Sunday, May 12, 2013

A New Horizon

Saturday... I finally did the flight. A flight I'd been waiting to fly for years. My flight club limits pilots to landing at airports less than 3000 MSL unless they have a high altitude / mountain check out first. That rule has limited my flying. Not that I haven't had plenty of places to fly that meet the below 3000 feet criteria, but just knowing that there were some spots I couldn't, shouldn't, fly, always chafed. Not only that... I spent my teenage years in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the mountains have had a special place in my heart since then. Real mountains, with thin air, cliffs and rocks and desolate wilderness where no one would find you. I love the mountains and have long wanted to fly them.

Saturday I climbed into the Cessna 182, 88HQ, with my CFI for my mountain check out flight. The same 88HQ that my husband flew us to Lake Tahoe in a couple Decembers ago. The flight was 3.4 hours on the hobbs, closer to 4 hours between take off and landing back at home base. We flew from Reid-Hillview to Placerville, then along Hwy 50, in the mountains to South Lake Tahoe airport and landed there. A quick taxi back and we flew over Lake Tahoe itself to Truckee airport and landed there. Then back along Hwy 80 towards the lowlands and home.

I got to experience updrafts and downdrafts over the ridges. The impact of the venturi effect that the valleys have on even light winds turning a 3 or 4 knot surface wind at an airport at the mouth of a long valley into a 20 knot tailwind in only 10 miles. How much longer it takes to take off with a density altitude of 8500'. How fast you really move through the air to get the same airspeed. How to start up a plane when really leaned for best power. How to use updrafts to get 1500' climb rates and how downdrafts could result in no climb at all. I wondered if I would be OK flying so close to terrain and it turns out, I was. Lake Tahoe and the Sierras were beautiful. However, I have to admit, the thing I enjoyed the most was riding those updrafts and downdrafts. That was flying!

With that one flight and some ground instruction the previous week I am now approved to fly the mountains and land over 3000'. And, if I am careful and keep in mind all I was taught and experienced in that one brief trip, I will have a lot of fun flying the mountains and my new horizons for years to come.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Planning for the Big Adventure

I haven't done much flying recently.. at least not much to report on. But I have been doing a lot of thinking and planning for my long solo adventure the first week of June. This flight has a couple purposes:
  1. Do some mountain flying
  2. Complete the solo cross-country requirement for the commercial rating
    (i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point.
  3. Visit my friend in Utah
  4. Do some flight-seeing and sightseeing in the desert southwest
  5. Land at Bryce Canyon, Utah
  6. Hike in Bryce Canyon
  7. Fly over St. George, Utah
  8. Fly the Grand Canyon
  9. Land at the famous Van Nuys Airport
  10. Visit another friend there 
  11. Hopefully fly with him down to San Diego
  12. Get down to San Diego for my Dad's retirement party
  13. Fly back with my hubby
  14. Most important,  do the whole thing safely with a lot of fun and a minimum of issues
I'll have from Sunday through Thursday to make it from my home airport, RHV and complete items 1 through 12. Then the following Sunday it would be time to fly back. I'm expecting to do most of the flight VFR with possibilities of IFR departing RHV, in the LA Basin and into and out of San Diego. It will be a good experience in real world flying and much fun. The only bummer is I will be doing the vast majority of the trip solo. "The only heartbeat in the plane" as my CFI likes to say. For a loner, I really don't like being alone. On the other hand, this means where and when and how I go will be completely up to me, which I like. :)

Rough Route for the Big Adventure
I've been looking at potential routes online and finally had time to sit down on the living room floor with five sectionals spread out in front of me to really scope out the landscape I'd be flying over.  Online resources are great but having that paper in my hands and being able to lay it out in front of me really helped me get the big picture of my route. This is what I've got so far.

There are many blanks and details to fill in yet. The details between some of my main stopping points, my route over the Grand Canyon, the IFR route from Van Nuys to Montgomery Field in San Diego, etc, etc, but the picture is starting to come together...  This is going to be a lot of fun!