Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grand Canyon - Valle / Cessna 182RG II (N7167V) / VFR

Just a tiny shuttle from Grand Canyon to Valle, a small airport about eighteen miles to the south. I filled up the tanks after arriving at Valle.

I'm trying to figure out a nice flight plan near the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, the Grand Canyon contains a Special Flight Rules Area with all sorts of restrictions applied to it, which was put in place after the nuisance of constant helicopter and fixed-wing overflights of the canyon at low altitude became intolerable. Today, you can only overfly the canyon in certain ways at certain altitudes—zipping down below the rim for a thrill ride right above the Colorado is no longer an option. Even companies that make provide tours of the canyon as their business are subject to heavy restrictions.

For my small Cessnas, the options are limited. You can overfly any point in the canyon as long as you're above 14,500 feet MSL, but that's mighty high for a Cessna 182, and it would require that both I and my passengers strap on supplemental oxygen, which takes the fun out of things a bit. 'Course, even the rim of the canyon is already above 5000 feet MSL (KGCN is just above 6600 feet), so I usually have the oxygen handy at least for me, but imposing it on passengers doesn't go over that well.

Another option is to fly through one of the special corridors set up across the canyon. Even those require you to be at least at 10,500 feet, though, so oxygen is still a factor. Some sectors of the canyon let you fly as low as 9000 feet, but then you're quite a distance from the canyon itself in many cases. No matter how you look at it, you have to fly high to get across the canyon. So I'm debating whether to actually fly across it, or just fly around it. I guess that depends on where my passengers would like to go next. We've been to Sedona and Prescott, but not Flagstaff. Maybe we can take a ride down there. We'll see.

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