When you fly home, you’re home: Top 10 reasons to Fly4Biz from AVL

We’ve got some serious air warriors out there – travelers we see every Monday, and welcome home at the end of each week.  You’re working hard around the globe, and banking some serious mileage!

Some business travelers fly less frequently, so we may not know you by name (yet) – but we sure would like to.  We believe there are excellent benefits to designating Asheville Regional Airport as your airport of choice for your business travel, and here are the “top ten” on our list!

Reason #10 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  We’ve got your last-minute business services covered

From mailing, faxing and printing services, recharge stations throughout the airport, and a quiet business center with private cubicle desks – we know you may need to take care of a few things before you board the plane.

Reason #9 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  Parking is just steps away from check-in

With numerous parking options – including a lot across the street with 24/7 shuttle service directly to and from the front door of the terminal, you can step from your car and be in the terminal in a matter of minutes.

Reason #8 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  Airlines offer dual-class service, catering to business travelers

AVL is served by three legacy airlines that have excellent products designed just for business travelers. Learn more about business services:  American | Delta | United.  Of particular note, flights from AVL often have dual-class (first-class or business-class) service offered.

Reason #7 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  You can relax

AVL is designed to provide a relaxing, easy experience before and after you board your plane.  Enjoy a quiet corner in a rocking chair, or hang out at the bar overlooking the runway in the Blue Ridge Tavern where there are always local brews on tap.  You may want to wander through the Art Gallery where works by local artists are displayed, or if you’re lucky – you’ll be in the terminal during one of the “Music on the Fly” pop-up concerts by local musicians, sponsored by Ashvegas.com.

Reason #6 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  Easy security lines

Yes, we advise all travelers to arrive two hours before their flights.  That’s just prudent traveling.  However, our TSA security lines are typically short … and when they do get long, the process is efficient.  And if you’re a TSA Pre-check customer, you can enjoy expedited screening at AVL.  While there is not a dedicated Pre-check screening line, you won’t have to remove your shoes, belts or jackets before screening.

Reason #5 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  We strive to know you by name

The courteous airline, TSA and restaurant staff provide excellent customer service.  We often hear from frequent business travelers that they love being greeted by name – that this small gesture makes them feel at home.  That’s our goal, because you ARE at home.  AVL is your hometown airport, and we’re proud of the service offered.

Reason #4 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  When you “fly local,” the whole region benefits

The presence of a vibrant airport significantly contributes to the economy.  Because AVL is here, there are 1,700 jobs in our community, and the economic impact to the region is more than half a billion dollars annually.  So, we always ask travelers to “check AVL first” for all of their air travel needs  High utilization leads to a stronger airport.  And guess what?  Travelers ARE flying from AVL – we’ve experienced record-setting years of passenger growth.  Thank you.  We hope to welcome you back to the airport again soon!

Reason #3 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  We’re a gateway to the world, usually with one easy connection

In 2013, AVL was named the “best connected” regional airport in America by MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation.  Among airports our size, in communities like ours, AVL offers frequent daily connectivity on three legacy airlines via major international hubs (American, Delta and United).  Additionally, AVL has point-to-point non-stop service to some key east coast leisure destinations on Allegiant.

Reason #2 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  There’s no road trip before your business trip

When you travel for business, doesn’t it feel good to get to the airport, go through security and then just begin the air travel process?  Instead of spending an hour or two in the car first, you can hop on a plane to your connecting airport, and then use any layover time to prepare for your business meeting, read, catch up on emails or have a bite to eat.  There’s no major traffic (ok, we admit – I-26 could be backed up due to never-ending construction, but that’s just life in WNC), and you know that your airport experience will most likely be pretty easy.  (You might even be greeted by name.)

Reason #1 to Fly4Biz from AVL:  When you fly home, you’re home.

Business travel is necessary, sometimes exciting (sometimes not), and can be exhausting.  When you’re done with the work at hand, we know you start thinking about home.  You want to be there.  Relaxing in your chair.  Hiking on your favorite trail on the Parkway.  Hanging out at your favorite brewery on the South Slope in Asheville, or just sleeping in your own bed.  So, when you fly AVL for your business trips – the ease works in reverse.  When you land, you see the mountains around you and sigh.  HOME.  You walk off the plane – grab your bag, and in moments, you are to your car.  Maybe you stop along Airport Road to grab some groceries, or perhaps you get a text to meet your husband for dinner at Biltmore Park (you can meet there in ten minutes).  SIGH.  That’s the best.  Welcome home.

Baby, it’s cold outside! Deicing: What it is and why it matters

If you’ve flown much during the colder months, odds are you’ve been on a flight that had to be deiced before takeoff. Airplanes, especially jets, fly at very high altitudes and very fast speeds. At 35,000 feet, it’s not uncommon to see temperatures dip below negative sixty degrees Fahrenheit. If planes can operate in these extreme subzero temperatures regularly, why is it necessary to deice when on the ground?

The reason for deicing lies within the design of the aircraft itself. All airplane designs are very precisely engineered to be flown as they were built, without the addition of any contamination. No, this doesn’t mean the aircraft can’t become ill with a virus. In aviation, the term contamination often refers to the buildup of ice on the aircraft’s wings and fuselage (the body of the aircraft). Even a small amount of ice on the wings changes the wing’s shape and impacts its aerodynamics. But fear not! As with everything in aviation, there are numerous precautions and procedures for all commercial flights to ensure safe operations in and around icing conditions.

The process of deicing is relatively simple, but there’s a bit more to it than meets the eye. There are primarily two types of deicing fluid that are used in the United States. Both fluids are glycol based but have their differences. The first type, which is orange, is a true deicer. It’s the most diluted form of deicing fluid and is used to remove snow and ice from an aircraft. The other fluid is thicker and designed to stick to the aircraft for a defined period of time, making it more of an anti-ice fluid. Each fluid is applied hot, which is why you see so much steam when deicing in colder temperatures. Your pilot will tell the ground crew exactly what type of deicing fluid they need and where. In many conditions, they’ll just request deicing of the wings and tail.

In conditions where there is no freezing precipitation, you’ll get a spray of of the deicer and be on your way. If it’s snowing, your flight will first get a coat of deicer, followed up with the anti-ice fluid. Based on the temperature and weather conditions, pilots know exactly how long they have to take off after being deiced. If they exceed this hold time, they must return to the gate to be deiced again. Additionally, pilots always visually inspect the wings before taking off in snowy conditions, regardless of how long ago the aircraft was deiced. During takeoff, the deicing fluid blows off the wings as the aircraft gains speed.

Once airborne, aircraft are able to use their own anti-ice and deicing systems. Most jets use hot air from the core of the engine to heat metal surfaces along the edges of the wings to prevent and remove ice.

That said, pilots and Air Traffic Control do all they can to avoid substantial icing conditions. It’s rare to ever spend a substantial amount of any given flight in icing conditions. At high altitudes, air is often so dry that there’s not enough moisture to generate any significant form of icing on the aircraft. Like all phases of flight, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and pilots have handling ice down to a science. Rest assured that if the winter weather is beyond the parameters for safe flight, your flight won’t leave the gate.

The Turning Point: Ground crews work hard to reunite you with your luggage

If you’ve ever flown, then surely you’ve landed at an airport, proceeded to baggage claim, spent somewhere between five and ten minutes there and then begun to wonder when your bags will appear on the conveyor belt. “What’s taking them so long out there?” you’ve probably wondered. The job of the airline ground crews is seldom understood and often underestimated.  While delivering your luggage quickly is a priority for all airlines, there are many things that must be done before the ground crew even get around to opening the cargo doors of your flight.

The cumulative act of all things that must occur at the gate between a flight’s arrival and its next departure is known as a turn. The workers outside that handle this job are known as ramp agents, though the position has gained many nicknames over the decades. Most airlines require at least three workers be present to park an aircraft. This allows one person, the marshaller, to guide the plane to the proper parking spot while two other walk next to the wingtips of the plane as it pulls into the gate. Those that walk near the wingtips while you’re parking or pushing back are appropriately named wing-walkers. This three-person crew is usually the minimum staffing level for turning most single-aisle aircraft.

The exact procedures vary depending on the type of aircraft being turned, but the general progression of events is similar for all. Once the aircraft has come to a stop at the gate, the ramp agents must wait for the engines to be turned off, and for the pilots to turn off the flashing red beacon lights. These lights are left on until the engines are no longer generating a dangerous amount of suction or jet blast. When these lights are turned off, the wheels of the aircraft will be “chocked” with large rubber chocks that prevent the aircraft from rolling while at the gate.

Also after the beacon light is turned off, many airlines require the person that parked the aircraft to do a full walk-around of the plane, inspecting for anything abnormal.

After the aircraft is chocked, the ramp agents will then connect the ground power unit (GPU) and pre-conditioned air (PCA) to the aircraft. Aircraft need to stay powered between flights so that things like cabin lights, air conditioning, and all of the cockpit computers continue to run. Most aircraft have an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), which is a small jet engine near the tail that is used exclusively on the ground to provide power and air conditioning. This, however, does burn jet fuel. That’s why parked aircraft are connected to a GPU, which burns drastically less fuel than any of the aircraft’s own engines. If you’ve ever noticed the black cord running from the nose of your aircraft into a machine, that’s the ground power. The large yellow or orange hose, usually attached somewhere along the belly of your plane, is the PCA hose.

Now that the aircraft is chocked, powered and air conditioned, it’s finally time to offload the bags. Keep in mind, your flight has probably been deplaning (allowing passengers to get off the plane) for three to five minutes at this point. Depending on the size of the plane, one or two ramp agents will get inside of the cargo bin to feed bags to the belt loaders outside. The remaining person will load those bags into the baggage carts. Only the smallest planes have one cargo bin, so if your flight is relatively full the crew will unload one bin at a time. If a flight has eighty bags and they unload one bag every four seconds (this is really cooking, by the way), that’s still a five-and-a-half-minute offload time.

Once all the bags are off, they have to be driven to the location where bags are placed on a conveyor belt to baggage claim.  This drive could be a distance of a few hundred yards (like at AVL) or several miles (like at ATL).   Then, bags are offloaded one-by-one and often by one person. When you factor in the time it takes to move equipment into place, potentially unloading multiple cargo bins, and the fact that the average human is not an Olympic athlete, getting your luggage in less than twenty minutes is a very solid performance by the ramp crew (and “less than twenty minutes” is the norm at AVL – there are some hard-working ramp agents here!).

Another important thing to consider is that this scenario doesn’t account for any adversity. There is a myriad of things that can slow the luggage offload process. Rain, snow, heat and even wind generally slow people down. Any oversized or overweight cargo will slow the baggage offload. The pilots may need to leave the engines running for an extra minute or two once parked, which will slow the entire process outside. Sometimes the ground crew may be short a person. If the ground crew takes a few extra minutes than you think they should, just remember all the steps that go into the turn and when your bag shows up on the carousel. You’ll know exactly how much hard work had to take place for you to be reunited with it.

Leaving the Lights On for You

As day turns to night, an airport’s maze of painted markings and symbols transforms into a vast arrangement of backlit signs and colorful lights, each with their own distinct meaning. We thought we’d help you understand the night-time wayfinding that pilots use at airports around the globe.

Taxiways – the “roadway system” that pilots use to get to the runways, are always bordered by blue lighting. Airports equipped with instrumentation to operate during dense fog also have green centerline lighting on their taxiways.  Yellow lights give pilots a warning that there is an intersection, or a stopping point before they enter the runway.

Runway markings can be some of the most complex to the untrained eye, but their lights are the most recognizable in all of aviation. All runways have white lights along their edges, with green lights visible on the active end of the runway (since all arriving and departing flights travel the same direction on a runway) and red lights visible from the opposing end.  As yet another visual aid to pilots, the last 2,000 feet of runway lights alternate white and yellow lights. Likewise, the last 2,000 feet of centerline lights alternate red and white, and the last 1,000 feet are all red.

One of the most impressive lighting arrays can be found in the approach lighting systems, which serve as a visual extension of the runway for pilots and can extend as far as 2,400 feet from the runway.  When using an instrument approach (where the pilots rely on instrumentation rather than the naked eye), pilots must see a visual reference of the runway before descending to a certain altitude in order to continue the landing. During low visibility landings, pilots will see the approach lights first, thereby allowing them to continue the landing.


The next time you’re flying at night, take a closer look at the many different lights you see. Whether you know their meanings or are a casual observer, a good view of an airport’s lighting will never disappoint.

What is turbulence?


*Ding* “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We just turned on the fasten seatbelt sign due to reports of some choppy air ahead. We should have it back off in about 20 minutes.If you’ve flown, you can bet your bottom-dollar you’ve encountered at least some level of turbulence. While turbulence does make some people uneasy, understanding what causes that rough air can help take the edge off.

Turbulence is defined as the unsteady movement of air (or water), and changes in wind speed or direction can be caused by any number of weather phenomena.

Air moves much like water and turbulence can by created in any instance in which two different flows of air are mixed. People often think of storms as the primary cause of turbulent air, but there are other causes as well. Clear-air turbulence, which lacks any visual cues such as clouds, is a relatively common cause of turbulence. Even though this sort of turbulence is invisible, pilots and dispatchers (those who make flight plans) can use wind data to fly around areas that are prone to this type of turbulence. On hot days, thermals (currents of warm air that move upward rapidly) can cause turbulence, and flying over mountains or even hills can also be turbulent because air has to move around them, resulting in updrafts or downdrafts.

It is comforting to know that pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC) are always working together to keep your flight as smooth as possible. There is more weather data available today than ever before to help flights avoid rough air. This information not only helps pilots and ATC know what types of weather are more prone to the creation of turbulence, but also helps them see and avoid it. The weather radar in modern jets allows pilots to scan what’s directly ahead at their altitude and altitudes above and below the aircraft. Pilots and dispatchers have the discretion to fly hundreds of miles out of the way just to give you a smoother ride. Here’s a great example of an AVL-bound jet making a slight deviation en-route to avoid a thunderstorm.

Additionally, pilots often provide Pilot Reports (aka, PIREPs) of flight conditions, so aircraft passing through the same airspace know what to expect or avoid — you can see some examples here and here. Given the number of planes flying, there are thousands of PIREPs every day, helping your flights find the smoothest air. That’s how your pilots often know about turbulence ahead of time and are able to climb or descend to avoid it.

Turbulence is never truly as rough as it may feel to a passenger. In fact, even “severe” turbulence typically only involves altitude changes of 20–40 feet. Aircraft are built to endure much more punishment than they ever endure during commercial flights. In fact, modern aircraft are designed to handle forces 1.5 times stronger than any recorded in the past 40 years of flight. When flights re-route around turbulence, it’s largely for your comfort, as the aircraft would handle the ride just fine. No matter how bumpy your flight gets, the structure of the airplane is far from ever becoming stressed. You can see just how much the wings of modern jets like the Boeing 787 are tested here.

If you’re a nervous or anxious flier, there are many things you can do to help yourself enjoy the flight. You should always try to sit where you’ll be most comfortable. Even on sold-out flights, if you let the gate agent know ahead of time that you really want a window, they’ll try to accommodate you. Make sure you bring along a movie, some snacks, ear plugs and any other creature-comforts that you’d want in any scenario where you’d be sitting for hours. There are apps and online guides (like this one) that’ll help you find other ways to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.  And always – keep that seatbelt fastened when you are seated.

The next time your flight encounters turbulence, loosen your grip on that armrest and remember that you’re experiencing a perfectly routine part of flight — the safest form of travel in human history. In fact, statistically, air travel has been increasing its lead as the safest form of travel for decades. So sit back, relax and enjoy the flight!

Seeking Volunteers: How (and WHY) Flights are Oversold

If you’ve ever flown for the holidays, during spring break, or on a peak summer travel day, you’re all too familiar with the gate agent making the announcement that the flight is oversold and they’re seeking volunteers. Most of the time, someone catches a later flight and gets a lovely incentive from the airline to do so. It’s not uncommon to hear various passenger perspectives on why or how this could happen, but it’s never a mistake. Many airlines oversell hundreds of flights as a revenue maximization tactic.  It’s smart business!

Here’s why. People miss flights. Most flights that are booked full never actually leave the gate full. Passengers miss flights for thousands of life-related reasons and airlines track this. Each flight is different, but airlines always mathematically estimate how many people won’t show up for a flight based on historic data and other situational information. They take advantage of this data in an effort to maximize revenues, because once a flight departs, empty seats mean lost revenue that can never be regained. 

A simplified example may help explain.  If one flight has had two people not show up every day for a year, that flight may be marketed to sell 2 more seats than the aircraft holds. Depending on the route and aircraft type, airlines may choose to oversell by as little as one or in excess of a dozen. Again, this happens because if they only sell to capacity, and the people that don’t show up end up getting refunded, that’s lost revenue. Of course, there are many situations where airlines won’t oversell a flight at all because the odds of everyone showing up are very high.

There are other reasons that your flight could end up oversold. There can always be a last minute swap to a smaller airplane for operational reasons. If there’s a cancelation or an irregular situation, airlines could overbook flights that they might not normally overbook in an effort to get everyone where they need to go. It is also possible that the weather may impact whether or not a flight can be oversold.

The good news is that it is very rare for a passenger to be unwillingly removed from a flight because it was oversold. Most of the time it’s a win-win situation:  when flights are missed, the airlines are able to ensure full flights, and nearly all the time, airlines will find passengers who will happily volunteer for a later flight in exchange for incentives such as some cash or flight vouchers. So listen up the next time you’re in the gate area.  When you hear, “Seeking volunteers,” will you raise your hand?  It could be worth it!

AVL goes to D.C.



When Allegiant announced that they were starting a summer seasonal non-stop flight from AVL to Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI), it was great news for WNC air travelers!  A quick and easy flight to the Washington, D.C. area has been on our “wish list” for many years.

After the announcement, we learned that some travelers did not know that BWI is an easy gateway to Washington, D.C.  So, we decided to investigate.  A team of AVL staff, a representative from our Convention and Visitors Bureau, a representative from Allegiant and several local media personalities boarded the inaugural flight to BWI from AVL on May 19, 2016.  Our mission?  Document the experience of flying non-stop from AVL to BWI, and share the details about how easy it really is with travelers in our region.

Was the experience easy?  Was it efficient?  Would we do it again?  Yes, yes and YES!

Here’s what we learned:

  1. The non-stop flight to BWI from AVL departed on Thursday morning, May 19 at 8:45am, and just 59 minutes later, we landed in Baltimore.  A one-hour flight – so easy!
  2. When we walked off the plane, the airport was welcoming and easy to navigate.  A quick walk (literally a few minutes) later, we exited the terminal and found shuttle buses waiting for us.  The BWI shuttle buses that run between the airport and the MARC station (Maryland Transit Administration commuter rail) operate every 6 minutes.  We hopped right on the bus.
  3. Five minutes later, we arrived at the MARC/AmTrack station.  (Side note – this train station offers connections to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and more.)  The commuter train (the “MARC Red Line”) travels directly to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.  The trip is about 30 minutes, and these trains leave the station about every hour.  We waited a little while, and then hopped on the train and headed to D.C.
  4. When we got to Union Station (the train station in Washington, D.C.), we walked outside and … Tah, Dah!  The Capitol Building was a few blocks ahead.  We made it to Washington, D.C. in just a few hours.  And everyone agreed that the trip was super easy.

Once we got to D.C., we were reminded about the city’s historic grandeur.  There are so many amazing sights to see, from the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court, to the Washington and Lincoln Monuments.  War Memorials are everywhere, and in between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial are many Smithsonian Museums (like the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum).  There’s the Washington Zoo, The White House, Arlington National Cemetery, and more.  Most of the museums, the zoo and tours of the government buildings are free.  Washington, D.C. is a wonderful place for a long-weekend getaway, or a week-long family vacation.  Here’s a link to more information about things to do when you visit D.C.:  WASHINGTON.ORG

The non-stop flight from AVL to BWI/DC area is a wonderful addition for WNC travelers this summer.  Don’t wait – book soon!  ALLEGIANT.COM


What’s the Difference: Regional vs. Network Airlines

“Welcome aboard flight 5429, operated by PSA airlines, we’re happy to have you with us today.” Whether a road warrior or an infrequent traveler, odds are you’ve heard an announcement just like this. Why is your flight being flown by an unfamiliar airline? For decades, network airlines (you know, very familiar airlines like American, Delta and United) have used regional airlines with smaller aircraft to feed their hubs from smaller cities and to serve routes that aren’t large enough for a mainline jet.

Regional airlines generally fly aircraft between 50 and 76 seats, while most mainline airlines fly aircraft with 100 seats or more. Because the aircraft have so few seats, the cost for mainline (network) airlines to operate them could make them uneconomical. Regional airlines instead operate these planes at costs that are more economical to fly. They generally don’t have some of the expenses that mainline carriers incur by virtue of flying larger aircraft. For example, ExpressJet doesn’t own any hangars that can house a 747, nor do they have the tools to work on massive 777 engines. Pilots and flight attendants generally start their careers at regional carriers and move up to mainline as openings become available. Regional airline flight crews and mechanics go through all of the same rigorous training as the mainline carriers.  Some regional airlines are actually wholly-owned subsidiaries of the mainline carrier.

There are nearly 30 regional airlines in the United States. Smaller airplanes don’t necessarily mean smaller businesses. Some, like SkyWest and ExpressJet, are actually larger and have more aircraft than many airlines that fly larger planes. There are many ways their contracts to fly are negotiated, but in a nutshell, the mainline airlines like Delta pay regional airlines like ExpressJet to operate flights on their behalf. The way the regional airline gets paid by the mainline carrier is subject to the contract between the two airlines, which is often broken down into groups of aircraft. A regional carrier with 30 planes can have 3 sets of 10 planes, with each set operating under a different contract for the same mainline carrier.

The most noticeable difference to the passenger between a regional airline and a mainline airline is the size of the aircraft. In most cases, everything else will be the same: The aircraft will be painted in the mainline airline’s colors and will fly routes for that airline as if it were one of their own. The mainline carriers want passengers to experience the same product benefits on their regionals as they do on their mainline flights. There are now more regional jets with features like first class and Wi-Fi than there have ever been and the number continues to grow.

Without regional airlines, there would be hundreds (yes, hundreds) of cities that simply wouldn’t have air service. Smaller aircraft allow the airlines to fly to smaller cities and to have added schedule flexibility. Regional airlines have been an integral part of the air transportation network for decades and will continue to serve smaller cities well into the future.

What is Leakage? Why is it important?

Leakage is an air service development term.  We thought we’d help educate you about why it’s important.

Let's talk leakage. Surely everyone is familiar with leaks of some kind. We've all had a leaky faucet or a flat tire. Leakage, as most know it, is something escaping from where it should be confined. Whether the thought of a leak makes you think of water, air, or something else, the general concept is likely the same. In the airport world, leakage is what occurs when passengers from one airport's core market drive to another airport to catch a flight. 

In the vast majority of leakage situations, passengers from smaller cities drive to larger cities to fly. This can happen for many reasons. Some drive to the larger airport to catch a nonstop flight, as opposed to a connecting flight from their hometown. Others may hit the road as the result of a lower fare to their final destination. Ironically, many people who drive hours to save money on their fare may or may not save any money at all after adding up the value of time spent, gas, and other expenses associated with traveling to a farther away airport.

Why should you care about leakage? What’s the big deal? Thinking locally, the Asheville Regional Airport leaks passengers primarily to Charlotte and, to a lesser degree Greenville and Atlanta. While our flight options and passenger numbers continue to grow, there still exists a fair number of people who opt to fly from another airport. When someone who lives closer to Asheville drives to Charlotte to fly, they’re actually contributing to the reason they chose to drive in the first place.

Let us explain.

As more people fly from our local airport, the airlines add bigger planes and flights to new places; each of which tends to lower fares over time (think supply and demand). This also increases opportunities for visitors and business travelers from other places to come to our region and spend money. The money you spend on your ticket ultimately puts more money into the local economy. Leaving the area to fly has the opposite effect. Fewer passengers leads to fewer planes, fewer destinations and higher fares… it’s a vicious cycle!  Right now, AVL is in a position in which airlines are offering excellent connectivity, more seats on larger planes, and yes, the planes are pretty full.  The region’s air travelers are using AVL more than ever before, which is great news!

We hope this information helps you understand why we ask our region to “check AVL first.”  The next time you’re about to book a flight from another airport, think about how much you’ll actually be saving and if your time is worth it. Of course, if you’re saving hundreds we don’t blame you. But if the savings isn’t that great to fly from an airport that’s two-hours away, it’s probably worth thinking twice about that 4 hours in the car — for you, and for your local economy! 

Let’s Talk Drones

By now, almost all of us have heard about drones – you know, unmanned aircraft. You might’ve seen a news story about them, heard of their military use, or seen some teenagers flying one in the park. The FAA recently announced that the number of registered drones has surpassed the number of registered airplanes in the United States. As the many uses of drones evolve, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they’ll be in the skies for quite some time. While they may be small in size, these remote controlled flying machines have been causing quite the stir.

What exactly is a drone? In laymen’s terms, a drone is any unmanned flying machine that can be controlled remotely or with the aid of an onboard computer. Depending on who’s talking about them, you might also hear a drone referred to as a quadcopter, a “UAV” (unmanned aerial vehicle) or UAS (unmanned aerial system). Most civilian drones are relatively small—no more than a few feet in diameter and less than 50lbs. Some commercial and military models, however, have wingspans of up to 55 feet, feature jet engines, and can fly over 12,000 miles. Drones have been around for over a decade, but their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years with estimates of over 2 million units sold in 2015, up from roughly 300,000 in 2013.

As drone numbers continue to grow, so do their various uses. It’s not uncommon to see drones used for aerial photography, surveying and even search and rescue. Some companies like Amazon are even seeking approval to use them for urban package delivery. Add in the number of recreational users zipping them through the skies for sheer enjoyment, and it’s easy to see how the drone population is soaring. They’ve proven to be great assets to many companies and allow many jobs to be completed faster, cheaper, and safer than ever before. Any enthusiast will tell you that drones are a blast to fly and some of their autopilot abilities certainly give them a “cool” factor. More than 325,000 people have now registered drones.

There are so many drones flying that ensuring they safely share the skies with airplanes has become a focus of the FAA. At any given moment during the day, there are roughly 7,000 airplanes flying in U.S. airspace, along with an increasing number of drones. Every month in our nation, there have been roughly 100 pilot reports of drones flying in close proximity to their aircraft. These situations generally happen when a drone is being flown too close to the approach or departure paths of an airport. That said, there have been zero collisions between drones and aircraft. There are FAA guidelines for drone or model aircraft operations that exist to prevent such instances and the FAA continues to adapt their regulations to ensure that drones and aircraft share the skies safely.

If you own a drone or are looking into purchasing one, the FAA website provides everything you need to know to safely operate your aircraft. As of December 2015, all drones between .55lbs and 55lbs must be registered online with the FAA before flying them outdoors. Drones over 55lbs must go through the standard aircraft registration process, just like an airplane. Any U.S. citizen over the age of thirteen can register a drone and the FAA even has an online chart for helping you determine whether or not your drone needs registered. Registration is just one of what will likely be many steps taken by the FAA to help drone users safely share the skies with aircraft.

Some of the most commonly communicated safety rules include:

Never fly above 400 feet (measured from ground level)

Always fly within your visual line of sight

Do not fly within 5 miles of an airport

Do not fly above stadiums or public events

Additional rules apply to commercially operated UAS, and it is the operator’s responsibility to be educated and in compliance.

Lastly, while the FAA is working hard to define its regulations regarding drones, it is very important for drone owners to understand that there are state and local laws pertaining to operation of drones, as well.  The North Carolina Department of Transportation Aviation Division is ahead of the curve in its efforts to educate UAS owners and operators, and they offer a robust on-line program that educates about how to legally operate drones in North Carolina.  Learn more here.

Large and small, fast and slow, drones are here to stay.  Do your part and familiarize yourself with all you need to know to operate your drone legally and safely.