Visiting Pilot Info

Please note that my year-round soaring services at Marfa are by appointment only.  No tows or flight training services are available when I am not on site.  

See my “Calendar” page for my travel schedule.

I generally do not rent my sailplanes to visiting pilots.

If you bring your sailplane, note that “No Crew, No Tow” is my general policy.  You must bring a competent, dedicated ground crew and not rely on me or your fellow pilots to retrieve you.

No hangar space is available.  Derigging every night is recommended due to possible evening thunderstorms (just part of our very dynamic convective atmosphere!)

I do not provide any aerotow retrieves or drive your trailer out to find you.  

Why?

Reasons include the rough terrain around the mountains, lack of landable fields, few suitable airports or ranch airstrips (wide enough for your wingspan — see the El Paso Sectional Aero Chart.)  

Realistically, Marfa in west Texas is not an ideal site to “learn” cross-country soaring.   Lack of proficiency in accuracy landings, crosswind takeoffs and landings, aerotow in strong lift (and sink), takeoff and landing in gusty air and poor “blue" thermal soaring technique might be challenging for first-time pilots at Marfa, especially in our strongest soaring months of April through October.

Soaring in November through March is very possible and a fine season for training and FAA checkrides for Private, Commercial and Flight Instructor certifications.  (Ask about my offer of “Free Checkrides” in winter at Marfa.)

Please provide details to me in advance on your soaring background, recent cross-country and “western flying” experience and type of high-performance sailplane you will bring to Marfa.    All pilots must bring their pilot logbook, the aircraft logbook and proof of liability insurance. 

You must accomplish and pass a proficiency checkout with me in my ASK-21.

IF I decide to tow you, the first tow is $80.  Subsequent tows that day are $60.


Notes on flying your sailplane at Marfa, Texas.

MARFA AIRPORT:  Airport elevation is almost 5,000’ MSL, located on a grassy plateau near the Davis Mountains.  

See www.AirNav.com for airport details and the El Paso Sectional aero chart for terrain (and lack of airports.)  

Marfa Airport is NOT your private gliderport.  It is a public use airport with paved runways that must be kept clear for landing aircraft, although it is not very busy.  Sailplane flying (training and checkrides) are the primary activities.

The airport is three miles north of Marfa town.  Accommodations are very nice but limited in Marfa (see www.visitmarfa.com)   Accommodations in Fort Davis, 18 miles north, are very nice but reservations are required.  The town of Alpine 26 miles east has more motels and is the gateway to Big Bend National Park.

AIRMANSHIP:

Right of Way Rules.  Airplanes, Border Patrol Helicopters and Transient Charter Jet Aircraft as large as Gulfstreams occasionally visit Marfa delivering clients to the resorts or art gallery events around Marfa.  They are usually not aware of glider activity (apparently they rarely carry an El Paso Sectional nor do they check NOTAMS.)   The Marfa VOR is about 5 miles southeast of the airport.  There have been a few close calls with our gliders as airplanes may circle to land and are not looking out their windscreen.  While airplane and helicopter category aircraft must yield to glider and aerotow operations, most of those pilots do not yield.  So watch for them – avoid them – don’t test their knowledge of the FAA right-of-way rules.  

I cannot close the airport or runways for glider activities.  We occasionally have fire-fighting airplanes and helicopters based at Marfa and must coordinate our launches and landings with them. Sailplane pilots are responsible for checking NOTAMS.

122.8 is the MRF Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF).  Announce your position and altitude on this frequency 5 miles around Marfa Airport and always when below 7,000' msl to coordinate with our towplanes near the airport.

Landing Aircraft – Any Category.  ANY AIRCRAFT of any category has the right of way over gliders when they are landing, so immediately clearing the runways and taxiways by at least two sailplane wingspans is essential. If you are on the grid, this also means releasing your towrope from your towplane so it can taxi clear. Some of the landing aircraft do not have / use a radio to advise us on CTAF 122.8 ("Marfa Traffic") so vigilance of the pattern by your crew on the runway is essential. 

If before takeoff or after landing we command you to clear a runway or taxiway, do not hesitate nor debate the verbal instructions or radio call from our Line Manager.  Move it, NOW.  We cannot obstruct the runways on this public airport -- it is not your private gliderport.  Thanks.


RESTRICTED AREAS — see the El Paso Sectional Aero Chart:

The Balloon  Pilots must avoid the Restricted Area of the balloon (tethered aerostat) 13 miles West of MRF, up to 14,000’ msl, even if the balloon is not aloft.    

The Border  Crossing the Rio Grande River / US – Mexico Border ADIZ is strictly forbidden and may result in revocation of your flying privileges.   (Yes, they can see you, and I don’t want to get another phone call from the “Men in Black”!)

Military Alert  B-1 Bombers and other fast military aircraft including refueling missions will use the low-level training routes around Marfa depicted on your current El Paso Sectional Chart.  Also be aware of occasional military aircraft at all altitudes in the Valentine MOA, west of Marfa.  Unmanned UAV's have also been reported.

The good news is Marfa is well clear of class B, C, D airspace. (Nearest is El Paso or Midland, both 180 miles away.)