Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gila Bend - Phoenix / Cessna 182RG II (N7049S) / VFR

I wanted to get one more flight in before it was completely dark, as the Cessna is more of a pain to fly at night, with its limited avionics for IFR. I know Gila Bend well (I even know that the first word in the name is pronounced “heela,” being a native of the region), and I actually don't like the place, but it's okay in simulation because I don't feel the heat and I'm not stuck there.

Anyway, while still on the ramp, Phoenix Approach calls me by private message, asking to be contacted. I point out that I'm way far out of his airspace, but he persists. I tell him to look at a chart. I guess he was going by his scope range, which he had set too high, and didn't realize exactly what Approach is supposed to cover. Anyway, after promising to call in around MOBIE (actually near Buckeye, since I don't have a GPS on board), I was off, with a right downwind departure and then a turn to the north to follow the highway out of Gila Bend.

As I reached Interstate 10 just southeast of Buckeye, I finally called in to Phoenix Approach, about 33 miles from PXR. Approach was manned by a student, as was Phoenix Tower. I got a series of confusing instructions that blended VFR and IFR, but I did what I was told (didn't matter to me, as long as I landed safely). I was amused to hear ATC advise me to maintain an altitude above terrain (nixing my plans to tunnel through South Mountain, I guess!) and tell me that I could expect a visual approach (nixing my plans for the well-known VFR Cat IIIc approach, apparently).

ATC set me on a heading of 090 at 3000 feet. I flew that heading for quite a while, watching South Mountain pass rather unsettlingly close beneath me and gazing at Ahwatukee ahead, wondering exactly when I'd be told to turn back towards Sky Harbor, which was disappearing at my 7 o'clock. ATC called some helicopter traffic out to me, which was moving somewhere around the radio towers on the mountain, although I couldn't see it (and I was surprised that he would be flying about in that area at night, near a mountain and near such nasty obstacles).

Eventually I was turned back north, and told to join a left downwind, which required me to turn back west again. Hmm … okay. Then I was handed off to Tower, which told me to make a left base. Approach had told me to make the downwind for 25R. Tower told me to make a left base for 25L. Then, as I approached the runway, just two miles or so away, Tower cleared me for 25R, so I asked about it, and was cleared for 25R instead (I think—at this point I wasn't sure of anything). I just aimed for 25R and landed. I was cleared for the option, and I advised that I'd be making a full stop, but as I completed my rollout, Tower told me I could go around again if I wanted to. I declined the offer and taxied to the ramp.

I'm glad this was in a slow-moving Cessna. I'd have passengers barfing in the back if I had to make constant changes like that in a 737.

Anyway, I finally made my way to the northwest GA ramp and parked in one of the shady spots.

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