Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Phoenix - Pilot's Rest / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

There's something about the name of Pilot's Rest (AZ57), a tiny dirt strip near Prescott, Arizona, that I find very endearing, and so I keep visiting it. Somehow I picture Saint-ExupĂ©ry or Lindbergh or Ernest Gann flying low and slow above this nearly invisible airfield, exhausted after an epic voyage from one of those exotic and mysterious departure points that legendary early pilots seemed to favor, looking for a place to set down and … rest. An excessively romantic viewpoint, I suppose. If the field were named anything else, I'm sure it would lose its appeal for me, but with a name like that, it sounds like a lonely place that waits hopefully for some pilot to come and visit, and I'd hate to think of an airstrip feeling lonely.

Anyway, off I went from massive Sky Harbor. From Cutter (again), I requested and got the north runway, so that I could easily head north. I departed from runway 8, turned left crosswind, and joined V105 to make my way to Pilot's Rest. I started out at 4500, but slowly had to work my way up to 8500 to clear terrain south of the Drake VOR.

I came upon the field more abruptly than I expected, and I kept getting confused between Big Springs and Pilot's Rest, which are very close to each other. This always happens to me. I was also too high and fast, and while I made a valiant effort to land, I eventually went around, and reentered the pattern to try again. Then, on the second try, I got confused again and kept looking at the EHSI to see if I was really landing at Pilot's Rest. They both look much the same in the sim … and they both look much the same in real life (and they're even harder to spot). By the time I was satisifed that I had the right strip, I was way to the left of the centerline, so I had to scoot in on a very short base that had me turning over the strip and landing about half-way on the gravel. I was able to land okay and stop, though.

After some inspection, I decided to rest for a while. There wasn't any place to really tie down the aircraft, and there was no fuel, but there wasn't much risk of theft, either.

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