Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another day in the pattern

[Apologies to my IR's. This post isn't terribly exciting, adventurous or ground breaking, sometimes flight training isn't exciting, but it can be fun... and in the end, I was flying, what more could I ask than that?]

I flew with my CFI in the pattern today because I wanted to set in my mind the right way to do soft and short field landing again. I had the short field landings pretty well nailed back in the beginning of July, but hadn't practiced them in forever. I had a great feel for the soft field ones right before going out of town, but had lost it. So today I wanted a bit of a reset, to remind myself what its like to do it right. My other goal today was to have fun... not to think of these maneuvers as a procedure I must master, but to think of it as a game.. how close to perfect can I get? I'm tired of banging my head on the wall. Time to have fun flying again, even in the pattern.

I got to the airport early because my other half was going to do his BFR and I offered to help out by being moral support and, if needed, a contributor to "all available information" if he was asked a question he didn't know the answer to. The FARs are fresh in my mind because I've been studying and studying for my PPL check ride. He's 2 years away from his check ride. So I could help maybe :) In the end he didn't need any help of course, he got his BFR sign off. I got to have a fun morning chatting with the owner of the flight club.

Then it was my turn. Back out to the pattern to practice short and soft field takeoffs and landings. Not too much to say about it. My short and soft field takeoffs are great. Short field landings were good, soft field landings I still need to work on, but my CFI says I am very close, very very close to nailing it. I have to work on keeping the nose gear up on the soft field landings. I know can do it. Most important, I had fun!

Tomorrow I will go back and do it some more.. hopefully I'll be able to get in another practice run during the week. I need to tighten up my steep turns and get more slow flight/stalls practice in too. Tomorrow's focus, have fun. Practice keeping (or getting if I have to) that nose up on the soft field landings. Have fun. Yup, that's the plan.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CO to CA - Kingman to San Jose and Home

Homesick Angel
When we landed at Kingman Jeff commented that the plane would take off like a homesick angel with the winds the way they were. Little did he know ... After a brief run up we were on the runway and ready to take off. The runway was almost 7000 feet long, density altitude 6,800 feet and the plane was right at max gross weight with all of the fuel we put in. Jeff wanted me to watch how many feet it actually took to take off and the compare it against the performance charts.. just for fun. (Yes, we have an odd idea of "fun" sometimes). The windsock was showing at least 15knot wind straight down the runway. ASOS reported winds approx 18 gusting to 28.

Pre-takeoff checklist complete. Jeff advances the throttle to full (and does whatever other magic is required on a complex airplane with adjustable prop) and we head into the strong wind. I'm watching the "feet remaining" signs go by, we get past the first and halfway to the second and suddenly we are in the air! I didn't think we would be off the ground in 1500 feet. We just encountered a very strong gust. Jeff immediately pointed the nose of the plane down to keep it in ground effect. We stayed just off the runway until we got up to Vy speed (still over the runway) then Jeff pitched for the climb and retracted the landing gear. Jeff turned the early takeoff into a soft field takeoff and used ground effect to get us up to a safe speed before attempting to climb away from the runway. That is exactly what I would have done in the same situation having been practicing soft field takeoffs over and over for my checkride. Now I got to see a practical application of the technique.

With the homesick angel safely in the air at a safe airspeed we climbed away from Kingman and turned our nose to the west and home.

The Return
After we crossed the border between Arizona and Nevada over Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport we picked up flight following and headed west at 10,500 feet to stay in the smoother air. We had a very brief time over Nevada before we were over California for good. I have to admit I didn't take too many pictures for this part. For one thing, this was the same route we flew out. For the second thing, we had a serious case of 'get there itis' and we all just wanted to get home. But that didn't keep us from enjoying the flight.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the weather was perfect for flying. LA Center ATC was very busy with planes flying into and out of LA airspace and other portions of Southern California. We didn't get many traffic warnings but we enjoyed listening to the conversations of other pilots. At one point there was another plane with a tail number ending in "MM" (or "Mike Mike") talking to ATC. They needed to get fuel and weren't sure the airport they wanted to land at would have fuel. So they asked ATC to check. The controller was very cool about it and called the airport to make sure they had fuel for Mike Mike. The airport did have fuel and crisis was averted. Mike Mike was grateful. Jeff joked "Mike Mike needs Fuel Fuel!" I laughed too.. its OK to laugh when no crisis happens. But it made me think its not too hard to take off not knowing if the fuel pumps where you were going were going to be on or not. We did check, but that's one of the simple things you can forget to do that can end up getting you into trouble.

We were listening to the XM radio on the Garmin as we flew over the So Cal desert. Song after favorite song was coming down from above as we flew. Many of the songs were straight off of my "flying mix" that I keep in my car. I kept trying to sing and cutting off the music. Finally Jeff moved the microphone of my headset out of the way so I could sing and not bug anyone. The only problem was, the frequency we were on for flight following was very busy so every time we got to a great part of a song, someone would start talking and no more song! (I suffer so!)

Jeff and I took turns at the controls and simply enjoyed flying. The air was very smooth at 10,500 feet and our bodies that had just spent a week over 9,500 feet in the Colorado mountains had no problem getting the required oxygen from the air. Katie was very comfortable in the back of the plane and worked on flash cards to study the Japanese alphabet. I kept track of the fuel and let Jeff know when we needed to switch tanks. Jeff managed the mixture and prop "by the numbers" and it worked perfectly.

The MOAs we avoided on the way out of CA were cold for Sunday so we turned a more direct route up through the central valley towards home. We passed over Bakersfield and cut a diagonal route direct for Hollister, only 30 miles from home. Jeff quizzed me on how far out we should start our descent in this plane (its only twice as fast as the type of plane I fly). I worked it out in my head told Jeff approx 60 miles out. Which meant we'd be half way through our descent at Hollister.... we needed to do that because we were faster and higher than I've ever been in a 172. About this time I reminded both of us that we aren't done flying until the plane is tied down in the shelter. This would be the time we'd be likely to screw up... when we're almost home.

We were handed off from LA Center to Bakersfield Approach to Lemore Approach to Oakland Center and finally Norcal Approach! I was so happy to hear Norcal and the Salinas altimeter. Those were the sounds of home. We started our VFR descent and canceled flight following. We were rapidly approaching Reid-Hillview. Jeff had me fly the descent for a while.. for some reason I could hold 400fpm just fine but 500fpm eluded me. Once we got close to Hollister Jeff took the controls and the radio and got down to the business of getting us landed.

Landing at Home
We were high enough we could hear RHV tower loud and clear from over Hollister. We heard plane after plane call in from over Calaveras (a common reporting point when coming in from the northeast). We heard a Citabria in the pattern and the tower controller calling in the changing wind conditions for the Citabria. Then we heard a Bonanza call in over Calaveras... he was told to fly a "wide downwind" because he was number 2 behind the Citabria to land. That made me think about my bad habit approaching too fast behind other planes... in a C172! if this guy in a Bonanza can keep from running over a Citabria, I damn well should be able to control my airspeed in a Cessna to avoid doing the same thing. I kept an eye on the interaction between the Bonanza and Citabria to see if I could learn something there.

We were over UTC (the south approach reporting point) and Jeff radioed we were inbound over Calveras. I hissed "UTC!" and he quickly corrected. I knew why he did that, everyone else was saying Calaveras, its easy to get that stuck in your brain. Not to mention most of flights in the Bonanza after his sign off came in over Calaveras. No harm, no foul... we continued on in. Eventually we were cleared to land 31L. Jeff repeated back "cleared to land 37". The controller corrected him and he repeated back correctly. Then he looked at me and said, "what did I say?" I said "37!?" We didn't know where THAT came from.

Anyway... it was windy but not too bad, Jeff managed his approach and talked through his checklists (which made me feel better). The landing was not bad, but it wasn't as good as all of the other ones on the trip. That didn't surprise me at all, I think its common for people to let their guard down a little when they get close to home. In any case, we landed and were held short of 31R for the other Bonanza to land. I thought it was cool for two Bonanza's to be there at the same time, in spite of the fact that the other Bananza wasn't a v-tail like ours. Then we crossed the runway and headed for the shelter.

We finally shut down the engine and piled out of the plane... I patted the roof of the cabin fondly as I stood on the wing and realized that I thought of her as a girl now. I told Jeff and he said that's because I've learned to like the plane. Perhaps I have :) I certainly enjoyed the speed and the capability of the plane and I even started liking flying her. I'm not Bonanza crazy yet .. that probably won't come until/unless I learn how to fly her from the left seat. But yeah, I like that plane. What's not to like in a beast that carries you for almost 20 hours across states and mountains and deserts and plains without a single complaint?

Post Flight
Jeff checked the oil and we were down to the 8 qt level again. It seems the plane will lose oil until it gets to 8qts and then stop. So Jeff added that info to the squawk list. We also squawked other small things that were "wrong" with the plane. All of which were fixed the next day.

Marriage Intact
Our CFI, who knows both of us rather well by now, halfway joked that he was wondering if our marriage would survive the trip intact. Jeff and I have very different styles, especially around planning. I halfway agreed, so did Jeff. That aspect of the flight went surprisingly well. We clashed a little bit around some aspects of planning. For one thing I didn't see Jeff weighing bags to figure out weight and balance and that bothered me. Finally he relented and let me weigh our bags, just to find out Jeff really WAS able to figure out the weight of each bag just by looking at it or holding it. He was planning on checking anyway, he just didn't tell me about it. I made sure to let him manage the weather and weather briefings, which was VERY hard for me to do, but I did it and it worked.

In the air we worked very well together... I handled the radio and the fuel as planned and Jeff even said he enjoyed having me there with the fuel. He said it was cool to have "instant facts" available because I was in the plane. We took turns flying to keep fatigue to a minimum and we kept an eye on each others flying and pointed out if we started to go off course or started turning unconsciously when messing with equipment in the cockpit and, of course, four (or six) eyes looking for traffic is always better than two. Even Katie pitched in by managing and monitoring the oxygen supply on the way home.

In the end, what is the cost of this little trip? Thousands of $ in training for Jeff to get his PPL. Thousands in flight training for me. Another very large chunk of change for Jeff to get his sign off in the Bonanza. 20.3 hours hobbs rental time - not even going there. An airborne road trip to visit with family from all over the country and an airborne road trip home with a whole family having fun... priceless.
From CO to CA

This photo makes me smile, it sums up for me the best part of the flight.. that's me and my family up there, all three of us very happy. All three of us working together for a successful flight and a shared experience that so few experience. Something special happens up there, free from the surly bonds of earth. This is why we fly!

CO to CA - Centennial to Kingman, AZ

After a night of little sleep for each of us, we woke up a little after 5:30 to get up, do a quick check of the weather, a final briefing and fuel calc. The plan was to be wheels up at 7:00 to get across the highest mountain ranges long before the temperature and winds rose. My dad did a quick Starbucks run, I gave my sister-in-law a hug goodbye and we were off. Dad and Mom dropped us off back at the Denver Jet Center (a most excellent FBO) and headed to the end of the runway so they could see us take off. Dad would be monitoring the tower frequency on LiveATC so he would know when we were going to take off.

A little side note about Denver Jet Center. This FBO was excellent. They normally have a $10 per night tie down fee, but they decided not to charge us the tie down fee. They fueled the plane for us and refilled to oxygen bottle. They towed the plane up to the terminal from its parking space a twice (once for Jeff's Leadville trip and once for our departure). The people there were completely professional and friendly and definitely made us feel at home. Though I have to admit my favorite thing with that FBO was parking our plane right next to some very expensive and large jets! All of the FBOs we visited, Legend Aviation in Prescott, the one in Taos - I think it was Taos Aviation Services and Denver Jet Center made the landing and stopping a very pleasant part of the experience.

As Jeff did his preflight we noticed the two Cessena Skywagons parked next to the Bonanza looked awfully familiar, especially their exhausts and portals for cameras underneath the aircraft. We shot a picture of them and sent them to a friend of ours back home. Sure enough, both of those planes are also based at KRHV. They belong to Aperture Aviation. We see those planes all the time back home. What an awesome coincidence to have three planes based on Reid-Hillview in San Jose, CA end up side by side on the tarmac in Centennial, CO.
Co to CA

Jeff noted the fuel wasn't filled ALL the way to the top like we usually like to when we want FULL tanks. So I subtracted one gallon from each tank to start my fuel log as a rough estimate of the fuel we actually had available. We added more oil to the engine (another two quarts), cleaned the wind screen, tested our oxygen system and showed our daughter, Katie, how to use the cannula and turn on and monitor the oxygen tank. Her job would be to monitor the tank on a regular basis. We all had our oxygen supplies ready to go when we took off. We knew we would need them soon.

Off we go!
We got clearance to taxi to run up, do the run up and then take off. We were only 25 minutes later than I wanted to take off. Not too bad. After we took off Jeff said he saw my Dad and Stepmom waving from a spot near the end of the runway. I'm glad they got to see us go.

We got cleared to turn southwest almost immediately and started our climb up to 14,500 feet. We needed that altitude to clear the Rocky Mountains we were planning to cross. We took off early in order to get smooth air over the mountains before the thermals started up. That is what we got .. smooth air (almost perfectly smooth) and beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains and valleys. Very soon we were climbing through 12,500 feet. Katie turned on the oxygen system and we all set the oxygen flow for 12.5 and then 15 when we got to our cruise altitude of 14,500 feet. Katie complained of a headache so we set her flow a bit higher. Later she clarified that she had the headache before we took off.
From CO to CA
As we climbed over the mountain peaks I got that small feeling of unease that I usually get when flying over mountains (small or large). The feeling of where would we put the plane down around *here* if we had an issue? I suppose you just have to hope the engine doesn't choose that particular spot to fail sometimes. However, we stacked the odds in our favor, no winds, great visibility, flying high enough to clear the peaks and get a small glide in before a forced landing if need be. Sometimes its just a risk you take when you fly.

When time came for the first tank change, we weren't done flying over the Rockies but we were over a beautiful green valley with a lot of flat land. We decided this was the perfect spot for a forced landing if necessary. Of course, no problems occurred, the engine hummed smoothly along with the fuel flowing right at 12 gph. We spotted two hot air balloons taking off in the morning air.

We picked up flight following very soon after take off from Centennial so we could have some extra eyes watching us over the mountains. The controller let us know shortly after we got over the higher peaks that he was likely to lose contact with us when we got further into the mountains. He pre-approved a frequency change and VFR squawk and gave us the best frequency to pick up when we neared the Dove Creek VOR. We were able to maintain radio contact him much further than expected but eventually he lost radar contact and we were on our own for a while.

We passed over the town and airport of Gunnison and Gunnison Canyon. I really liked the view of the very green valley and the river winding through drier terrain. This is another spot I've driven in the long ago past. If you get to know me, you'll learn I've driven most of the USA at one point or another in my younger life. I have to admit, flying it in a small plane is much more fun! Gunnison Canyon is one of those little known but beautiful places in the American Southwest.

From CO to CA

When we were over the Dove Creek VOR we descended to 12,500 and continued our cruise. We weren't able to raise ATC on the frequency we had, nor on the frequency for Departure control for Gunnison. I figured it was because we were relatively "low" to the ground at 12.5 in the Rocky Mountains. So we left the radio on the frequency we were told to try and monitored the conversations going on.

As we went Katie used a spare chart we had and followed our route by looking at land marks out the window (her idea, not mine). She did really well. She also monitored the oxygen level in the oxygen bottle and let us know when it started to get low.

High Points
For me the high point of the trip from Centennial to Kingman was flying over Monument Valley in AZ. We hadn't consciously planned to fly over that valley. Originally we were going to fly to the Grand Canyon and do the VFR (non tour) route over the canyon for an hour. The route requires you to fly more than a mile AGL. The night before we left we were both very ready to get home so we decided not to fly the Grand Canyon route. We re-routed more direct to Kingman from Colorado which saved us about an hour of flying. That coincidentally took us over Monument Valley.

I was flying the plane as Jeff rested a bit, we were down to 12,500 feet and cruising through smooth air. I was holding my heading using a rocky outcrop in the far distance as a reference. As we got closer and closer to the outcrop we saw more canyons and mesas and finally a whole series of rocky features sticking out of the desert floor. There was one in particular that looked like it could have been a very large telephone pole. I was starting to wonder where we were.. about that time we overheard another plane using flight following talk about flying over Monument Valley. That rung a bell! I double checked the chart and yep, that's where we were. These are some of the pictures we shot.
From CO to CA
For some reason I thought our CFI, Scott, would have particularly enjoyed this part of the flight.. perhaps because it was hot :) In any case, I want to go back there with a slow plane and take off from an airstrip nearby maybe from Grand Canyon or Kayenta right after sunrise and get some really good pictures of the area. It was beautiful.

Grand Canyon Far Away
We picked up Flight Following again over Kayenta Airport. The controller was expecting us over Dove Creek VOR. We let him know we tried to raise him without success. Not a big deal, we were back under the helpful eyes of the ATC. Kayenta was near the "border" between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, soon after passing Kayenta we were nearing the border of the Grand Canyon airspace. Jeff tried talking ATC into letting us nick the corner of the airspace to get a little closer to the canyon but they said no. :)

I like this shot of the land between the Grand Canyon (that's the pink gash in the plateau in the distance) and the canyon below us. Transitions in the land are fascinating to me.

From CO to CA

Jeff and I agreed to come back to the canyon and see it from the ground some time. I've been to the Grand Canyon before, but Jeff had not. It is an amazing place to see.

Get your Kicks on Route 66! We approached Kingman Airport (KIGM) from the northeast after cancel Flight Following and starting our descent. It got bumpy then, but not the worst we'd experienced. The winds were strong and gusty in Kingman's valley so Jeff made sure to add some gust factor to his landing airspeed. As we approached we saw many many regional jets and larger jets stored at this airport. Continental, DHL and other airlines seemed to use the airport for long term storage. At least in the desert hailstorms are unlikely to come in and damage the planes parked there.
From CO to CA
Jeff did another very smooth landing in spite of the winds and we taxied over to transient parking and immediately went in search of the Kingman Airport Cafe for food. It was Sunday and as a result the local FBO, Air'zona, was closed. Luckily for us, the cafe was open! After gulping down what seemed like gallons of soda and water and inhaling some food, we were ready to leave. Before we left we wandered about the cafe for a bit. They had all kinds of photos of different planes, old and new. They were very cool to see.

I did another pit stop and Jeff and Katie went out to restart the plane and taxi it to the fuel pumps. By the time I came out to the ramp, Jeff and Katie were cruising by on the way to the pumps. Jeff had refined his hot start technique for the plane to the point he was able to start it on the first try now. He taxied up to the pumps, shut down and refueled the plane. He checked the oil again and once again it was down 2 quarts. This time we added one quart to the engine. We wanted to see if it drained another 2 quarts or just 1. Was the oil leaking a function of time or a function of oil level in the engine. This was our test.

With the windshield cleaned and the plane check complete we were ready to go on our last leg... our next landing should be at home.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Meteor Crater

It was cloudy, but it was very cool flying over Meteor Crater in the Bonanza on the way to Denver... here's a video put together by the PIC :) Just in case you were wondering if we really paid our $20 fee! I like how the Earth seems to curve on the horizon.. its from the lens we had on the video camera. A nice effect.

We will have to capture some video when we fly over the Grand Canyon (on the special GA - non tour route) on our way home Sunday!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CA to CO - Prescott, AZ to Centennial Apt in Denver, CO via Taos, NM

Flight Plan
The last day of our trip, Friday, July 29, our plan was to be at the Prescott airport at 7AM to refuel the plane and go wheels up around 7:30 in order to beat the heat and the likely turbulence and afternoon thunderstorms to Denver area. Jeff decided to do a fuel stop on the way there at Taos, NM. Just to be on the safe side. Whenever Jeff wants to be on the safe side I'm always game! As usual, the best laid plans don't always work out precisely that way, we left later than planned, hit more turbulence than we wanted and saw more storms than I wanted ... but that's why we fly, right? because you never know what will happen up there :)

Before we leave Prescott I have to share a beautiful sunset that we captured from Prescott the night we were there. The colors were amazing as was the cool wind blowing across the valley in this desert town.

Leaving Prescott
Jeff did his preflight of the plane as we waited for the fuel truck to arrive. You can see the dark clouds piled up in the sky. Fortunately those particular clouds were to the west and we were headed east. The skies east had clouds as well, but they were higher and more broken than the western route. With the plane refueled I found I was very close to the actual fuel burn again. I predicted 26.4 left, 19.6 right, actual was 24.85 left and 18.4 right.

One of the things we didn't plan on, but should have anticipated. As PRC is the home of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the moment the tower opened at 7AM, the sky, runways and taxiways were full of Cessna 172s in Embry-Riddle blue. The airport was very busy very quickly and we were just one of many planes in the run up for 21L to depart the airport. Finally we were cleared to line up and wait on 21L and I captured this photo of two Embry Cessna's taking off on the parallel 21 runways in front of us. You'll have to click on the photo to see it.

We took off and thanked the tower for their help. Then we turned east when we reached 6500 feet. As we departed Prescott Valley we enjoyed the view of the green valley, red rocks and water, yes, water in the desert. I was happy that we were able to visit Prescott. I traveled through that valley over 20 years ago and loved being there. It was great being back under these new circumstances.

Sedona to Taos
Our immediate route out of Prescott took us over the Sedona valley. We flew over Cottonwood airport and then over Sedona's valley proper. We saw Sedona's airport which sits on the top of a mesa in the middle of the valley. Easy to spot, probably a little unsettling to land at. As we continued north we saw smoke entering the valley through a canyon from the north. It appeared to be coming from the Flagstaff area.

We continued north under the clouds in glass smooth air. We were happy to have the clouds keeping us and the air cooler than it would have been otherwise. The Arizona desert was green and had ponds everywhere. It looked more like what you would expect from the northern mid-west than the Arizona desert.

Eventually we transitioned into more sparse cloud cover and over more "typical" desert terrain. We passed over Meteor Crater. This huge hole in the ground is just a divot on the charts, but almost impossible to miss in person. We flew a circle around the crater and took video of it. Then we let a $20 bill slip out the window. "Why do that?" you ask. Because Meteor Crater is on private land and owned by a family that charges every person who wants to see the crater. They actually have a pretty nice visitor center there on the crater's edge and some descent educational information available. However, 20 years ago when I was traveling this part of the country, I couldn't afford to see the crater. I detoured to the crater, hoping to see it, but I was a college student headed to California to work for the summer and I didn't have the $20 to spare. This time I did and I was seeing the crater from an angle people rarely get to see. It was worth the $20 fee. Maybe some other broke college kid will pick up that $20 and be able to see the crater in person too.

Our route of flight then took us over Winslow, AZ and of course I wanted to sing "standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona... " but singing voice comes out really bad over a headset! I gave it a try and stopped quickly for both of our sakes. We continued on our route and passed near "Flying Butte" (or so it was named on the chart), so I had to take a picture of that.

When we transitioned into New Mexico the shape of the land changed.. you could see more raw earth where the record of previous upheaval, ancient volcanoes and lava flows, mountains, ravines and planes. The temperature was rising as were the cumulonimbus clouds scattered on either side of our route. With the increase in heat came more turbulence. So we climbed higher to smoother air at 13,500 feet (only 6000-7000 feet AGL), turned on our oxygen and continued the cruise. I was a Navy brat, but spent most of my formative years growing up in New Mexico. It was a real experience seeing the mountains I used to look up at and hike below our wings.

At one point we heard an amusing radio call. An older pilot suddenly announced, "Well, here's something I've never seen before. Icing in New Mexico at 15,000 feet. I've been flying here for 20 years!" We were happy we weren't at 15,000 feet and weren't in the clouds. We continued east until we approached Santa Fe VOR and then turned northeast up the valley between Santa Fe and Los Alamos towards Taos. The cumulonimbus were building over most of the mountain ranges now but the flight path Jeff plotted kept us in the clear.

When we approached Taos we had to descend into the turbulence and had a bit of a roller coaster ride on approach to SKX (Taos airport). This airport was situated between a mountain range and a large ravine so the winds there were far from calm. It was rough enough that I didn't get a shot of our approach into the airport. Nonetheless, Jeff turned a rough and bouncy approach into a very smooth landing. We taxied over to the fuel island and got out of the plane to stretch our legs a bit and fuel the plane. (Predicted 16.8 Left,
11.1 Right. Actual 16.0 Left, 11.1 Right) We visited with the people at the local FBO and checked out some of the planes in the hangar. We didn't want to stay too long because the storms were definitely building over the mountains and we had one more pass to cross before getting over the plains.

We had a bit of trouble restarting the hot engine and, of course, another plane had just come in and was waiting for us to get out of the way to get his own fuel. But start it we did and we headed out. This shot is of the Taos Mountains down the taxiway towards runway 22.

Taos to Centennial
We launched back into the bumpy air and climbed up to the smoothest air we could find, which wasn't all that smooth. We had to basically just fly the plane and deal with the bumps. It wasn't even moderate turbulence according to official definitions, but it wasn't fun. For myself, I am much more comfortable with turbulence when I am at the controls. Also, I wasn't used to the way a Bonanza moves when encountering turbulence. The Bonanza does a little wiggle that Jeff says is called the "Bonanza Boogie". I wasn't a big fan of the boogie, but it wasn't horrible and eventually I got sort of used to the feeling. This was a huge difference from the me of a year ago that was terrified of the slightest bump in the air.

Our next major landmark was La Veta pass. It was the lowest nearby point in the Rocky Mountain range we had to cross. It was later than we wanted it to be and storms were building up over the mountains on either side of us. Jeff carefully watched the storms on the Garmin's weather radar. He pointed out the storms weren't moving, they were building stationary over the mountains for the most part. That made me feel a bit better as we cut a path towards La Veta pass.

As we crossed over the pass I took this picture of the storms off our wing. I was very glad we were where we were and not any closer to the storms. Once we got over the pass and over the plains the air smoothed out again and we were in clear skies over flat land with little wind. We turned back north again and enjoyed the break from the bumps.

We were talking with Denver Center, Pueblo Approach, Springs Approach and finally Denver Approach. It was very good we had flight following as this airspace was also very busy and we had traffic pointed out to us more than once. Love those extra eyes! We finally started our descent into Centennial and canceled flight following to start talking with Centennial Tower. I turned the radio work back to Jeff and just observed his flying. This photo is on final for Centennial. Jeff pulled off another beautiful landing and we taxied clear of the runway. When we contacted ground we asked for progressive taxi to the Denver Jet Center where we were going to park the plane for the week. The ground controller gave us instructions after stumbling over the tail number of the plane and laughing. We laughed with her and headed in.

We were directed to park the plane in front of the Denver Jet Center "terminal". Near where US Custom's inspects planes. We were parked next to large twins, small jets and other nice planes. It was a long but good flight and we were on the ground safe and sound. My dad and step-mom were waving at us from the other side of the gate as we offloaded the plane. The ramp was crowded so we unloaded there and the FBO towed 777Y to parking at the end of the ramp. You can see in the background of this picture the company 777Y was keeping and the storms over the mountains.

Next flight for Jeff, probably Leadville on Friday. Next flight for both of us (plus our pre-teen daughter) Sunday. I'm looking forward to the return trip. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to spend a bit more time at the controls. *grin*