Written by the author, Yasmina Platt.
Reprint from August 27, 2015, from AOPA's Views From the Region (VFR) blog: https://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=2371
The State of New Mexico wants to encourage pilots to consider their state as a destination for backcountry flying. A New Mexico Airstrip Network (NMAN) Steering Committee, of which AOPA is a member of, has been created to increase public access to state airstrips for recreational enjoyment and to promote tourism and economic development, while preserving the environment. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months but, today, I want to write about the 3rd Annual Backcountry Fly-in at the absolutely stunningMystic Bluffs airstrip (NM56) in Ramah. The little town of Ramah is in northwest New Mexico, southeast of Gallup and west of Grants, as shown in the sectional below.
Location of Mystic Bluffs
I attended the event to represent AOPA, meet with pilots, and help support/promote the event. My husband Jared happened to be off so he was able to join me on this trip, not a very common instance. On the way to Ramah, we stopped in Moriarty (0E0) for avgas and to see some of the gliding activity going on. I have to admit we probably saw more gliders together there than in any other place before but, it makes sense, it’s the birth place of the Applebay Sailplanes, it’s home to the U.S Southwest Soaring Museum George Applebay founded, and the soaring conditions are perfect on that part of the world.
Gliders at 0E0
From there, we went to Albuquerque’s Sunport (ABQ). Earlier in the week, I ran into a newspaper article describing a meeting between a 5 year old boy and a Southwest Airlines Captain after the Captain witnessed the little boy waiving at airplanes from the Airport’s Aircraft Viewing Area. Knowing I was going to be in the area on Friday, August 21st, I immediately reached out to the family to see if future pilot Hudson and his mom would be interested in a local flight around town. They did and we wrote a story about it! Soon after… we were on our way to Gallup (GUP). Unfortunately, the Archer I fly is not equipped or capable of flying into Mystic Bluffs, so we left the airplane at GUP and drove the rest of the way. Mystic Bluffs has a 5,100′ strip at an elevation of 6,980′ (not to mention density altitude!).
Close to Gallup
Our original plan was to camp Friday night and leave on Saturday after the event was over but… after enjoying wonderful camaraderie, seeing the beautiful starry sky (first time I’ve seen sooo many stars and the Milky Way with a naked eye), sitting around the campfire, and seeing how beautiful the place was, we decided to stay until Sunday morning.
Saturday’s event started early… Pilots from around New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and even Nebraska started to arrive around 7 am and, of course, some of us were already there! The local ladies from Timberlake Ranch prepared and setup an amazing spread of wonderful homemade goodies, from your more typical breakfast burritos to a very tasty French toast with blueberries, and everything in between. They also made airplane-shaped sugar cookies. And you should know you cannot travel to New Mexico and not trygreen or red chile! I have attended a lot of fly-ins but, no offense, none had food quite like Mystic Bluffs did. Wow!
Cute airplane cookies
We counted about 25 aircraft on the field which is an awesome turnout for a backcountry fly-in but I can’t say I blame the pilots and locals for coming… we had a great mixture of beautiful scenery, a well maintained airstrip, near perfect weather, delicious food, airplane watching, camping, a campfire, lots of hiking options, Native American jewelry, and wonderful, wonderful people.
Full ramp of beautiful birds
This aerial picture is from last year’s fly-in but it’s the best one I have to show how magical the place is.
Courtesy of Mike Marker.
The surrounding mountains as viewed from Cindy’s aircraft.
Courtesy of Cindy Crawford.
No lie, I took over 100 pictures at the event but here is just a sample…
Lanny Tonning, AOPA’s Airport Support Network Volunteer (ASN) for Albuquerque’s Sunport, landing his Socata Rallye
Holland, Ky, and Olivia watching airplanes from the shade of a Maule
Ron Keller, former NMDOT-Aviation Safety & Education Administrator and jack of all trades, taking off to head back to his home airport of Belen
There was a flour bombing competition as well and the winner actually got fairly close to the target. After the fly-in was over, those of us who remained at the field for another night went on a little exploration and hiked up to “The Falls” and over to Ramah Lake.
Native American ruins
Panoramic of Ramah lake
I can’t close this blog without acknowledging and thanking the folks who worked for months to make this fly-in the successful event it was: the authentic (not the movie star) Cindy Crawford is the airstrip owner, Perry (dad) and Jason (son) Null from Gallup as well as Ed Coffee worked tirelessly to get the airstrip, picnic area and parking ready, and the locals contributed with tents, food, etc. The Null’s also brought jewelry for everybody from their Trading Company.
(Left to right) Rol Murrow with the Air Care Alliance and the Recreational Aviation Foundation, Perry Null, Cindy Crawford, Ed Coffee, Jason Null and I.
Hope you consider attending next year! You won’t be disappointed! Fly in, camp, and stay awhile! =)
But, if you just can’t wait until next year to give backcountry flying a try… the Negrito Fly-in (0NM7) is scheduled for September 11-13 this year and you can read about last year’s event here. (Editor’s note from Sept 10th – The Negrito Fly-in has been moved to October 16-18 due to rain the past few days)
BLOGS ON THIS PAGE
- Life Elevated® - Not Just Utah's Tourism Tag Line
- A Side Trip From the Grand Canyon You're Used to
- 3rd Annual Backcountry Fly-in at the Beautiful Mystic Bluffs (NM56) Airstrip in New Mexico
- New Mexico True Trails - Route 66 National Scenic Flyway
- Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California in 12 Days