Mifflin Airfield Notes

John Good – October 2015

Introduction

Welcome to Mifflin County Airport (KRVL), located in the Big Valley (also known as the Kishacoquillas or Kish Valley) of central Pennsylvania. This is a great place for glider flying: especially during the Spring and Fall, the many ridges here combine with northwest winds to produce world-class ridge soaring. It’s also an excellent place for thermal soaring – indeed, first-rate thermal days easily outnumber great ridge days.

The airfield has been the site of many soaring competitions, and is a destination for pilots seeking everything from a ridge introduction to a 1000-km diplome. The purpose of this document is to give the pilot new to this area some useful information about the airfield and the Mifflin task area.

 

Facilities

Mifflin County Airport (KRVL) is located in central Pennsylvania near the small town of Reedsville, about 3 miles west of Lewistown, and 12 miles southeast of State College. The airfield is at 819’ MSL and has a single paved runway 5000’ long, oriented 06-24.

A grass strip lies parallel to and just northwest of the paved runway for its full length. This is often used by towplanes, and is acceptable for glider landings.

A paved taxiway lies parallel to and southeast of the runway for its full length; the taxiway connects with a ramp and fueling area; additional taxiways lead to several hangars and grass areas used for parking gliders and trailers.

KRVL is rarely a busy airfield, and has a long history of successful glider operations. You can expect that most local power pilots will have seen gliders before and may even know something of their habits. They will expect you to be reasonably considerate of their needs as well – treatment they’ve grown used to from glider pilots. Please pay particular attention to not blocking taxiways and especially the area around the fuel pumps.  – please reference  the Ground and Tow Operations / Airport Layout documents

The CTAF here is 122.7MHz. Towplanes will be on this frequency; radio-equipped gliders should be, too, when in or near the traffic pattern. There is an AWOS (automated weather observation system) on the field; you can listen to its broadcast of current conditions on 123.85. Also note the University Park AWOS broadcast on 127.65.

The three main airfield buildings are typically known as the Terminal Building (has toilets and a small pilot lounge), the Big Hangar, and (near the airport beacon) the Maintenance Hangar.

 

Staging for launch

The common launch direction is southwest. The staging scheme is for gliders to wait on the ramp until a towplane is available, then to push (one glider at a time) to the area where the cross-taxiway meets the runway; the towpilot maneuvers in front of the glider, and the towrope is attached. Other gliders remain southeast of the hold-short line until the towplane is in the pattern for landing, or taxiing out.

Glider pilots should have completed most or all pre-launch checks before the glider is pushed out – expect some strange looks if you plan on waiting to start your checklist until an idling towplane is in front of you, burning expensive avgas.

Launching from the taxiway-runway intersection means that only about 3800’ of the 5000’ runway is available. As this is plenty even with a modest tailwind, there’s no need to stage gliders at the runway end.

Should winds dictate a launch to the northeast, it will be necessary to stage at the southwest end of the runway. Though it’s a long way from normal parking areas, there is also plenty of room here.

In all cases you must plan not to be closer to the runway than 200’ (the distance of the hold-short lines) until a towplane is inbound. When staging a glider, have a radio tuned to 122.7 so you can stay aware of traffic arriving and departing.

 

Launching

The most common tow pattern involves a left turn after a southwest takeoff, heading toward Jacks Mountain (the prominent ridge southeast of the airfield). On a day with northwest winds, there’s little point in towing higher than a few hundred feet above the top of this ridge, which means a release about 1200’ above the airfield. On any day with thermal activity, tows above 2000’ AGL are rarely called for.

If the wind is east through south, it might make sense to tow past the crest of Jacks Mountain, with the goal of using ridge lift on its east side. It could also be worthwhile to look for thermals in the area of Seven Mountains (the high ground northwest of the airfield).

On a few days a year, the crosswind at Mifflin is enough to cause problems. On a strong ridge day, there could possibly be a 20+ knot pure crosswind at ground level. This alone would be treacherous, but it can be accompanied by rotor, sometimes down to the ground. Experienced Mifflin towpilots (the only kind likely to be flying on such a day) have seen this enough to know that it can be trouble. They may decide it’s no longer safe to tow. If they do, you can be sure it’s a better plan to stay on the ground.

As noted above, use 122.7 Mhz during launch and when close to the airfield below about 4000’ MSL. Switch to 123.3 (for glider-to-glider comms) when clear of KRVL.

 

Landing

Left-hand patterns are used at Mifflin. You should have your radio tuned to 122.7 during landing, and make appropriate pattern calls.

Most landings take place on the main runway. The goal is usually to roll to a stop at the cross-taxiway, as this makes it easy to then push the glider off the runway. It’s then important to move the glider southeast of the hold-short line; glider pilots on the ground should offer to help with this, without being asked.

If you are landing to the northeast (or southwest, with a good headwind), this can be just a bit tricky: Glider pilots are typically used to short runways and have the (normally commendable) habit of touching down “on the numbers”. With a long runway, this means it will take you a long time to roll to the cross-taxiway, and you may not make it all the way there – you’ll come to a stop in the middle of the runway and need some time to get clear. Your aim should be to touch down at a reasonable speed about 800 – 1000’ short of your intended stopping point, which will make stopping at the intersection easy.

Note that there are lights along the runway and all taxiways. You must be careful of these – they can make it tricky to roll safely from the pavement into the grass. When in doubt, stop on the runway and promptly push the glider clear of it.

If you don’t wish to land on the main runway (perhaps the pilot ahead of you didn’t manage to roll clear), the parallel grass strip northwest of the pavement is a good choice. Avoid using any of the grass areas southeast of the paved runway – they contain too much sloping and uneven ground.

In a pinch, either end of the taxiway is landable for all but long-wing gliders. The lights here are 60’ apart, and a bit taller than those on the main runway – so take care to be on the centerline.

It’s worth noting that the airfield is surrounded by all sorts of excellent landable fields. Bear in mind the old adage: “It’s better to land off the airfield than to crash on it.”

 

Landing out

Not all flights end at the home airfield; here, this is often less of a problem than at other soaring sites: Much of our task area has good landability, and the Big Valley is almost absurdly good (it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that at times of the year when crops are low the entire US cross-country glider fleet could land in this valley simultaneously, safely and with room to spare).

The fact that gliders fly – and land out – here a lot imposes some special requirements: Your first duty after landing, securing your glider and calling in, is to find the landowner and do your best to make him your friend. You should apologize for the trouble and take great care to minimize damage to any crop (by preventing spectators from trampling it, for example). A friendly, humble demeanor works best.

Much of the land in this area is owned by Mennonites or the Amish. They dress more simply than the “English”. Some folks tend to look down on them as unsophisticated. This is a mistake – they are in fact hardworking and very sharp (two qualities required for success as a farmer). They tend to be friendly, but will not tolerate a condescending or inconsiderate attitude especially well. They are devout, and will not appreciate profanity. Try to come across as a reasonable person politely asking a favor, rather than as an arrogant stranger playing with his expensive toy.

Note that you may fly in this area only a couple of weeks a year, but many others pilots do too, and some live here. If you treat a landowner badly, you can expect serious repercussions, as this can threaten the future of soaring in this area. If you do have a problem (and not all problems are the pilot’s fault) be sure to make it known – there are local folks who may be able to calm troubled waters.

 

Airfields

The Mifflin task area includes a reasonable number of airfields. As it also includes a huge number of excellent farm fields, airfields are not as important as at some soaring sites. But some local airfields have quirks worth knowing about. See the document Flying the Area –  Airfield Notes for details.

 

 

theme by teslathemes