“Jet-Hiking”: Adventurous, but is it safe?

The other day I read an article on CNN entitled, “10 things the U.S. does better than anywhere else.” Two items on the list: national parks and road trips. I think after what you’re about to read, though, you’ll find that trips don’t have to be limited to the road.

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Logo for Amber Nolan’s website. I like the Fonz-inspired thumbs-up. Aaaaaviation (Sorry, bad pilot puns are a staple around these parts).

I recently came across a Yahoo article on the subject of what some are calling “jet-hiking.” I know, I know, it’s a Yahoo article (hey, they can sometimes publish good reads that don’t make you want to skip right to the comments). Before you throw your empty oil cans at me, I just want to discuss it for a second.

First, “jet-hiking” is a misnomer. Amber Nolan, the young woman behind this aerial escapade, is flying pretty much exclusively in General Aviation (GA) aircraft. Last time I checked, GA does not equate to jet propulsion. Perhaps ‘jet’ is more sexy in Internet speak or perhaps when she launched her website promoting it, GA-hiking.com was already a taken domain name. Regardless, the concept of hiking across the country only by plane got my attention.

The Yahoo piece is a flash article, giving you an overview of Amber Nolan’s “No-land” transportational journey. She plans on traveling through the skyways to all 50 states. I found a clip of Miss Nolan being interviewed at EAA’s AirVenture 2013:

It seems like a bizarre idea for someone to just say “You know, what? I woke up this morning and want to fly across the country with strangers.” That type of care-free attitude is indicative of someone with an affinity for tree-hugging. And bark has bite.

Why is she doing this? If you did a fly-by evaluation you would think this attempt is purely nonsensical.

But then you find out she is a travel writer who plans to develop a book based on her experiences. Writers, or those familiar with their situation, know that you have to often go on adventures so that you have enough material to develop an engaging story. Do something out of the ordinary or unusual and the chances of your story being published become more than just thoughts in the clouds.

Still, it’s no giant revelation that it’s dangerous to hitch-hike—no matter what the incentive. This isn’t our grandfather’s America and it isn’t modern-day Canada. We don’t leave our doors unlocked anymore. And if we can’t even trust our neighbors, why would we trust strangers? All I’m saying is that I’m concerned for her safety, as any half-way decent pilot should be. I hope she doesn’t get lost or stuck in the middle of nowhere. Maybe she should consider carrying the SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Tracker and Messenger.

But Nolan has been courageous enough to face the wind head-on. And the GA community has helped her meet most of her goal. The above video said she had traveled to 36 or 37 states; the Yahoo article (posted September 21, 2013) currently has her at 42 states. Only eight states left, including Alaska and Hawaii. The latter state might pose a problem for her since GA aircraft might not have what it takes to cross the Pacific. However, we shall see.

Her journey is probably not ground-breaking. But if you ask me it is certainly uplifting. It is refreshing to see something like this.

I perused Nolan’s website. This self-proclaimed “JetHiking Gypsy” has set up links to several non-profit organizations that work within and/or through the aviation community including Dreams of Flight (outlet to inspire young women to fly); Operation Prop (Wounded Warrior and disability-based organization); and Angel Flights (volunteer pilots for humanitarian efforts). There are fewer things more important during an adventure than spreading the word and cultivating charitable action during the process.

No matter the result, no matter the criticism by those who do not understand, on behalf of SkyGeek, I salute Amber Nolan for showing the general public the generous side of the GA community.

The Best Towbar in the Universal

“I gotta Bogi on my fender and I can’t shake it off!” Contrary to how that might sound, that is actually a good thing.

Planes, when stationed, sometimes need to be moved without a pilot revving up the engine and turning those propellers. Pushback may be useful while powerback is not often recommended. Depending on type of aircraft and where the engine is located, these procedures may introduce sand, dirt and other damaging agents into the engine or to local structures.

But you still need your stationary aircraft moved.

Unfortunately, not all of us have bodybuilders sitting around trying to test their strength, prepping for a load-carrying competition. In fact, NONE of us have bodybuilders just moseying around the hangar. Would that be nice? Perhaps. Is it realistic? No. True, you could pull a plane but not everyone is geared toward straining their muscles.

Light-weight aircraft is somewhat of a misnomer. A “light-weight” vehicle is still quite heavy. If you can’t lift or at least push or pull your vehicle with your bare hands without risking a hernia, then you need a tool to do the job for you.

Spend any amount of time in and around planes and you have definitely seen a towbar help transport an inactive plane from one place to another. It’s a great way to conserve energy and prevent frustration. It’s also less cumbersome than doing it yourself. And while a tractor and tug may not be necessary or even an option, a towbar might do the trick. Even if a tug is necessary, a towbar is often required. Now if you only had a dependable one…

There are many towbars on the market but really good ones come from Bogert Aviation. One of the best I’ve seen is the Universal Big Bogi. Watch this video demonstration and see why I feel this way:

The “universal” designation translates to versatility. This versatility is created by four interchangeable “feet” that allow for a multitude of configurations that will conform to pretty much any plane fit for flying. There are additional holes for additional feet as needed. The adding and subtracting of feet thus eliminates the need to have several towbars—now it is all-in-one. And that, my fellow owners, will save you money.

Besides satisfying my thrifty-nature, the Universal Big Bogi has a really convenient adjustment mechanism. Inside the main bar is yet another bar that extends; this extended bar has pre-cut holes in which a pin locks the adjusted length in place. If you hear a snap, the pin has securely locked the new length. Really cool.

Handles situated on the main bar and the extending bar also allow for hand pulling (if you want to unleash your inner bodybuilder). And if not, or if you decide you’d rather have a vehicle escort your plane, attachments are available (clevis or ring).

Is this blog post a shameful plug? No. Is it a promotion? Yes. Here’s the thing: we carefully track what sells well and what doesn’t. The reason is simple—we don’t want to stock items that will collect dust and we don’t want to offer products that don’t appeal to our customer base. Having monitored sales of this towbar, we know that it gets the job done. And that alone merits a mention on the blog.

So travel the world in your aircraft, but when you need a break, land. And when you want to move your inoperable bird to a desired position, seek out the Universal Big Bogi.

Product Details Breakdown: What is an ECCN?

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Logo of the Bureau of Industry and Security. This government entity handles ECCN.

When you take a trip, you want to know where you are going.

Navigating our site is like navigating the skies: the directions and destination are paramount. But unlike the sky, your progress while traveling through our site may be hindered by obstacles, including either a lack of information or aspects of a product you might be unfamiliar with.

Admittedly, including all the relevant information about a product on its page is often difficult. Manufacturers and suppliers can be hard to reach out to and often we do not get a response. And when they do respond, the data provided is not as thorough as we’d like. Still, we try our best to transfer as much details about an item so that you can make as much of an informed purchase as possible.

Details, details, details. It’s all about the details.

They say the devil is in the details, but actually details are more divine if you ask us. Why? Because being clueless about a product doesn’t make for a good shopping experience for a customer. Knowledge eliminates ignorance as well as the frustration of having to return an item because the information on the page is inaccurate or simply non-existent.

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Location of the ECCN on a product page. [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

If you’ve searched our site you have undoubtedly noticed the “Product Details” section of a product page. There are many individual components to this section. Some are more obvious than others. In this post I want to highlight one detail in particular. A lot of customers ask, “What is an ECCN?” Good question.

ECCN stands for “Export Control Classification Number.” If you are a plane owner and you just fly around the country in a GA aircraft, an ECCN may not be important to your purchase. However, we often deal with businesses, both national and international. We also handle military and government contracts. Since we have a global clientele, exporting is just a part of SkyGeek’s M.O. And because our day-to-day operations involve the aforesaid, knowing an ECCN is definitely helpful.

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The 10 categories (divisions) of a Commercial Control List (CCL) as well as the five product groups (sub-divisions). [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

An ECCN is an alpha-numeric identifier, i.e. it identifies items for export control purposes. This identifier is used in conjunction with what is called the Commerce Control List, or CCL. When doing business across borders, trade and commerce must be regulated. This is where the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) steps in. The DOC consists of many bureaus and the one that handles ECCN classification is the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The BIS is the authority over the export and reexport of what is referred to as “dual-use” items. Dual-use simply means that the items are used for civilian as well as military applications. To find out more, you can visit the BIS page that discusses the Commerce Control List Classification, which includes a downloadable index of the CCL.

Under the CCL system, categorization is based on the nature of the product and thus so is an ECCN. Categories correspond with the alpha-numeric designations; there are 10 (0-9) including Computers (4); Navigation and Avionics (7); and Aerospace and Propulsion (9). In addition, these categories are broken down into five “Product Groups” including: Systems, Equipment and Components (A) and Technology (E).

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Example and break down of an ECCN based on CCL categories and product groups. Source: Bureau of Industry and Security.

When on a product page, it seems more often than not you will find EAR99 as the product’s ECCN. What is EAR99? This designation acts as an umbrella term that captures all the items that are not found on the CCL. However, such items are still under the jurisdiction of the EAR, or Export Administration Regulations. Such regulations are controlled by the BIS.

Ultimately, an ECCN comes into play if “you ship a commercial item from the United States to a foreign destination,” as it is critical in determining “whether you need a license to export dual-use items outside of the U.S.” For a more complete ECCN overview , read the Bureau of Industry and Security’s document on Export Control Classification Numbers.