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.

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