Monday, September 1, 2008

Denver - Aspen / Cessna 182RG-II / VFR

I decided to tackle the challenge of flying out to Aspen in the Cessna 182, which has only the basic necessities for instrument flight. I set out in the evening from Denver, following the same route I had flown in the Baron a few days earlier.

My route was simple: the 254 radial out from Mile High, then intercept the 228 radial in to Red Table (at DOBEE, if I had RNAV), otherwise known as V356. I navgiated mostly by staying on this airway, but I also kept an eye on the ground to see if the expected landmarks were there; fortunately, they were.

It was also fortunate that the weather was clear below my aircraft for most of the way, although there was a cloud deck above me. There were occasional shifts in the wind, and updrafts and downdrafts, but not much turbulence per se. Leaving Denver there had been a great deal of cloud and lighting, but after flying illegally through it for a time, I enter clear air as I approached the mountains.

I preferred speed to climb rate, and so I climbed only very slowly to 16,500 feet, while maintaining about 105 KIAS. By the time I got to that altitude, I was only 24 miles away from Red Table. It was getting really dark and I didn't like the thought of being over the mountains in complete darkness. As I approached Red Table Mountain, I kept looking for the highway (State 82) to Aspen or the field itself, and finally I saw the airport at about my 10 o'clock position. Anxious to get out of the air in the deepening darkness, I turned south about 5 miles east of Red Table, and started my descent as I passed over Ruedi Reservoir, finally turning towards the airport as all of the highway became visible (meaning that I no longer had mountains in the way, which were getting harder and harder to see).

My descent into the airport was swift but safe and above the glide path, and very slow. The landing was a bit bumpy but I made it. By the time I parked on the ramp it was practically nighttime.