and went on to become the youngest pilot hired at two separate airlines.
My father taught me at a young age the value of hard work and this helped me self fund my entire aviation training without any debt, which I am very thankful for.
I got hired to fly the DHC-6 Twin Otter at 18 years of age, with 253 hours total time and the ink still wet on my new commercial pilots license. The requirement was 250TT at the time. Things sure have changed!
I ended up with jet fever and at 19 was hired into the EMB-145 regional jet. I eventually settled into the DHC-8 Q400 for the long haul, or at least so I thought. Sadly the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008. I found myself in a dilemma of a possible furlough looming.
At that time the entrepreneurial passion of my teens was re-ignited and I started a business buying and selling products. That eventually led from one thing to the next and finally put me at an ultimatum: Do I continue to fly professionally or go full time in my business.
Ten years since retiring from the airlines, I am the CEO of CraveDirect.com, which manufactures a range of consumer electronic products for everyday gadgets with operations in 12 countries on five continents.
While I do miss commercial flying from time to time, I quench the flying cravings by flying just for fun all over Alaska.
I take great enjoyment in helping others see their own potential to do more than the status quo. If you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you will accomplish things that your mind cannot fully grasp until you actually try. I am one of those types of people who would rather fail trying than later regret not trying.
Hard work is one of the greatest life hacks I have learned and what allowed me to achieve things that are against all the odds. It’s a lot simpler in hindsight then when you’re just starting out. The key is not to wait for the perfect time, but start working on your dreams now! You’ll be amazed at the results.
Q: You have a lot of videos on your Crave Life YouTube channel. How did you get into shooting video?
A. Back when I was a teenager, I had a hobby of taking pictures of airplanes at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (PANC). That hobby came back when I decided to share all my crazy adventures and travels with others.
I find video a great way to help others see what great memories can be made with a simple camera doing the things you enjoy. I named my YouTube channel Crave Life, with the purpose of encouraging others to get out and adventure more. Now is the time to go on your next adventure and experience the beauty of the country we live in!
Want to see what landing on a road looks like? Dmitry has a video of that…