by Phil & Mark Peterson
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine August/September 2022 Digital Issue
We wanted to fly during the pandemic, but not stay overnight at any one location, so we enrolled in the “Fly Wisconsin Airport Passport Program.” You fly to all 125 participating airports, get your Wisconsin Airport Passport stamped, and receive prizes at different levels of participation, with the Gold Level being a leather flight jacket. This personal challenge started back in 2018. We got really serious in 2020-2021 during the pandemic. Yes, we flew over 100 hours in 2021.
It was interesting to try and locate where airports stored their passport stamps in order to make them available 24/7. Some stamps were in a mailbox on the side of the airport office or hangar, and others by a pipe in the ground out by the windsock or fuel pump. One stamp was even located in the manager’s pickup truck. Without asking someone at the airports, or seeing a note on the door to the office, who was to know?
During our mission, we were impressed by the number of new fixed base operations around the state, with many new buildings, and how their local communities supported them. Many airports provided courtesy cars and bikes and encouraged overnight camping in the airport office, outside in your tent, or at nearby hotels. Tourism and commerce must be the drivers.
We would advise our fellow pilots enrolled in the “Fly Wisconsin Airport Passport Program” to do their homework before starting out, including reviewing all the basics on their flight training checklist. If you fly to 10-15 airports in a day, many without AWOS or ATIS, it can stress your comfort level. But most of the time, it is just you and the airport, all to yourself.
There are a lot of improvements being made at Wisconsin airports, from new or resurfaced runways and taxiways to the removal of trees and brush along the side of runways, upgrades to 24-hour self-serve fuel systems, and new offices and hangars.
The best part of our journey were the people we met, and the stories we heard on how the airports came about, the people involved, and how our aviation communities are linked together. Unbelievable! Each state and region is truly an aviation community!
For those who use Facebook, there is a Fly Wisconsin Facebook page to monitor for updates to the program, as well as suggestions from participants on how to make a day of it when visiting certain airports.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article was published in the November/December 2021 issue of the International Flying Farmer magazine, as the Petersons are both members. Always on the lookout for a new challenge, the Petersons are now enrolled in the “Fly Minnesota Airport Passport Program” offered through the Minnesota Department of Transportation Office of Aeronautics and plan to land at a minimum of 130 of Minnesota’s 134 public-use airports to earn even more rewards.