Monday, August 3, 2009

Gila Bend - Wickenburg / Cessna 152 (N706YL) / VFR

I don't know what it is about Gila Bend, but I seem to find myself going to or from its little airport an awful lot. The city is a hellhole, like most tiny towns in the deserts of the Great American Southwest. It's often the hottest spot in the State of Arizona (just as Hawley Lake is often the coldest). It's a place you pass through without stopping while driving between Phoenix and San Diego.

I guess the airport is convenient for me, and it's in a geographic area that I know only too well. Plus, I can fly to and from the city in a sim without suffering the extreme discomfort of 115° F temperatures. In real life, this might well be too much of an ordeal to endure.

The town is named after a bend in the nearby Gila River (which usually has only about a quart of water flowing through it), and the first word in the name is pronounced “heelah,” although many out-of-towners in aviation don't know this. There's a waypoint and an arrival named GEELA into Phoenix, which makes me think that the person naming it didn't know about the customary local pronunciation of Gila Bend (and the Gila River), or perhaps didn't want to risk confusing people unfamiliar with the local pronunciation (pilots flying in from other cities most likely wouldn't know about the peculiarity of pronunciation).

Anyway … where was I? … oh, yes, I left Gila Bend in one of my clunky little 152s and headed for Wickenburg. The distance between them was 62 nautical miles, and at the lame speeds of the 152, that meant about 40 minutes in the air. I headed for the Buckeye VOR, then headed back out on the 349 radial and found the airport easily enough. There wasn't much wind and the weather was very clear. I did encounter some turbulence near Wickenburg, though.

It was 110° F in Wickenburg when I landed, with gusting winds, and the landing was a bit rough because of the gusts.

Wickenburg is a dump, too. Sorry, but it is. I'm glad I'm only landing there, not visiting there. However, Wickenburg does have one redeeming quality: the Hassayampa River flows through it. Unlike the Gila River, this river has water in it, but it flows mostly underground (!). It comes above ground in Wickenburg and flows gently through the town. That still doesn't compensate for high temperatures, though, and the airport is several miles from the river.

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