Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Salt Lake City - Gillespie / Cessna Citation X (N726YL) / IFR

This afternoon I flew the return trip from KSLC. Again I filed the most direct route I could, specifically, EDETH1.BERYL V21 CRESO V538 TNP V208 JLI ROBNN. With the winds at KSEE when I filed, I expected I could make the RNAV 17 approach, whence the inclusion of ROBNN.

All went well on this flight, which I flew for maximum speed. The winds had changed by the time I reached SoCal, though, so ATC told me to expect a visual to 27R. On my way to ROBNN, ATC vectored me towards BARET, and then turned me in the direction of the field. It was a bit hectic for a while. Without vectors, it's a pain to change things in this aircraft; fiddling with the FMC can quickly become frustrating. But since I had vectors, I was saved; I was afraid I'd get direct BARET or something.

Because of the tediousness of setting up the ILS and the fact that I was cleared for a visual approach, I just ignored the needle, turned off the autopilot, and hand-flew the approach once ATC turned me towards the field. The approach and landing were very smooth—I guess I'm getting better. The air time was 85 minutes, just one minute longer than the trip out to KSLC. And the time from gate to gate was also just one minute more than the trip out.

All in all, a good exercise.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gillespie - Salt Lake City / Cessna Citation X (N726YL) / IFR

Inspired by some family events, I decided to make a round trip in one of my Citations between Gillespie Field in El Cajon (San Diego) and Salt Lake City. Gillespie (KSEE) is a general-aviation airport that can accommodate bizjets; I had Scotty beam my Citation over to the airport.

I was mainly interested in how quickly the trip could be made by air. By car, it can take up to 16 hours or more to reach Salt Lake City from San Diego. I was confident that a Citation could beat that, but I wasn't sure by how much. Commercial flights take about an hour and fifty minutes to make the trip, but the Citation is a lot faster.

I filed the most direct route I could, and I had my preflight and most other things finished by the time my virtual relatives came out to the airplane. At 0006Z, they were aboard, and five minutes later we were airborne.

Things went quite well, except for the approach. The inbound localizer frequency for runway 35 (which I had requested because it is right next to several FBOs) had changed—I don't know when—and I only discovered this while trying to get established. After the flight, I updated the airport in MSFS, but during the flight I had to try to look up the old frequency in order to make my approach. I finally gave up and requested a visual approach, since the weather was fine.

Total elapsed time for the trip was 1:24. Air time was just 84 minutes. We burned 3722 pounds of jet fuel with just two people on board, so the total cost of the flight was a good $6000 or so, but that's the price you pay for speed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bishop - Imperial / Cessna Citation X (N726YL) / IFR

Trying to break out of routine, I flew from Eastern Sierra Regional Airport (KBIH) in Bishop, California, to Imperial County Airport (KIPL), near the southern shore of the Salton Sea. It's about 300 nm as the crow flies, but you can't really fly like a crow because of vast amounts of restricted airspace that get in the way. I took a slight western detour around the restricted stuff and the flight was about an hour.

It's good to get off the beaten path, for both me and ATC. ATC sees a constant stream of 13-year-olds flying into and out of LAX in this part of the country, and they probably get tired of seeing the same old arrivals and departures day after day. My flight was just a bit unusual, which broke things up, for all of us.

Bishop is a small airport and the runways are just barely long enough to allow a Citation to depart on a hot day. I prudently took off with flaps 15 and throttled up with my feet on the brakes just to be extra sure. As it was, we left the runway with plenty of length left over.

I was sloppy on this IFR flight. On the way up after takeoff, I realized that I really should have followed the obstacle departure for the airport, although weather was very clear so I wasn't really in any danger. The mountains nearby are potentially worrisome if visibility is limited. I messed up even more on the way into Imperial. The only published approach is a VOR/GPS circling approach, which got me all confused as I neared the airport. Fortunately, the weather was severe clear, so I canceled IFR as I got closer and just kinda sorta entered the pattern for runway 32, and landed successfully. There was no other traffic at the time so I got away with this.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I've been terribly remiss in logging my flights. It's not that I'm not flying—I fly almost every day—but I've had trouble summoning the energy to actually log each and every flight. Many flights are routine, so there isn't a lot to say. I have the distinct feeling that if I actually piloted for real, I'd find putting things in my logbook to be terribly tedious as well.

Anyway, on an otherwise routine flight to Sky Harbor out of McCarran, in one of my Citations (N7446E), I actually ran across a thunderstorm, which is rare in the generally clear weather of the Great American Southwest. I had already seen reports of thunderstorm activity moving north during my preflight preparation, and on the ramp at McCarran (Signature, my favorite semi-virtual FBO), I had noticed storm clouds and a lot of lightning to the north, albeit well out of my intended path. But on the way to Phoenix, I came across some isolated thunderstorm activity, right down to the anvil-shaped cloud up ahead.

I started to feel some substantial turbulence while still far away from the storm. I negotiated some deviations from my route with ATC and detoured to the east for a while, watching the storm out the windows. Normally, the Citation X would have weather radar, but Eaglesoft's model doesn't simulate this (Wilco's does, but Wilco's model is undesirable in other ways). Not a bit deal, though, since I could see the clouds right outside.

After about ten minutes of flying well to the east of the bad weather, I eased my way back towards my filed route. Every time I felt the turbulence pick up, I backed off. Eventually I got around the storm.

Other than that, the flight was routine. No hail or icing or anything, as I gave the thunderstorm a wide berth. It did make the flight interesting.