GA Flying over Niagara Falls

Where is Goat Island?


For the last few years, I have been hoping to pull off a trip to Niagara Falls, NY to fly the awe-inspiring racetrack over the falls. The plan was multi-function: beat the summer crowds, enjoy fall colors, catch the fireworks and most important of all, catch a glimpse of the falls from a few thousand feet above the surface. Each October, I tried diligently to make the plans, get a few people excited, and unrelentingly, each year brought gloom and disappointment. The weather refused to cooperate. Sometimes it was the weather in the Mid-Atlantic, other times it was in Niagara Falls. Either way, plans canceled, we flew close to home to Tangier Island, attended refresher classes or just stayed home to catch up on other activities.


Photograph: Courtesy Gert

This year, I was adamant I would try to make it in August when the weather would hopefully cooperate. Although, I got a few people excited, as the day approached, plans fizzled out with most people dropping off. I almost thought I would miss the opportunity this year too. But as luck would have it, my co-pilot could free up his Saturday and we decided to pull off a day trip!

The weekend weather was terrific: in Mid Atlantic as well as at Niagara Falls, and along the way. The shortest direct route would take us there in under 3 hours. Gert and I departed a few minutes past 8:00 am and bee lined north, planning the most direct route. Flying in a C172 as usual, we decided to stop over at Akron airport (9G3) NE of Buffalo, for a quick stretch and cheap fuel, before heading out to fly the falls racetrack.


Photograph: Courtesy Gert

There are special flight rules over the falls and it is best to review several documents that are available to pilots intending to fly over the falls. The area around the falls can be fairly congested with high speed military traffic, helicopters flying scenic flights, and other GA aircraft circling the falls. The minimum requirements to fly over the Falls are:

  1. Fly at or above 3,500 ft
  2. Use Niagara Falls (KIAG) altimeter setting
  3. Squawk 122.05, making traffic calls of location, and altitude and intentions. Monitor traffic and listen on this frequency
  4. Do not proceed north of Rainbow bridge
  5. Fly a clockwise pattern
  6. Do not exceed 130 knots

While the reference content contains some images of where to join the loop and how to fly the race track and how to exit the loop, and it looks good on paper, if you are new to the area, it can all becoming very confusing, very quickly. Even though, I have visited Niagara Falls several times via a road trip, it still made it difficult to identify land marks. There is no indication of how long the racetrack is or how to enter or exit it if flying from the US.

Photograph: Courtesy Gert

Flying from Akron is a direct flight. Contact Buffalo Aprroach on departure and obtain a squawk code and clearance through their Class C Airspace. About 20nm due west, flying a heading of 280 degrees, places you right over the Navy Island.


One entry point to join the race track is to fly a heading of 281. After flying over Navy Island, following over the Welland River all the way to the pointed nose tip will put one on the race track. Turning in bound on a heading of 051 degrees and flying all the way to the rainbow bridge which lies just north of the US observation deck that extends three quarters of the way over the Niagara River and turning around until a heading of 231 degrees in the out bound leg.


If flying to and from Niagara Falls Airport (KIAG), follow the direction of ATC. Departing 24, straight out will get you over the Niagara River quickly and you need to climb to 3,500ft quickly. Likewise, landing at KIAG after flying over the falls means you have to descend rapidly🙂

After flying three loops, trying to perfect our racetrack and admiring the falls, wondering where the heck was Goat Island (:-)) we proceeded to land at KIAG, slipping hard and losing altitude and quite gracefully touch down and tied down for a few hours at the Falls. Tie down at CalSpan includes a landing and parking fee of $10. A cab to the falls can be any where from $20-$30 one way.


There are several restaurants within walking distance from the airport for that $100 hamburger. Or get to the falls for more choices. I suggest you stay away from the Niagara Falls Cafe at the Visitor Center if you can. Gert and I spent the next 2-3 hours exploring the views from the various lookout points before heading back to the airport and reversing our path back to the Mid Atlantic. It was a quiet evening, we even managed to get a clearance through Class Bravo airspace direct to HEF. All in all, a fantabulous day of flying!

Niagara, Check! Although I am sure I will be back🙂

Note: Thanks to my co-pilot for the fabulous pictures. BTW, the right seat is the best location if you want to take the pictures your self🙂


14 CFR 93.71

Niagara Falls Part 93


Trying to get inspired to work on my novel during break🙂

Fly 'n Things

I finally have the next three weeks free to work on my novel. Almost. Once I am done with what is still undone🙂

Here is my revised chapter on September.


I was in the deep throes of slumber, when I was rudely awakened by my very persistent alarm clock. It can’t be 4:00 a.m. already, I thought sleepily, as I pulled the comforter tightly around me, reaching over to hit the snooze button, without opening my eyes. I must have set it wrong. It definitely had to be wrong. Hadn’t I just barely gone to bed?


The alarm screeched again, more persistent than ever.

Okay you bugger, stop barking, I swore getting out of bed and leaning over the damn clock to put an end to its misery and just for added credence checked my phone to verify it indeed was past…

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Delta 4 Launch!

Monday Morning Inspiration

You have often heard me rant about the many times I planned, re-planned, visited, waited and still missed a launch. So, in a freak, unexpected, and spur of the moment way, I watched a rocket launch. How weird is that?

Six years ago, I waited almost a week to watch Discovery launch. And came away disappointed.

Two years ago, I made the trek to Florida for the Orion launch. Waited all night, until the mission was scrubbed for the day. Next day, even though I was still in Florida, I chose to not make the trek back to Cape Canaveral for the second attempt the next day. Maybe, I was doomed from watching the launch. Since on this second day, the launch occurred flawlessly at the prescribed time!

Each time I plan a trip to Florida, I check the launch schedule, before I start making my travel plans. It was no different this time. Although, I saw a Delta IV rocket launch scheduled a few days ahead of my trip I knew I couldn’t weave it into my plans considering my extremely busy work and school schedule.

At 12:52 am, a Delta IV rocket launched flawlessly from Cape Canaveral separated from its boosters and went merrily about its mission. Watching NASA TV and the count down I knew the exact moment of the launch. Looking out of my hotel window which conveniently faced south I watched the rocket launch and disappear into orbit.

 No dramatic red glow, as the launch occurred. No camera shot. I neither had my SLR camera or my telephoto lens. Nor a pair of binoculars. And the cell phone shots were just white blobs.

Enjoy the high resolution launch by ULA.

I can finally say, I saw a rocket launch!

Jessica Cox – The world’s first licensed Armless Pilot.

Cockpit Voice

She says.. “I was born, without arms and with all that I have been able to do without them, I can honestly say that today  if given the choice, 

I would not want the arms”.

The Philippino American born without arms due to a rare birth defect in 1983 in Arizona (U.S) is 33 years old now.  She is also the first armless Black belt earner at the age of 14 and is an excellent sea surfer.

Jessica says  “I was born without arms and despite that challenge, managed to live a full life – I am able to dress myself, eat by myself, drive a car on my own, engage in sports and martial arts, run my own business, and enjoy a wonderful marriage to my husband, Patrick. I am able to do the necessary activities of daily life and even typing out my blog with just my feet”.


She attained…

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Not looking forward to a repeat… Hear that SWA?

Fly 'n Things

Early Saturday, a glitch in automation in the Washington DC area caused an “ATC Zero” in ZDC (Washington Center). Departures from all three airports: IAD, DCA and BWI were essentially in ground halt.


This has caused untold inconvenience for people, visiting the DC area and hoping to return home. FlightAware posted a MiseryMap visually showing major airports around the country, affected by this glitch. For each of the major airports, the  delays by time  and  number of cancellations at each airport are listed.

This doesn’t even include the airport I am stuck at. So you can imagine how much more misery is being shared across the country🙂  In fact, none of the news agencies have even started to talk about arrivals into DC area.

Since 9:00 am this morning, Southwest Airlines, canceled all flights from MCO to BWI. In fact all airlines scheduled to fly this city pair, canceled…

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Soaring…. On top of the World!

From three years ago🙂

Fly 'n Things

Flying high, high, I’m a bird in the sky
I’m an eagle that rides on the breeze
High, high, what a feeling to fly
Over mountains and forests and seas

               — Eagle by ABBA

We took off under our own power and climbed in circling turns to about 12,500 ft. “Where are the thermals?” I had asked Bob as we prepared to take-off. “Over there, where the clouds are,” he responded. Once the engine settled down and cooled, he prepared to turn it off and closed the air  vents.


All was silent.

We gently rode the wave. The only sound was the clicking of the vertical speed indicator. The louder it clicked, the higher the climb rate. It was obvious, the direction the thermals were rising. On the upwind side of the clockwise turn, the clicking accelerated. On the downwind side it retarded, and almost silenced. With each circling…

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I flew in the B757 from the right seat

… hmm.. i.e. in a Simulator!

Even though the full motion controller was turned off (and I didn’t actually fly :-)), it was still neat to be in the right seat, and watch the aircraft fly an approach into Denver International Airport with precision. An RNP Approach, at that, which I will never be able to fly in the C172🙂

A Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedure is an advanced Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedure that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation with additional on board monitoring and alerting. To fly one of these procedures it is necessary for both the aircraft and aircrew to be certified to fly. RNP approaches enable precise 3-D paths in congested or noise sensitive airspace, and through difficult terrain. In addition, they provide stabilized and fuel efficient approaches, for aircraft and aircrew certified to fly.


The RNP approach to runway 34L into KDEN provides minimums based on the capability of the aircraft and aircrew from 0.1 to 0.3nm. Starting at HIMOM at 11,000ft, the B757 programmed to fly the RNAV (RNP) Z RWY 34L approach smoothly maneuvered to MCMUL before easily navigating the radius-to-fix (RF) leg to TUGGL at 7,700 and the final approach fix at WINTR and landing smoothly on the centerline on 34L.

One word. Awesome!


For more information on PBN and RNP go here.
RNP Procedures