Saturday, September 26, 2009

Phoenix - Sky Ranch - Wickenburg - Phoenix / Piper Dakota (N9708W) / VFR

At the request of virtual friends who needed a lift, I made a very short flight from Sky Harbor (KPHX) to Sky Ranch (18AZ). Sky Ranch is a small, private airpark in Carefree. I've been there several times so I know the way: unless traffic dictates otherwise, it's usually just a matter of turning north after departure and crossing Scottsdale Municipal, then going up a bit further to Carefree. It's a lot faster in the airplane than on the ground.

From Sky Ranch, I then flew northwest to Wickenburg, sliding beneath the Class B and then following Highway 60 up to E25. Then, in the evening, I returned to Phoenix, landed long on 26, and parked on the northwest ramp instead of at Cutter.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Marcus (Ajo) - Phoenix / Piper Dakota (N9708W) / VFR

I decided to return from exciting Ajo to only-slightly-less-boring Phoenix, via a southerly route that avoided the restricted areas on three sides of Marcus airport, the airport that serves Greater Ajo. As it was, my left downwind departure was perilously close to these areas, although I think I managed to stay clear of them.

I proceeded back down to Ajo, only a short distance from the airport, then turned to 079 or so to head east. When I intercepted the 198 radial out of Stanfield (TFD), I turned onto that, went to TFD, then contacted Phoenix Approach and turned towards PXR. ATC gave me vectors and altitudes before I reached the Class B, which is a bit odd, but VATSIM controllers handle such a preponderance of IFR traffic that they seem to forget VFR procedures. Similarly, I was cleared for a visual approach to 25L, whereas strictly speaking I should have been directed into the pattern instead. I didn't say anything, as I got safely down onto the ground either way.

I landed a bit long to save time, but then drove past the taxiway to Cutter while I was trying to set my trim back to neutral, so I had to make a U-turn on Hotel to get to the FBO. Other than that, all went well. When I parked, the last bits of light from sunset were disappearing from the sky to the west. The weather was good, apart from intense heat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tucson - Ajo / Piper Dakota (N9708W) / VFR

(I've skipped a couple of unremarkable flights.)

After having come down to Tucson earlier in the day, I decided to go wandering along Highway 86 to the west, through parts of Arizona I've never been to before. The highway passes through some towns with really bizarre names, like Haivana Nakya, Chiawuli Tak, Vainom Kug, Maish Vaya, and Wahak Hotrontk—I assume these are aboriginal American names (Tohono O'odham?), since they don't look like any European languages I'm familiar with. The first part of my route also took me just north of Kitt Peak, with its 23 different telescopes.

There wasn't much to see, which is typical of all southern Arizona, but at least it was scenery I had never seen before—a different expanse of dirt and cactus, in other words. Following the highway was pretty easy, except in a couple spots where several roads split off in different directions.

I considered landing at Sells for a stopover, but ultimately decided to just continue on non-stop to Marcus Airport just north of the exciting town of Ajo, Arizona. I had to be reasonably careful when approaching the airport because there are restricted areas on three sides, including R-2301E and R-2305, which are only a bit more than a mile from the airport.

Landing was uneventful, as you'd expect for a deserted airport just north of Ajo, Arizona.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lake Havasu - Phoenix / Piper Dakota (N9708W) / VFR

I decided to bring the Dakota back to Phoenix. This time it was just a fairly direct route. I flew east until I caught up with a major highway, then followed that down to Wickenburg and thence on to Phoenix. I parked under those nice ramadas at the northwest corner of the field, after landing on 26.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Phoenix - Eagle Roost - Western Sky - Avi Suquilla - Lake Havasu City / Piper Dakota (N9708W) / VFR

For this flight with multiple legs, I decided to just fly along Highway 60 from Phoenix to tiny Eagle Roost Airpark, then wander west, following the highway until I got tired of flying randomly. I went up to Wickenburg at 6500 (leaving 4000 after clearing the PHX Class B and the ATC restriction that went with it), and continued to Eagle Roost, which is along Highway 60. After a very brief stop there, I took off again and went to Western Sky, also along Highway 60. After an equally brief stop there, I took off and turned north to follow Highway 72 to Avi Suquilla. Then, after a stop there and some refueling, I flew along the Colorado River up to Lake Havasu City.

All in all, it was good pilotage practice, and the weather cooperated wonderfully (apart from the heat).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Phoenix - Prescott - Phoenix / Piper Dakota (N9708W) / VFR

Another flight in the Dakota. The ST-30 autopilot is primitive but nice, since it takes up no extra space and provides the essential autopilot functions in two axes. No GS tracking or intercept functions and no automated climbs or descents to capture an altitude, but what it does do still saves a lot of work.

I joined the 359 radial out of PXR on the way out, and flew that up to MAIER, and then towards KPRC. The weather was good and the flight went uneventfully.

The only excitement on the return flight, which followed the same route, was some developing thunderstorm activity northeast of Phoenix. It was in my way on the way back down from MAIER, so I had to swing wide around it. It didn't cause me any problems. There were quite a few lightning strikes in the skies surrounding me but I was in clear VMC all the way to landing in Phoenix. I was assigned 8, then 7R for traffic; the latter put me right next to Cutter, so that's where I parked.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Santa Monica - Palm Springs / Piper Dakota (N9715W) / VFR

This was a routine flight from Santa Monica to Palm Springs, just for practice. Everything went well and normally, so there's not much to day. The Dakota is fun to fly, being a cross between something quite primitive like a 172 or 152 and something more sophisticated like a Bonanza or Baron.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Phoenix - Carefree - Phoenix / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

I try to find very short flights for my Cessna 152s, because they are extremely slow airplanes, only about 50% faster than a car. I made a round trip to Sky Ranch in Carefree to, uh—to drop off a virtual friend, yeah, that's it.

ATC offered an intersection departure, but given the heat I elected full length from runway 8 (massive overkill—even in the hottest weather I wouldn't need the full length of 8 in a Cessna 152). A simple left crosswind departure helped me towards Scottsdale, which I crossed at 3500, and then on to Sky Ranch, which took a surprisingly long time to reach (the slowness of the 152 always amazes me). Landing went just fine.

Not long thereafter, I made my way back to Phoenix. ATC guided me towards a right base to runway 26, and I requested a long landing to avoid the very long taxi to the northwest ramp (in the 152, I'm down and stopped barely past the numbers, so it's a looong taxi to the ramp). Usually it doesn't occur to me to request a long landing, but this time I remembered. I touched down just short of the taxiway that led to the ramp, still with plenty of runway remaining. That was a change of pace—I haven't landed long like that anywhere in months.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Phoenix - Coolidge - Phoenix / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

Coolidge, like so many towns in Arizona, has nothing to recommend it. I only decided to make a round trip out to its airport because it was within reasonable flying range of my Cessna 152.

I was directed to make a right downwind departure from 26. Since I was heading southeast, I turned south and crossed the airport at midfield at around 3000 feet to avoid getting in the way of traffic. From there, I eased my way east onto the 125 radial from PXR.

Since I have no DME in this tiny plane, and only one VOR, I tuned the Chandler NDB on the ADF so that I could more easily find the airport. The bearing to the ADF makes a very shallow angle with the PXR radial, so it's not very precise, but it's better than nothing. I seemed to fly for a long time without seeing anything, but finally, sure enough, I saw the field, and I made an uneventful landing.

The return trip took place at night and at 4500 instead of 3500, but other than that it was pretty much the same thing. Up the PXR125 and then a right base into runway 26 (there was no conflicting traffic so I was able to cross the centerlines of the other two runways). I parked in almost the same spot I had left earlier in the day.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wickenburg - Phoenix / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

Good weather and the smooth execution of procedures born of habit graced this flight. I simply took off from Wickenburg, turned towards Highway 60 / Grand Avenue, and proceeded into Phoenix at 3500 feet, VFR. Phoenix Approach cleared me into the Bravo just as I was about to cross into it, then I was given a right downwind entry for runway 26. All went smoothly. I parked on the northwest ramp again, under one of those nice awnings.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gila Bend - Phoenix / Beechcraft Baron 58 (N705TL) / VFR

I managed to scoot over from Gila Bend back to Phoenix just before a thunderstorm on this flight. When I started out, there was lightning over the Superstitions; by the time I parked on the ramp, there was lightning on all sides. Fortunately, no heavy weather with it, at least at my altitude, and clear skies all the way to touchdown.

This was pilotage, as usual. This time I picked the right highway (on the right, which was right) and followed it to I-10, then into Phoenix. Very smooth, no problems at all, very clear weather, despite the looming clouds to the east and above me. I was worried I might hit some turbulence, but at 5500 feet I felt nothing, and indeed the cloud deck was quite a distance above me.

There were a couple flashes of lightning every second by the time I parked, on all sides. I was unsuccessful at getting a picture of it, though. (Yes, MSFS simulates lightning and thunder very realistically!)

Phoenix - San Carlos - Phoenix - San Carlos - Gila Bend / Beechcraft Baron 58 (N705TL) / VFR

Rustling up a pretext for a flight, I decided that I had volunteered to transport some vital McGuffin to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. I took one of the Barons I had parked at Cutter Aviation, and made my way VFR to the reservation and back.

The flight was pretty straightforward, conducted mostly by pilotage, using charts and the TAWS in the cockpit. I departed 26 and made a right downwind to intercept the 062 radial from PXR, then over the various lakes on the Salt River, then down along Roosevelt Lake and further on to the San Carlos Airport. I stayed at the airport overnight, then flew back out to Phoenix along the same route the next day. I then transported yet another McGuffin to the reservation, and turned around and flew right back out, this time all the way to Gila Bend.

Everything went very well, no problems at all. The Baron is easy to fly after you've made a couple flights in the 152 or 172. I'll probably doze off the next time I fly one of my 747s.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Phoenix - Wickenburg / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

Well, this flight went perfectly, from start to finish. Not that there was a whole lot that I could mess up, but still, I was happy.

Still parked on the northwest side of Sky Harbor, I started up and asked for my clearance into the Bravo and a taxi to the active runway. I was assigned 26, which is right next to the GA ramp where I was parked, albeit at the opposite end of the runway. I prefer that because it lets me turn north after departure without crossing any other traffic. Instructions were to remain at or below 3500.

Departure went very smoothly. I flew the runway heading until I was past downtown, then turned northwest looking for Grand Avenue, which leads all the way out to Wickenburg. To my surprise, just as I was wondering if I'd spot it, I saw it right in front of me. I followed that all the way out. I asked for and got approval to climb to 4500, as 2500 was a bit tight and 3500 wouldn't be quite right for a northwest heading.

I'm much better than I used to be at trimming my various aircraft, and I managed to hold my altitude with great precision after tweaking the trim for only a short while. There weren't any significant changes of heading, as Grand Avenue just goes all the way up, although it's not always referred to as Grand Avenue. I don't have DME on the 152, and I have only one VOR and an ADF, and no NDB was handing to plot an intersection to help me find the airport, but the weather was clear, and the landmarks on the chart were good enough. I knew that the railway that parallels Grand Avenue would turn west just beyond Wickenburg, and I knew that the city itself was on the avenue, and that the airport was west of that. But in any case, in the clear air just before sunset, I easily spotted the beacon at Wickenburg long before I got there.

My descent and approach went very well, too. When I rolled out of my turn from base to final, not only was I lined up with the runway, but I was on the glide slope as well! Flying in to land was a piece of cake, and I managed to touch down so smoothly that I almost didn't feel it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gila Bend - Phoenix / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

For some reason, I keep messing up when flying from Gila Bend to Phoenix. I confuse Highway 80 with Highway 85, and usually only after checking my heading and radial from GBN do I figure out that I'm going the wrong way. I'd get to I-10 eventually either way, but Highway 80 is the long way, and it's harder to follow. (In the sim, Highway 80 is a bit more obvious than Highway 85; in real life, they are very similar but 85 is busier.)

I eventually found my way, and from then on things went okay. Landing straight in on runway 8 was uneventful and extremely smooth, and I parked under one of those nice shady ramadas.

Phoenix - Gila Bend / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

I just can't resist flying the same routes over and over. They're like a comfortable old blanket or something. This flight was no exception, being from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to the tiny Gila Bend Municipal Airport.

It was hot, as always, but the weather was very clear. I had my Cessna 152 parked on the Cutter ramp on the south side of the field. Departures were on 25L, so I just called in to taxi and was sent to H7 via Hotel. From there I departed, climbing to 2500 (I was cleared for VFR at or below 3500). This being a totally VFR flight, I turned slightly north after passing downtown, and picked out Grand Avenue below me, and then Interstate 10, my standard path out of the city. I later realized that at 2500 I was busting the Goodyear Class D—oops!

I asked for flight following, but I got a trainee Center controller who didn't seem to understand. His voice also tended to trail off into a mumble at the end of a transmission, so I wasn't sure if I had FF or not, even after asking several times for a repeat. He had not given me a squawk, so I figured I didn't. As I approached Gila Bend and started my descent, I canceled the request for flight following, but Center acknowledged it as a cancellation of flight following, so I don't really know what the situation was.

I know this route well enough that I don't feel too nervous flying it at night, even in a 152. I followed I-10 out past Avondale and Goodyear Airport, then out of the city until I came to “the bend in the road,” a little crook in the interstate towards the south where it joins Highway 85. Then it was left on Highway 85, and then south along the highway to Gila Bend.

It was totally black except for the highway. There was a full moon but it was off to the east and didn't seem to illuminate very much. Anyway, I got down to Gila Bend and easily recognized the beacon in the darkness, so I swung around to the east (using the TAC to check that I remained clear of terrain) and made my descent for a very nice landing at Gila Bend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Santa Paula - Big Bear / Beechcraft Baron 58 (N3862S) / VFR

Night flight from Santa Paula. Actually, the sun was setting as I left Santa Paula, but it was almost completely dark by the time I reached Big Bear.

I flew via POM, slightly off-airway for a time, as it's shorter than going to PDZ. I stayed at 7500 most of the way, but since it was nighttime, I climbed to 9500 to get into the mountains. This was handy, because even with my TAWS I went a little too wide over the mountains and didn't come in over the lake by crossing the dam; if I had stayed at 7500 I would have hit something. At 9500 I was at least 1000 feet above terrain; at 7500 I would have been 1000 feet below it.

Other than that, nothing remarkable. The landing was very smooth.

Cannes - Nice - Cannes / Cessna 152 (N801YL) / VFR

I made a small round trip just for fun from the little airport at Cannes to the much larger airport in Nice, and back again. I don't often fly outside the U.S. because the regulations change at every border (especially for VFR) and they are extremely hard to look up.

The flight from Cannes to Nice is very short, even in an anemic Cessna 152. Not much in the way of navigation is required; just turn left at the shoreline, fly past a largish mountain, and set up your approach for Nice. I don't even remember if Nice allows VFR traffic in real life, but this was offline so it didn't matter.

Landing at Nice went without incident. A few minutes later, I flew back to Cannes, and that went okay, too.