Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Aspen - Telluride / Beechcraft Baron 58 (N2751W) / VFR

On this flight over the majestic Rocky Mountains, I decided to sneak around the west of the mountains to limit my maximum altitude. Usually I fly more or less straight between Aspen and Telluride, but by flying to the west I was able to stay at 11,000 feet MSL or below. I still used oxygen and recommended it to my two virtual passengers, but I used less of it.

Other than that, nothing special about this trip. I usually go from Telluride to Aspen, and not the other way, but I already had a Baron sitting at Aspen, and it had been there for two months, so it was time to move it.

I did plan a route but only followed it approximately, since weather was excellent and I tried to take shortcuts as terrain permitted. The approach to Telluride was steep, but the landing was good.

Tucson - Phoenix / Boeing 747-4AA (N705ML) / IFR

Well, I enjoyed this half-hour flight so much that I did it again, to fly back to Phoenix from Tucson. All went quite smoothly. I dislike Tucson even more than I dislike Phoenix, so it was good to escape from the former city. The aircraft behaved very well.

Phoenix - Tucson / Boeing 747-4AA (N705ML) / IFR

A huge jet for a tiny flight—great fun. I took one of my private 747s out for a whirl today, departing terminal 2 at Sky Harbor and arriving at Tucson, which is only about 20 minutes away. I filed TFD2 TFD DINGO5 at 17000.

I was assigned 7000 for my initial altitude in the clearance (which matched the SID). My FMS didn't know the details of TFD2, so I flew part of it by hand, and part of it in HDG SEL. Once I was cleared direct to TFD, I gave the computer all the work. I did fly the approach by hand, though, from a couple of miles out. The landing was smooth, but I can't say that I was right on the centerline and glide slope the whole time.

I did consider buzzing downtown at 500 feet AGL with two F-16s on either side, just like the DoD does in its inexplicably classified photo shoots, but I wasn't stupid enough to actually do it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More shuttling

I really like the scenery around these islands, so I went back to practice some more. St. Bart's and Princess Juliana airport are really close to each other, too, which makes them handy for practice.

I'm getting better and better with the pokey little C182. Soon I'll be able to move up to faster aircraft and see if I can land them as well at St. Bart's.

The scenery is so good that much of the time the only way I can tell the difference between the sim scenery and real scenery (as seen in videos) is by the slight aliasing of the sim scenery. Just look at this nice photo of my Cessna parked at St. Bart's. From the air, it's even more convincing. Only a tiny bit of imagination is required.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Princess Juliana - St. Barthelemy - Princess Juliana / Cessna 182RG (N7126H) / VFR

Just a short round-trip jaunt in one of my many Cessna 182s to enjoy the scenery and weather. No autopilot, no VORs, no SIDs or STARs, just flying directly from one airport to the other. And, remarkably, my landing at St. Barth was excellent—perhaps because I'm flying such a small, slow airplane. St. Barth's is tricky, especially if you have anything bigger than this small Cessna. The landing at Princess Juliana is much easier; they can even accommodate 747s.

FlyTampa has amazing scenery for both Princess Juliana and St. Barth airports. It's hard to tell the difference between the scenery and the real thing. I even saw a lime-green Smart car driving up the hill in St. Bart's while taxiing out to the runway for take-off.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Essex County - Martha's Vineyard / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N7365F) / IFR

I decided to retrace a famous, ill-fated flight again. I won't name the pilot of that flight, but a nearby VOR carries his dad's initials.

Anyway, I started out from Essex County (KCDW), filing IFR for Martha's Vineyard. This was a nighttime flight, and weather was IMC all the way. In my trusty Bonanza with its fancy avionics, I wasn't too worried. I worked out a route that would take me over Manhattan and JFK, then up Long Island to my destination, at 3000 feet. I was cleared into the Class B with no problem and departed to the north, turning promptly to head to the JFK VOR.

It was very misty and cloudy indeed. I could only catch a few misty glimpses of Manhattan as I passed over it, and then I briefly spotted JFK airport as I passed over that. For most of the rest of the way, visibility was so poor that I couldn't see anything outside the window.

I let the GPS and autopilot fly most of the flight, with me just monitoring to make sure that all was well. I consider this safer in heavy IMC. At some points, I could not tell which way was up or down, with clouds in every direction and no reference for the horizon; fortunately, I trust my instruments. The weather was a lot like it was on that fateful night, only I fully intended to survive this flight.

I asked for and received some modifications to my flight plan so that I could come around to Martha's Vineyard from the north, and then I was ultimately vectored onto the ILS. Terrain is very flat here on the East Coast, so I don't have to worry much about hitting anything, which is quite a change from the Great American Southwest.

I was soon established on the ILS. After some minutes of seeing nothing, I spotted runway lights far away in the mist, and I switched off the AP and flew the rest of the ILS approach by hand. The landing was gentle, but with a single light bounce, as winds were gusting a bit. Visibility was better at the surface, and I was able to taxi over to the ramp and park without any problems.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Newark - Boston / Boeing 737-800 (COA1132) / IFR

I'm not familiar with this part of the country but I decided to try a flight anyway. It turned out to be more complex than I expected.

I filed an EWR7 departure from Newark that emulated the Continental flight I was mirroring. A lot of the SIDs for airports in this area seem to assume extensive intervention by ATC. In the real world, that's not a problem because ATC is always there, but in the virtual world of VATSIM, sometimes no ATC is online (there are only so many virtual controllers, after all). That was the case for my flight, so I had to fly the SID on my own, with “pretend” vectors from an imaginary ATC.

Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at pretending, and my departure was a bit ragged. I understood fly heading 190 out to 2.3 DME from the 22L ILS (even though I was departing from 22R—that's what the plate said to do), then 220, then vectors from ATC. So I flew the first two parts, a bit clumsily, then made a long left turn to head directly to MERIT, my first waypoint.

From there, things were easier. I took 15R into KBOS, skipping over to GDM and making a nice straight-in ILS approach. I flew the last part of the approach by hand and, despite drifting below the GS a tiny bit, I made a nice smooth landing.

The procedures around NYC are really convoluted. I'll have to study them more extensively next time before flying, especially if I have to depart or land without ATC.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Las Vegas - Flagstaff / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

I haven't been to Flagstaff in ages, so I decided to fly over there from Sin City in my Bonanza. I filed VFR for LAS V562 PGS V291 FLG, which took me a bit over an hour to fly.

The flight was uneventful. The sun was just setting as I departed Lost Wages on 7R. V562 took me out to MEADS over the lake, and then southeast to Peach Springs. At PGS I turned slightly to join V291 to Flagstaff.

I started out at 5500, then climbed to 7500 as I left Lake Mead. After Peach Springs, I climbed to 9500, and I stayed there until I had the airport clearly in sight, since it was quite dark. I made a left downwind approach to runway 3 and landed quite smoothly. I was surprised to see a 737 parked at the terminal; I didn't think that anyone was flying 737s in and out of Flagstaff these days, although there's certainly no obstacle to doing so.

The field is at about 7000 feet, and the surrounding terrain is much higher, including Humphrey's Peak, one of the taller mountains in the U.S. outside the Rockies, at 12,000+ feet. It was on the other side of the field, though, so I was okay.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pilot's Rest - Las Vegas / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

Time to leave Pilot's Rest. With no fuel available, I prepared to take off on what I had (which was still plenty for a trip to Las Vegas).

The aircraft bounced ominously on the gravel strip on my take-off roll, more than I would expect for a real gravel strip. This shouldn't have been a problem, except that highly accurate add-ons such as my Bonanza can be damaged by extremely hard landings or other abuse directed at the gear, and the bouncing was so bad that the wheels were leaving the ground as I struggled to reach Vr. I instinctively pulled back a bit on the yoke to get off the ground as soon as possible. Once the wheels cleared, I put it forward again slightly to pick up speed in ground effect before actually starting my climb. I ended up clearing some telephone poles near the end of the runway by only 70 feet or so. The sun was directly in my eyes, but I saw the poles while still rolling and took care to clear them.

After that take-off, things got easier. There was a ton of turbulence but the weather was clear, so I could easily see where I was going and how far I was from terrain (just to confirm what the chart was telling me). I headed west towards V562, which is on the 305 radial out of the Drake VOR. It took a long time to get there, longer than I had been expecting, and in the meantime I swung north a bit, since I was well clear of terrain as I reached 8500, in order to save time.

Apart from the constant bouncing of the aircraft in turbulence, the flight went well. I did have a headwind, which slowed me down subtantially (about 125 knots over the ground, instead of my planned 160), and this persisted until I reached Lake Mead. I ended up nearly making direct for APEMY because it was taking so long to reach the DRK305 radial (oddly, APEMY isn't marked on the sectional, even though I could see that V562 turned slightly), then I headed for Peach Springs, and once there I turned slightly and headed up to MEADS, still on the same airway.

The sun had set before I reached the lake. Once I saw it clearly ahead, I started a gradual descent to 6500, and as I came over the lake, I made a sharper descent to cross MEADS at 4500. From there I turned west towards Las Vegas, which I had been able to see glowing in the distance for some time, and I rang up Approach. Cleared into the Class B at my current altitude or below, I gradually lined up with 25R, and sure enough, I was approved for a straight-in approach to 25R. I forgot to ask about landing long.

With the ILS lined up, I switched the AP to approach (I had been using it mostly for ALT, occasionally for HDG on the longer segments) and let it line me up as I reduced power. With the AP on, reducing power produced an increase in trim and a reduction in speed, gradually bringing me to my desired Vref. Then it was gear down, first notch for flaps, a bit more power to keep my speed up. A few miles out from the runway, with the airport and the Strip brilliantly visible in the clear air, I disengaged the AP and flew the aircraft down to a very smooth landing in nearly calm air.

I stopped very quickly, which led me to a looong, taxi to cross the other two runways and get over to Signature. I arrived a lot later than I had planned, but other than that, the flight had gone well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Phoenix - Pilot's Rest / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

There's something about the name of Pilot's Rest (AZ57), a tiny dirt strip near Prescott, Arizona, that I find very endearing, and so I keep visiting it. Somehow I picture Saint-ExupĂ©ry or Lindbergh or Ernest Gann flying low and slow above this nearly invisible airfield, exhausted after an epic voyage from one of those exotic and mysterious departure points that legendary early pilots seemed to favor, looking for a place to set down and … rest. An excessively romantic viewpoint, I suppose. If the field were named anything else, I'm sure it would lose its appeal for me, but with a name like that, it sounds like a lonely place that waits hopefully for some pilot to come and visit, and I'd hate to think of an airstrip feeling lonely.

Anyway, off I went from massive Sky Harbor. From Cutter (again), I requested and got the north runway, so that I could easily head north. I departed from runway 8, turned left crosswind, and joined V105 to make my way to Pilot's Rest. I started out at 4500, but slowly had to work my way up to 8500 to clear terrain south of the Drake VOR.

I came upon the field more abruptly than I expected, and I kept getting confused between Big Springs and Pilot's Rest, which are very close to each other. This always happens to me. I was also too high and fast, and while I made a valiant effort to land, I eventually went around, and reentered the pattern to try again. Then, on the second try, I got confused again and kept looking at the EHSI to see if I was really landing at Pilot's Rest. They both look much the same in the sim … and they both look much the same in real life (and they're even harder to spot). By the time I was satisifed that I had the right strip, I was way to the left of the centerline, so I had to scoot in on a very short base that had me turning over the strip and landing about half-way on the gravel. I was able to land okay and stop, though.

After some inspection, I decided to rest for a while. There wasn't any place to really tie down the aircraft, and there was no fuel, but there wasn't much risk of theft, either.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Phoenix - Los Angeles / Boeing 737-800 (SWA673) / IFR

Time to get current in the 737-800 again, so I flew a familiar route from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Good weather along the way, no turbulence, nice scenery. I mirrored the real-world flight, but I arrived first, for some reason.

I decided to fly most of the approach by hand this time, following the needles on the flight director. Surprisingly, I did a pretty good job, and landing was very smooth. The weather was good and I didn't have any wild winds to deal with, which helped. I even found my gate (14) without any trouble. The only little problem was flickering of the runway, although it wasn't as bad as it sometimes gets. I sure wish I knew what caused it.

Sky Ranch at Carefree - Phoenix Sky Harbor International / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

This was a very short flight from Carefree back to Phoenix. The airports are only 23 nautical miles apart.

Take-off in the afternoon was uneventful. All the area is familiar to me, so no need for any charts. I overflew Scottsdale Municipal, turned at Camelback Mountain at 3500, then entered a right downwind for runway 26. I was lined up quite well and the landing was silky smooth. From there I taxied over to Cutter Aviation again.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Payson - Sky Ranch (Carefree) / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

I started this flight only minutes before sunset. Flying in the mountains at night makes me quite nervous, but I figured I'd have enough light to get to my destination.

I took off to the west and turned promptly towards Tonto Creek, where the terrain is nice and low, while climbing to 6500 feet for the local terrain around Payson (especially the terrain to the south of the field). The center of the Tonto Basin is at only about 2000 feet MSL, so at 6500 I was fine.

Nevertheless, once the sun had set, it started getting dark quite rapidly. I could still see the terrain below fairly well all the way up to Roosevelt Dam, but after that it started getting really dark, and soon I could only see the outline of the mountains against the remaining light in the sky (and some of the mountain peaks were above me). I constantly checked the chart to make sure I was clear of terrain, and according to that, I had plenty of safety margin below me. But I'd still glimpse a transmission tower or tall trees or something on the ground and they looked a lot closer than I thought they should be, as did the occasional cars I saw on highways below me (some of which I couldn't find on the chart). I could see the brilliant glow of Phoenix on my left, but I knew that Phoenix was about 1500 feet lower than the terrain beneath me.

Despite these misgivings, I trusted my charts and my instruments and kept on course, while squinting into the darkness to see if I could spot Sky Ranch. When I was only a few miles away, I finally saw runway lights. I was pretty high, but I recalled that terrain rises rapidly at either end of the runway within a few runway lengths of the airport, so I preferred to stay high. Finally, on base for runway 24, I could see the ground well enough to make my final descent. Landing was very smooth, despite the quick descent. I pulled off to the south side of the field since the long taxiway on the north side is mainly for residents. It was completely dark by the time I cut the engine on the ramp, so I was glad to be on the ground.

Phoenix - Payson / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

Still parked at Cutter Aviation, I decided to make a quick trip up to Payson. My headache was gone, which was nice. The weather was excellent for this afternoon flight.

I made my way purely by pilotage. After departing Phoenix and restricted to VFR at 5500 or below, I left the pattern on the crosswind leg and headed northeast towards the Salt River. I simply flew over each of the lakes in turn (Saguaro, Canyon, Apache) up to Roosevelt Dam, where I turned north to follow the lake and then Tonto Creek, which leads most of the way up to Payson. It was easy during the daytime. Not long before reaching Payson I climbed an extra thousand feet for terrain, only to come back down again shortly thereafter to land. Landing was well aligned and smooth.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tucson - Phoenix / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

I took one of my myriad virtual friends on board in Tucson for this short trip to Phoenix. The weather wasn't too bad in Tucson; there were even a few clouds in the sky. Phoenix was warmer (too warm for my tastes), but still tolerable, especially with low humidity.

This should have been quite routine. Off runway 21 at Tucson, I followed V16 to Phoenix, which is almost a straight line, there being only one turn at TOTEC. All went well until I approached Phoenix. I got my clearance into the Bravo, was assigned to 25L, etc. But for some reason I wasn't on the ball, and I started a right downwind to 7R. As I entered the downwind leg, ATC asked me what my intentions were. “Right downwind 25R,” I confidently replied. Then it hit me that I was going the wrong way. I said I was sorry and made a very sharp 180° turn to go the other way. Oops! Fortunately, I was not given a telephone number to call. As I came abeam the threshold of 25L, I was cleared to land.

Winds were very gusty and the landing was difficult. I didn't see gusts in the METAR, but it was gusty from over Ahwatukee all the way down to the landing on 25L. I gave the gear a workout, and my passenger did not seem to be impressed by my landing skills. Anyway, from there, it was just a simple taxi over to Cutter Aviation, my favorite FBO on the field, with its salvaged control tower (the old tower that Sky Harbor used for many decades, originally made from a fuel tank or something, from what I've heard).

It was a nice night and I was sorely tempted to go flying some more after dropping off my passenger (who was glad to get out of the aircraft after that landing), but I had a migraine by this time and, while a migraine doesn't prevent me from flying competently (mine are relatively mild), it takes the fun out of it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Phoenix - Tucson / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

This was a short and pleasant flight to Tucson (I don't much care for Tucson, but it's a virtual world). From Cutter Aviation, where I had parked on my last flight, I was instructed to taxi directly to 7R, which is very close, and then from there I took the 144 radial from PXR down to TOTEC, and then to TUS and the airport, where I landed on runway 3. Although I have a fancy GPS and EHSI in the aircraft, I limited myself to the EHSI and the PXR and TUS VORs for naviation, using the GPS only to verify my track (to make wind correction easier). The whole thing was flown at 5500, which is sufficient as long as you take care about some of the mountains near Tucson. Weather was excellent.

Sedona - Phoenix / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

This was just a daytime flight back to Phoenix. The weather was excellent with very good visibility. I flew just by pilotage alone back to Sky Harbor, mostly at 6500 feet. After Bartlett Lake I descended below the Class B at 3500 and ultimately crossed Falcon Field before being cleared straight in to runway 26. The air was very smooth, as was the landing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Key West - Miami / Cessna 182RG (N7199V) / VFR

This was a short flight along the Florida Keys, conducted at low altitude (around 2000 feet most of the way) and under VFR.

I don't know the area very well, but the weather was pretty good and at my low altitude it was simple enough to just follow the islands and the highway. I came in under the Class B at 2000 and was cleared straight in to the south runway. There was quite a bit of turbulence most of the way; it was a bouncy ride. Landing was smooth.

Los Angeles - Phoenix / Boeing 747-4AA (N705ML) / IFR

Time to stay current on the Jumbo Jet. I did this with a familiar flight from LAX to Sky Harbor in Phoenix.

All went smoothly, except that I asked for a pushback in the wrong direction (maybe I should blame the ground crew for that, eh?). I was at gate 122 at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. (I know this is for international flights, but I got special permission from the airport to use this gate for my private 747—aren't sims great?) I was pushed back facing south, which had me staring at people staring back at me with bewilderment inside the main terminal. Not to worry—I made a stunning U-turn on the ramp … fortunately nobody else was in the way, although I think someone steering a jetway might have wet himself as my wingtip swept past him.

With that behind me, literally, I made my way out to trusty 24L for my HOLTZ9.TRM departure. Traffic was light and nobody was in my way as I rolled along Echo to my departure point. I tried not to forget any of my procedures (I have no easy way of bringing up and reading off checklists, unfortunately). Flaps set, TA/RA set and transponder mode C, and so on. Cleared for take-off, I flew the take-off by hand up to a few thousand feet, then let the FMC take over. I'm getting better at following the needles.

It was foggy off the coast and for a while I had zero visibility, but I rose out of that quickly enough at 5000 feet (my initial assigned altitude). As I turned I was cleared to 10,000, and then shortly thereafter to my cruising altitude of FL330. The 747 is a pleasure to fly.

Since this was my private aircraft, I cranked the cost index up to 200 to get to Phoenix more quickly, and a slight tailwind helped. I was making about 515 knots over the ground at 302 KIAS, which isn't bad. Weather was superb.

I've learned little things from flying these aircraft over time. I know that if I crank up the CI, descent will be more of a challenge because of extra airspeed. I tend to change my descent speed to my current cruise speed before I reach T/D, because otherwise the aircraft will allow itself to speed up in the descent and then it becomes a problem to slow down. I was at 302 KIAS in cruise, so I set the descent speed to 302 KIAS (ignoring the Mach—by setting KIAS I give myself a built-in gradual decel). At T/D the aircraft kept me at that speed on the way down, and then I intervened and reduced it little by little after the automatic decel to 240 below 10,000.

My route took me north of Gila Bend, and as the sun started to set, I spotted Highway 85 up ahead, with Gila Bend off to the right and Buckeye off to the left. In big iron with an FMC, sometimes you don't really know where you are, unless you check your position against charts and/or you recognize the terrain below (I did both). Unlike my recent flight at 3000 feet or so in my Bonanza, I was descending through 8000 or so as I crossed the highway this time, and my arrival took me south of Phoenix instead of coming in from the west. I was told to expect a visual to runway 26, and in the excellent weather I could see Ahwatukee beneath me almost straight ahead, and South Mountain with its huge collection of transmitter towers just on my left.

I could fly this with my eyes closed (almost). The arrival had me gradually descending to 5000, about as low as I can go on the approach I had set up via CERUN. This waypoint takes me only about 5 miles west of the Superstitions, which are just above 5000 feet in height. It reminds me of a flight that I did once that ended tragically on those very rocks, thanks to my own stupid mistakes. But in this case the FMC was very reliable and the path safe, and we missed the Superstitions by a generous margin as I was cleared for the visual approach to runway 26.

As I slowed to 190 and turned north, I armed the localizer on the MCP, and as the FMC turned me west, the localizer came up (“it's alive!”). I wasn't too far below the glide slope, so I armed approach right away and started slowing for landing. Unless ATC objects, I have my own schedule of reductions in airspeed, and usually by the time I'm a few miles from the threshold I'm at Vref. Winds were around 220 gusting to 18, and I could see the autothrottles going up and down to try to compensate for gusting winds. Nevertheless, at about 500 feet I disengaged the AP and took charge myself. It was frustrating but I managed to land okay, although that first touchdown of the main wheels was quite a bump. You have to stay cool with a big 747 or you overcorrect and get into trouble, that's for sure, and I took care not to overreact to the gusts. Anyway, once down, I turned around and got onto Tango to take me to the old Terminal 2, where a gate was waiting for me.

The landing was just after sunset, and Phoenix looks really pretty at night, given its vast extent and pretty lights and the fading colors of the sunset. Too bad the city is such a blazing hot dump once you're on the ground. The nice thing about flying to Phoenix in a sim is that I'm not actually in Phoenix when I'm done!

Phoenix - Sedona / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

After resting overnight in the Valley of the Sun, I was off to Sedona with two virtual passengers. With winds from the northeast, and very clear weather, I was able to get runway 8 again for departure. Cleared to maintain VFR at or below 5500, I turned to the northeast shortly after take-off and climbed slowly to 5500, flying over Fountain Hills to Bartlett Lake. The Verde River leads right up towards Sedona, so I just follow the river valley on up. In good VFR conditions, this flight is a cakewalk, and in fact I flew almost the whole way at 5500 feet. In IMC, it's scary.

Around Cottonwood I turned northwest towards LYRIT, and by the time I got close to there I could see the airport. The wind was coming from behind me according to the weather report, so I made a left downwind to runway 21. There was some significant turbulence around the buttes as I flew the pattern, but the landing was quite smooth.

After this flight, I checked out some videos of the same flight on YouTube, and it was eerie how much it resembled the sim. In fact, I immediately knew where the airplane was in the videos because I recognized the terrain. The sim doesn't have real-world detail, of course, but it has enough for you to recognize where you are right away. Some of the videos flew essentially the identical route to what I flew, so much so that I knew exactly when the airport was going to come into the frame as the airplane turned to final for 21 (which I had done only moments earlier). Even the turbulence was in the same spots! Very cool.

Montgomery Field - Phoenix / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N3759W) / VFR

This is a familiar flight along a familiar route. The weather was great, albeit rather warm, and I set out east from KMYF towards Interstate 8, which I then followed all the way to Gila Bend. I know the route very well these days and it's easy to follow by pilotage alone. I flew quite low most of the way, usually below 3000 AGL, to make it easier to follow the Interstate.

At Gila Bend I made my usual turn north to follow Highway 85 up to Buckeye. You have to be careful because the old U.S. Highway 80 is just west of 85 and you can end up following the wrong one, although 85 is wider and has a lot more traffic. By road, you take this highway to get up to Interstate 10 to go into Phoenix. Going from San Diego to Phoenix by road, however, takes seven hours or so, whereas even in my small Bonanza, it's less than two hours by air.

I have to pay attention on the way up this highway, because it branches off to the east just after a tiny airport (Pierce), with one branch continuing to the north. It gets fancier as it passes a prison to the south. Then it moves up to the “crook in the road” in Interstate 10 further north (north of the Salt River), at which point I turn east to go into Phoenix. On this flight I was really low, at maybe 2000 AGL (I don't remember now), well below the Class B, but I got my clearance early and made straight in for the airport, runway 8 (because it's close to one of my favorite parking areas). Visibility was excellent, and I set the ILS but just followed things visually. Landing was extremely smooth, and I was able to stop quickly (thanks to my low approach speed of about 90 KIAS) and taxi over to my preferred spots, in the shade.

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