Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Please Wait...

Just thought I should post something to justify my long inactivity! Well these have been hard times with quite a rough sea for those who seek employment flying some kind of aircraft. Due to those hard times and the continuous "not interested" and "not hiring" catch phrases one has lost his desire and happiness to pass on the great flying experiences one has had. Well, to be truthful I have hardly had much flying adventures (still I had a few worth mentioning)... But the lack of imagination and resilience have made me drift away from the blog. Anyway,... I assure you guys I have not left the blog and I will surely post some more of my adventures in the near future, just let these bad times fade away and better days will come with much more stories to share with you guys.

So, as the title says please wait just a little bit longer and stay with me for I guarantee you some nice stories will come in the (near) future!

Thanks for keeping the bookmark on my blog!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Recommended Reading

I decided to make a break on my adventure telling posts to let you know I've read the well known ASA's book about the Cessna Caravan: "Cessna's Swiss Army Knife with Wings". It was my selected reading during a month or so when I was in the USA. I stumbled upon this book while surfing around and decided to order it in the flick of an eye. I must say, if you are a Caravan fan, pilot or just a general aviation curious guy you will not regret buying this book. It is well written and full of interesting facts, good tips and good airmanship procedures regarding the Caravan and any other aircraft. If, as me, you always wanted to know everything there is about the Van and its operating procedures this is the book to choose.
The book is written as to evidence the progress of a flight and the reader will go through the chapters from the Preflight till the Approach and Landing and the Postflight. While one goes through each flight phase the specific details and procedures are described as well as some fun facts and stories and some tips one should bear in mind. And by the way those are good tips and reliable information as the book was put together by two deep Caravan connoisseurs and instructors.
I've always been interested in aviation bibliography and I am sure this was a good addition to my book collection.
If you are interested and want to know more or even order the book CLICK HERE.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekend Off at Nevada

The hardest part of the trip was over we had made it to Las Vegas on time and with both aircraft working properly. No failures or unpleasant surprises took place and the Westbound leg of the journey had just gone perfect. After such an arrival to the "Sin City" (please refer to the previous post) we were of to a car rental to get a transportation for the next 2 days. It was a well deserved stop on the flying trip and we had a full agenda.

As we got to Hertz and since we were 5 guys with lots of bags we decided to get a big vehicle to cope with the requirements and after a long talk with the lady on the counter we settled on the Cadillac Escalade, the top american SUV. We jumped inside the Escalade and once aboard we set sail to the Cesar's Palace where we had a room waiting for us. As we drove up the Las Vegas Strip we were dazzled by all the light and glitz. We arrived on a Thursday and on Thanksgiving so our expectations were quite low, but we soon understood that the city never sleeps and there really is no difference between day and night, weekdays or weekends.

Once on the Ceasars Palace, our hotel for the nice we were given a suite instead of two separate rooms. So you have an idea, the suite they gave us had 4 bathrooms, 4 entrances, a piano, 1 roman statue, a bar and 2 floors! How nice is that?!

Ceasars Palace Casino & Hotel.

To enjoy the most of Las Vegas we had a quick snack decided to go out and stroll around "The Strip" going to the main casinos and points of interest. The most relevant places were the Bellagio (where we saw the well known water display) and the New York-New York Hotel & Casino where we rode the amazing Roller Coaster which is right outside and around the casino, with the city as scenery. To make things even nicer, this was done by night, which made the ride much more interesting.

After the nice tour it was time to hit the Ceasars' gambling rooms and do what one goes to Vegas for. We got back to the room at 4 in the morning after playing roulette, video poker, etc. and in fact we all made a few shy dollars.

On the next day we moved to the MGM Grand to know another hotel and experience a different atmosphere. Once we checked in we hit the streets once again and went straight to the Stratosphere and its well known attractions and views. We got over to the top and rode the 4 great rides they have there, at 350 meters above Las Vegas. To know more about the rides check out this link.

As the night came we went to The Venetian for dinner and then again back to gambling and night fun, this time at the MGM. I might had that the MGM is not as nice as the Ceasars Palace or the Bellagio but one can still have lots of fun and the next morning's breakfast was quite nice and really worth the money! En route to the airport we were still able to visit the famous "Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas" sign.

MGM Grand Casino & Hotel.

The Team at Las Vegas Sign.

We got our things together and started our planning for the next leg of the trip, this time we would start moving East back to our home in Florida but first would spend a night in Mesa, close to Phoenix, where we had plans to visit a friend.

Planes loaded, refueled and planning done we decided to get on our way as we had a few hours ahead and the weather during the flight was not all CAVOK (Ceiling and Visibility OK) and Sky Clear. As the Cessnas departed Southbound leaving Las Vegas behind the rain and high terrain came to increase the pilots' workload. Although the departure was under the hood (using the planes' instruments) after an hour or so under moderate rain and across high terrain we got past the clouds and bad weather into a nice, clear sky over Arizona. The team made a nice landing in Falcon Field right at dinner time and after leaving all our bags at the hotel there was only time to have dinner and go grab a beer (or two) at a nice local bar, full of nice young people, music and with a great atmosphere.

This would close the Las Vegas chapter but would certainly bring much more adventures on what we thought would be an easy ride back home.

Falcon Executive Aviation FBO on the day of our departure.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Arriving in Las Vegas

I know I've been failing on the blog and on you my dead readers but I must tell you I've been pretty busy since I've arrived in Portugal around a month ago. Only now things are getting on tracks and I'm getting back to my regular day by day routine and I shall now continue where I've stopped!
Since I've not yet posted my video regarding the arrival to Las Vegas I've decided to do it now on this shorter post, while I prepare the photos to include on the next posts.
Hope you all enjoy it, this is a video of a visual approach and landing at Las Vegas' runway 19R, for a better description please refer to the previous post.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Soaring over the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

The guys together for a group picture at Sedona.
This was the day! We were at Sedona during a beautiful fall morning with clear skies and that warm sun radiating with a cold morning breeze. We loaded the planes and made the general checks and once again studied the route for the day! The flight was to be full of eye candies, 100% scenic, starting with arizona's Mesas and valleys transitioning to the overwhelming views of the Grand Canyon and ending with Las Vegas' lights and glitz.
We did a quick review of the route to be flown and settled on a place for a pit stop to refuel. That place selected was H. A. Clark Memorial Field (KCMR), just 45 minutes away from Sedona at an elevation of 6680 feet (2000 meters) above mean sea level. We decided to take it low and slow, flying together from take-off to landing and without controllers nagging us with route constraints and altitude limitations. In a matter of minutes the run up was made, mixture was adjusted for the high altitude take-off and we lined up at the right side of the runway, followed the the other Cessna lining up behind to the left. A static take-off was done and as we lifted off we kept our rate of climb to a minimum gaining speed while still flying relatively low and enjoying one last view of the airport's Mesa. With maximum elevation figures higher than 9000 feet we decided to maintain 8500 feet and dodge the terrain enjoying the views and the great colours at a low altitude. As we got close to the pit stop we overflew the airport checking the wind conditions at 1500 feet above the field and joining the pattern for the runway in use while our "wingman" followed us behind.
Flying low at the leader's 4 o'clock.
After doing a landing together we refueled and got on the phone with Las Vegas to prepare our arrival to the airport and transportation to the hotel.
In less than an hour we were once again soaring, now at 10500 feet which would be the minimum altitude available to cross the Grand Canyon on a scenic flight.
One of those perfect pictures that just make the day!
Pit Stop for some fuel and planing to Vegas.
Billy doing some planning on his improvised navigation table.
In order for you guys to understand it let me put it this way, nowadays due to the excessive traffic flying over and along the Grand Canyon in Air Tours or just for fun the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has decided to lay out some rules and create some preferential flying routes around the place. This has allowed to keep traffic organized and protect all the wildlife and nature around the park, which suffered due to the low level aircraft. So you readers have an idea, the Canyon is one of the busiest places to fly in the USA during the high season. Lucky us, we flew there during the low season and on Thanksgiving, so guess what, no one was flying there!
The view from our right window, while flying across the Canyon.
There are a few corridors going across the Canyon in different directions and altitudes. The Air Tour guys can always go lower, the general aviation goes higher. We decided to fly the corridors, first heading from South to North and then, proceeding North to South, while moving West. For those who know the place and the rules we flew first the "Dragon Corridor" and then the "Fossil Canyon Corridor". All the journey was done at 10500 feet and 11500 feet (3500 meters), with the scenery 3000 feet (915 meters) below. After crossing the designated routes we flew West descending inbound Las Vegas while the sun was fading ahead of us.
The routing we did.(This does not accurately depicts the corridors, it is simplified for better understanding)
The Canyon tour is better describer by photos, other than words. Please enjoy and bear in mind this is only a selection of a much wider, much bigger, collection!
Patches of snow could already be seen in higher terrain.
Westbound to Vegas down the Canyon.
Big ridges and Mesas all around.
Close up on a big crack inside a valley.
Nature at its best, with the nicest light one could ask for.
The sun setting on the West, leaving the Canyon for Las Vegas.
After crossing such an overwhelming scenery from a bigger, higher and different point of view you get the feeling you are being spoiled because you're flying your own small aircraft with your best mates across one of natures' biggest achievements and you have the opportunity much people can only dream of. So once I left the mountains, valleys and canyons behind I was still stunned, amazed, to say the least and I was surely not asking for anything else other than a simple landing at Las Vegas. But then again, I was wrong. This was to become one of those flights one could never imagine of when he first flew for the first time.
Let me tell you, approaching Las Vegas on a clear fall evening with the sunset on the horizon has got to be one of the nicest things one might experience while flying. The controller took us from the West right over the big Hoover Dam and told us to proceed visual to the runway. So you guys have an idea, we were assigned a runway that makes you fly an approach path which is parallel to the Las Vegas Strip which is the main street in the city and the place where all the casinos and big hotels seat. So, as the video below might show, we had the best possible view over the city without paying a dime for a helicopter tour or something like that!
The arrival at Las Vegas came with a feeling of accomplishment and happiness since we had made it all work out just right. 5 guys, 2 aeroplanes, 2000 nautical miles (3700 km) and 22 hours of flying made us reach our destination and the most fantastic thing was that all worked out according to plan. But this was by no means the end of the journey, we were on ground to enjoy 2 full days of "sinful" party in Las Vegas. And then one would have to make the nice journey back! So there was still plenty to come but that is to be told on some other posts.

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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Further West - Arizona

First of all sorry for the delay but I've experienced some problems with the internet connections in the hotels I've been to and was not able to upload new posts, which I had already written, so here it goes!
View from the left back window enroute to
Laurel Field, Mississipi.
The Crew after sunset, inbound Stephenville.
After a well rested night in Stephenville,TX, we woke up early the next day to get the most out of our flying day and to reach our destination, Tucson before sunset. Tucson is located in Arizona and it would take us 7 hours of flight to get there. This place was chosen because the other day when we went to Spruce Creek a former American Airlines pilot recommended us to go there and check out the Pima Air and Space Museum, one of the biggest aircraft museum in the USA.
As we got to the airport on our courtesy car, an old Police Interceptor which was once a real police car and after being stripped out was now doing the job of a courtesy car for the local airport, we quickly loaded and refueled the aeroplanes but as soon as we started the exterior inspection on one of the Cessnas we noticed that the right main tire was flat. Not a big deal as we contacted the local maintenance hangar and the guys promptly inflated the tire without any charge. That event delayed our departure slightly but once we were on the air to our destination Sierra Blanca, located in New Mexico, everything was going smooth and easy and our expectations were high since this would be our first "mountain flying" experience.
View from the left wing, as we cross the peak at 11000 feet (3300 meters).
Refueling at Sierra Blanca.
Sierra Blanca is a neat airport located at 6800ft (2000 meters) above mean sea level enclosed within a wide valley, just outside of Roswell, NM (By the way, I did not see any ETs!). This would be just a refueling stop to continue our flight down to Tucson. After stretching our legs and looking around we set sail to Tucson but instead of doing a dull flight and since it was such a nice sunny day we decided to fly slightly North to check out the mountains and scenery together with the other aircraft. When I mean together I mean flying in formation! Check it out...
Getting Close!
Zooming the guys!
Coordinated right turn.
Breaking off Formation - 1.
Breaking off Formation - 2.
Breaking off Formation - 3.
The flight ended in the best possible way, for the first time we were able to land in formation and we did so at the invite of the controller in the Tucson International Airport. It was quite an eventful day with lots of flying and new experiences which naturally drained our energies out and so it was only wise to go to bed and rest, since the next day would be even more exciting!