Sunday, February 1, 2009

Las Vegas - Desert Rock - Las Vegas / Cessna Skyland 182RG (N7166V) / VFR

I undertook these flights late in the day, starting out from my preferred Signature FBO at the west end of the field (they have a lot of parking for small aircraft). Winds allowed me to trundle over to runway 1L and take off directly towards my destination of Desert Rock, a tiny, private airport perilously close to the restricted airspace of the Nellis range (which includes Area 51, although that is quite far from the border of the airspace).

I know from experience and charts that as long as I stay south and west of Highway 95, I'm good. Drifting to the other side of the highway can put me directly into the forbidden box, so I always keep that highway on my right when going out to the nearby airports. I spent most of the time at 6500 than descended considerably lower as Highway 95 turned west. I used the Mercury NDB to double-check my route, as it is very close to Desert Rock. The airport itself was hard to see until I was only a few miles away.

I landed very smoothly and taxied over to the small ramp. The airport actually is inside the range (but not inside restricted airspace) and belongs to the Department of Energy. Of course, I took care to obtain permission from the DoE before landing. You can get permission for all sorts of things in virtual skies.

I took a nap for about two hours while the aircraft was tied down outside, and then went out to fly back to Las Vegas. It was dark by then. Flying in the dark always makes me nervous, as I've said before, but since I know this area from previous flights and had just flown through it, I wasn't too worried.

Winds were from the northeast, so I took care to immediately turn right to avoid the bad boxes after take-off. I scurried over to the south side of the highway and then followed it into Las Vegas. There are some power lines in parallel with the highway on the south side that I could just barely see in the darkness (mostly the towers, that is), and I used that to help make sure that I didn't drift towards the very high terrain off to my right (some of the mountains reach 10,000 feet). All went well and after passing North Las Vegas I made a right downwind onto 25R at KLAS. The landing was very smooth indeed, and I taxied back over to Signature. It occurred to me a bit too late that I could have landed long and saved time; I'll think about that next time.