Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Santa Monica - Phoenix / Beechcraft Baron 58 (N705TL) / IFR

Time for some more cross-country IFR.

I'm a creature of habit, so I chose KSMO to KPHX (yes, as a matter of fact, I do insist on using ICAO airport codes!). This was a night flight, but flying my Barons SPIFR at night doesn't bother me, with all the fancy avionics I have in them.

I filed a departure and arrival, too, which is exceptional for my small GA aircraft. I took the PEVEE1.TRM departure out of Santa Monica, and the BLH4.BLH arrival into Phoenix Sky Harbor. All of the en-route portion of the flight was at 11000, since I had to be there to get over the mountains and the BLH4 (intended for jets and turboprops) also specified a recommended altitude of 11000 at the gate.

All went well. On the way out of SMO I was surprised to hear ATC conducting a PAR approach. It brought back memories of the old movie Airport, in which the heroes ask for a PAR approach for some strange reason (I guess a PAR provides more exciting dialogue and more suspense than an ILS).

ATC was offline in ZAB, so I cleared myself for a Freeway visual approach. Only problem here is that I had no ATC to assign altitudes. After ARLIN, where I'd normally get vectors, I vectored myself northeast to intercept the localizer for 7L (even though I planned a visual approach, I like having back-up), and cleared myself down to 3100 from 5000. That was a bit iffy because there are a few spots in the terrain that reach up past 3100, but I know the area pretty well and I have TAWS on board so I wasn't too worried. At one point I did see terrain below me in the darkness, scattered trees and stuff, but the radar altimeter said I was 2000 feet above and the TAWS showed no terrain problems ahead so I continued on.

The weather was very clear, hot, and calm at Sky Harbor (something about that name—Sky Harbor—sounds appealing to me … I picture little planes tied up to cloud banks in a sky-high version of a pleasure harbor). I let the autopilot line me up until I was 11 miles out or so, then switched it off and flew the rest by hand. Landing was smooth and without incident, and I taxied across 7R and over to Cutter, my favorite FBO (probably because they have the old Phoenix tower from the 1950s as decoration). They've also been in Phoenix for as long as I can remember.

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