Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flying in Arizona

After reaching Tucson the goal of this trip was getting closer, the Grand Canyon was just a few hours to the North.
Pima Air and Space Museum.
Just as side note Tucson was a great stop because we were able to have a full day around airplanes in one of the biggest museums and air force boneyards in the USA. Pima Air and Space Museum has loads of Air Force aircraft (275 aircraft) on a static display in the Desert and also includes some nice hangars which contain some well preserved World War II birds! Furthermore they have put together a tour that goes inside the actual Air Force Base boneyard - the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) - where you can see all the work that is done in preserving, storing, maintaining and destroying Air Force old and still in service airframes. The boneyard itself has more than 4000 airframes. After a day full of aviation related activities it was only right to go for a flight and so we moved to the airport to continue our journey to the Grand Canyon and Vegas.
The Famous BlackBird SR71 at Pima.
But before going there one should get used to flying in the mountains and valleys and so a stop was planed at one of the best known cities in Arizona, Sedona. Sedona seats in the middle of the arid Arizona and is best known for having the nicest views since it is right in a valley surrounded by red mountain tops with beautiful mesas and typical desert cactus. After reading about it on a guide book and learning a little bit more about the place on the internet it just sounded right to stop there on our way North. It was agreed that we would spend a night in Sedona to know the place prior to departing to the Canyon and so in the afternoon we departed Tucson inbound Sedona so we could do the 2 hour flight during the day in order to enjoy the most of the scenery. As Tucson seats at 2000 feet (610 meters) above mean sea level and it has mountains all around one had to climb to go past those mountain tops in order to fly the desired route to Sedona Airport which seats on top of the so called Airport Mesa (which is at 4830 feet (1450 meters) above mean sea level, but still is engulfed by the mountain tops) with a 180º view over the valley, to the opposite side of the town.
Our aircraft at Tucson prior departure to Sedona.
Departed from Tucson we started cruising at 10500 feet to clear all the terrain on our two hour flight. But somewhere in the middle it just felt right to go lower and enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon and make the most of our scenery and so we cancelled the flight following and went down making our way visually at 3000 to 4000 feet down the valleys and rivers doing "slaloms" around the higher terrain. Elevations around us came to 10000 feet which made the ride quite interesting! After a while our friend caught up with us as they went through another valley which met up ahead with ours.
As you might understand the flight extended a little bit due to the fun we were having and we only landed when it was no longer worthy of enjoying the views due to the lack of sun rays and so we arrived in Sedona just after Dusk only to make a landing on runway 03, which has an upslope of 2.0% and at that time winds were gusting 26 Kts which accounted for some nice mechanical turbulence on final that put our skills to the test. It was the nicest ending for one of the nicest flights I have EVER had!
Enroute to Sedona flying in formation with the sunset behind.
We arrived at 6PM and the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) - the service provider on the airport - had just closed at 5PM but fortunately there was still a clerk inside to help us with our check in, even after hous! We got a car and moved down the road from the airport half a mile to the Sky Ranch Lodge which is a nice small and cozy lodge that has cool rooms and all an atmosphere of a mountain lodge with pool and hot tub. Obviously since it was kind of cold and windy it was only right to get the luggage to the rooms and jump to the hot tub right away. Yeah, one must relax after such a hard day, right?
We relaxed for half an hour on the tub doing the debriefing and planing our next flights and as the dinner time came we got ourselves some warm clothes and got down to the city for the first time, just to find a local diner which had a rather different motif based on area 51 and aliens.
The next day we woke up early in the morning to make the most out of our time in Sedona and got down to the town in search of a breakfast, which we were thinking it would be really hard since it was the day before Thanksgiving. We came across a place which was packed with people and instantly decided to stop there. We one knows, if it is packed, it has to be good! In fact it quite exceeded our expectations and I might say it probably was one of the best breakfasts I've had since I've been in the USA!
With our stomachs full of such a great meal it was only right to feed the remaining senses and so we drove around the Town going to the landmarks and in search of those great views that make Sedona well known, the result can be seen here:
General view from a Mesa with the city on the valley.
One of the many views from the roads of Sedona.
The Church of the Holy Cross, a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The team at the Church entrance.
One of the many elevations around.
Small monument close to the airport. At night the cross
is illuminated and can be seen from the town.
As our departure time approached we went up the Mesa to the airport to get the workhorses ready for the next major flight which was the main goal of our trip. The route would go through the Grand Canyon, after doing a refueling stop in Clark Memorial Field and would end in Las Vegas, the more Westerly point of our journey.
Parked at Sedona, getting ready for the next leg.

1 comment:

Paulo Correia said...

Como sempre um relato com a qualidade a que o teu blog já nos habituou. Tenho pena de não ter estado nesse voo, mas fico contente por terem conseguido cumprir essa missão com sucesso.

Como o disseram: Journey of a Lifetime!