Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sedona - Las Vegas / Beechcraft Baron 58 (N2735W) / VFR

Today the weather was very nice, and I decided to take myself and some virtual friends to Lost Wages. Given the weather and my desire to avoid high altitudes, I decided to fly VFR. With VFR I could make the entire trip at 8500, instead of 10000+ (for MEAs).

I fixed up a route of DRK063035.DRK290022.V105.LAS, which is pretty direct. The flight would require about an hour in the Baron. On this flight, I found it easier to navigate by hand than to enter waypoints into the GPS and let the GPS do it. I just set my course to 261 after departing from Sedona, and continued to intercept the 290 radial out of DRK, at which point I turned onto V105, which is on that radial. Then it was mostly a straight line all the way to Boulder City, all on V105. With winds from the west, I turned north after Boulder and then west towards Las Vegas.

Everything went very smoothly, until it came time for my approach. It is my habit to set the ILS frequency for a runway in all cases, even when flying VFR, just to be on the safe side, and today was no exception. Unfortunately, I fell prey thereafter to the “simmer's disease” of staring at instruments instead of looking out the window. The weather was extremely clear and I could easily look to my left and see the runways at KLAS, but instead I was staring at the HSI, waiting for the needles to line up. Somehow I blew through the localizer (they probably swept past the centerline very quickly when I was looking at charts or something), and next thing I know, I'm abeam the north end of the Strip, far from the centerline of my chosen 25L. So I screech around the other way to make a right base for 25L, but now I have to descend abruptly (déjà vu from last night), and again I overshoot and end up dangerously below the glide slope. So I squeak back up and just barely slide in, with the runway approach lights scraping rubber from my tires (not really!). Another hard landing, but I made it okay. I taxied over to Signature, where I'll have the aircraft examined with a fine-tooth comb.

I was distracted late in the flight by another problem, too. Glancing at the fuel gauges, I noticed that the right tank had 12 gallons less than the left tank. The difference could not be accounted for by engine consumption, so I started to suspect a leak. But as I kept an eye on it, I noticed that the difference between the tanks stayed constant as the total fuel diminished, which leads me to believe that the right tank was never properly topped off. I should have caught that during my preflight, but I didn't. Another stupid mistake. A fuel leak is a possibility, but in that case the gap between the tanks would increase over time, not remain constant.

Anyway, I'm going to whip the aircraft into shape before the next flight, and try to do the same to myself, as I seem to be lacking in discipline lately. I need to get back up to speed on the Baron, too, as the slowpoke Cessna has made me careless.

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