Sunday, April 25, 2010

Imperial - Los Angeles - Phoenix / Cessna Citation X (N219AG) / IFR-VFR

Yesterday I wanted to try a flight that was out of the ordinary, so I bought another Citation X and had it delivered to Imperial (KIPL). From there, I planned a short flight to LAX and loaded a couple of happy virtual passengers on board. ATC in the virtual world deals over and over with the same routes, even more so than in real life, so I wanted to give ATC something other than a SADDE6 or RIIVR2 arrival, for once. I filed NICKK V458 JLI VISTA2 at FL240.

It took half a dozen calls to ATC to get my IFR clearance. After sitting on the ramp for half an hour with my passengers waiting patiently, I finally got my clearance, essentially as filed with an initial altitude of 8000. And so I promptly departed. It turned out that FL240 was a bit ambitious, because by the time I reached it at JLI, it was time to descend (fortunately that worked out fine, since FL240 is the recommended crossing altitude for JLI on the VISTA2 arrival).

The rest of the flight was uneventful. The VISTA2 arrival includes vectors after SLI, and ATC swung me way out to the east and then back, but I had no problem with that. ATC had its hands full with many pilots of marginal competence, so I probably wasn't even noticeable.

After landing we taxied over to Landmark, as usual with my Citations and smaller stuff.

Some hours later, I began the second part of my trip, but this was more experimental. I decided to fly VFR to Phoenix. I filed a VFR flight plan for SMO POM PSP TRM BLH BXK PXR at 14500. I was curious to see how practical it might be to fly a Citation X business jet VFR at low altitude.

I imagine I was puzzling to ATC but I got my clearance into the Class B and was soon off from 25L. I didn't file a SID or STAR and was simply vectored east, from which I made direct for POM. The climb to 14500 was very fast, of course, and the TOD was practically over Phoenix. I made a very nice visual landing at KPHX on 7R and parked at Cutter.

It turns out that the fuel burn wasn't that bad at lower altitude, about 50% more than at a good cruising altitude by my estimate. Not cheap, but not as bad as I had feared. I went through about 3400 lbs of jet fuel for the trip. At higher altitudes I'd be closer to 2200 lbs, if I recall correctly (I usually just put 7000 lbs on board for every trip, which covers just about any route I'd normally fly with plenty of reserve).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Las Vegas - Grand Canyon West / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N7226Z) / VFR

This was a short flight that I made with four virtual passengers in order to take them to that worthless tourist trap, the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Getting there by car from Las Vegas takes 3½ hours; by airplane, it's only 30 minutes. The short ride from the airport to the tourist trap is still dusty, but I just stayed at the airport.

The flight is easy and I stayed at 5500 feet most of the way, climbing briefly to 7500 to get over some mountains southwest of the airport. The sim version of the airport is a bit more challenging than the real thing, since an error in the database puts very high hills just north of the airport, whereas in real life it's mostly flat. Nevertheless, I managed to descend over those hills to a smooth landing. There's no fuel or other services at the airport, so I'll fly back out on my own shortly, leaving my virtual passengers to enjoy paying through the nose to greedy aboriginal residents to see that over-hyped skywalk (funny how a land can be sacred when someone else wants to develop it, but suddenly becomes non-sacred when the owners want to cash in on it).