It’s the great American pilot’s dream—build your own airplane and then build a grass strip from which to fly it. As Gary Stevens related in his well attended forum at AirVenture, it is definitely a doable deed. Stevens is a volunteer expert in private and public use airstrips in EAA’s Advocacy Office. Both EAA and AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), encourage pilots to build and operate airstrips to advance general aviation and airway safety. Privately constructed air strips provide a safe haven for aviators experiencing an in-air emergency. They also can be a valuable resource for helicopter EMS services responding to rural victims.
Stevens related that the RAF (Recreational Aviation Foundation, not Royal Air Force) has been key in supporting the development of privately created airstrips by providing information, support and help with state legislation.
Gary stresses that the airstrip building process begins with evaluating the type of aircraft that will operate in and out of the strip. Runway length can be estimated by doubling the worst case scenario of takeoff and landing distances of the target aircraft. The FAA has standards for runway design, which is not mandatory for airstrips that do not receive governmental funds, but is certainly recommended. The typical private or public use (those are technical terms) airstrips have to provide at least 250 feet of clear width and a 20:1 unobstructed slope to both ends. The keys to constructing a good grass strip are good drainage, a stabilized base and compGary Stevenaction through regular rolling.
EAA, AOPA and RAF are ready to help in the planning process. They can also help to get folks through the FAA’s endorsement and charting process. For more information, contact the EAA Advocacy office via email.