Sunday, July 31, 2011
CA to CO - Harris Ranch to Prescott, AZ
The next morning we were back at the airstrip at 8 after the breakfast of champions - cereal, milk and coffee. We were well rested and excited to start the real business of the cross country flight. I was particularly interested in seeing how much fuel we burned in our flight there from RHV as I was doing the fuel logging and wondered how accurate my calculations and records were.
We pulled the plane uphill to the fuel pumps (swearing the whole time next time we will turn on the plane and taxi to the pumps .. that is one heavy plane!). Jeff fueled the plane while I got some Gatorade and snacks for the trip. I got back and Jeff gave me the official word. I predicted we would need 7.4 gallons in the left tank and 5.0 in the right. He refueled the bird with 7.4 gallons left tank and 5.2 in the right. Not too shabby :)
Off We Go
Preflight, preparation and fueling complete. Jeff went through the remaining checklists and turned the key on at 0923 PDT. We ended up taking off much later than planned, but we had a relatively short flight planned for today so we thought we would make Prescott OK. In spite of the fact that we had the flight plan programmed into the GPS I planned on following our flight path with paper sectionals and using my eyeballs. It would be good practice for me.
The air was relatively smooth so Jeff gave me the controls and he stretched out his legs a bit and relaxed. He also demonstrated the big difference the placement of weight makes on CG. He slid his seat back from the firewall and I felt the plane tilt nose up as he moved. We also listened to XM radio from the Garmin. It was nice to have the music to pass the time. Whenever a transmission comes in over the com lines or if either of us said something, the com system would immediately mute the music. Then after some silence the music would slowly raise volume back to normal levels. My only gripe.. can't sing along with the music (without moving the mouthpiece away from the mouth anyway).
I talked to Norcal, Oakland Center, Joshua Approach, Los Angeles Center, and finally Albuquerque Center on our way into Arizona. It was amusing to listen to the different controllers struggle with saying the tail number of our plane without stumbling. It is hard to say "niner seven seven seven yankee". Most controllers would say "niner seven .... seven seven yankee" and once in a while they would get it wrong by skipping one of the sevens for instance. I don't blame them. We listened closely and hoped they would abbreviate our tail number for the sake of all involved. Some did, some didn't. No matter what, the flight following proved its value several times. We had a couple times where ATC pointed out traffic to us on a converging course. We were able to spot the traffic eventually but once it was only after we changed our altitude to ensure we wouldn't collide. It is always helpful to have those extra eyes looking out for you when you can.
Approaching and Landing at Prescott
As we tuned to Prescott Tower after listening to ATIS we heard many calls for "Embry" planes. I told Jeff Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University operates out of that airport. I think that made both of us nervous. There we many MANY planes practicing in the pattern. We couldn't see the airport but we knew where it should be based on the GPS data we had. So Jeff called in to the Tower with our position and intentions to land. The tower instructed us to enter right pattern for 21R. I was surprised because Jeff said he figured we would be straight in on 21R based on the weather and where we were.
Something wasn't right. I kept looking at the HI and saw a heading of 12, if we were going to do a straight in, our heading should have been 21. However, we had been setting the HI to compass and the compass in that plane is almost 15 degrees of on Eastern headings. I knew the HI wasn't accurate and so did Jeff. I've never seen Jeff wrong on an approach before. Jeff called back to the tower and stated what he thought he would be doing. The tower was very nice, gave us a squawk code to verify where we were on their radar and just instructed us to report when we had the airport in sight on downwind for 21R. They obviously knew something we didn't.
We got clear of the runway, went through the after landing checklist and switched to ground as instructed... ground gave us instructions to taxi to Legend Aviation, a local FBO. They met us near the taxiway with a "follow me" car and lead us to their parking. Then they arranged for Hertz to bring our rental car to us, pushed the plane back into the parking spot and made us feel very welcome. We rented our car, found the nearest Sonic for lunch, visited with the people at the FBO and the Pilot Shop and then went to the Embry-Riddle bookstore to get some shirts and cool pilot stuff. Then we checked in to our motel room (scarey). I took a shower and we headed to the towns of Jerome and Sedona, AZ for a bit of sight seeing.
In the end this leg of the trip took 3.4 hours from start to shutdown. I calculated we would need 26.4 gallons in the left tank and 19.6 gallons in the left when we refueled for the next leg. Prescott, Jerome and Sedona were worth the stop and the overnight stay and we were safely on the ground when the rains and thunderstorms started to pick up around the valley.