There have been at least two attempted landings on the alluring but deceptive salt flats about 20nm south of Moriarty, NM this summer, resulting in planes that were flipped onto their backs. These are just the latest in a string of disastrous landings going back for years on the flats.
Several things conspire to reset this trap, including
- Embarrassed pilots who generally don’t like to talk about their experiences, so other pilots don’t learn from them, and
- Oozing mud and subsequent rains that quickly erase all traces of the accidents and the messy wreckage recovery.
Since back-country flying is becoming more popular, NMPA is spreading the word about this hazard. You might want to raise this topic with your membership, pilots and student pilots. We have attached a one-page handbill describing the hazard, which could be placed in your newsletter, posted on a bulletin board, or just handed to pilots. NMPA is also working to have the salt flats labeled as dangerous on the NM aviation chart, and maybe even on the FAA sectional chart.
Yes, successful landings have been made on these flats, but the surface conditions change with the season as well as with the location on the flats, and the success rate is dismal.
Some NM aviation organizations are already aware of and are communicating this hazard, and we thank you. Only by awareness and education can we overcome the trap associated with these salt flats.
Thank you for your support of New Mexico aviation.
John Lorenz, President
Bob Waters, Safety and Education Chair
New Mexico Pilots Association