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ISSUE 151 - January 2011
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A Flying Holiday - "Flyfest 2010" - Part II

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

Last week we started our flying trip with Peter picking the airplane up in Palo Alto and then picking me up in Santa Ynez before heading off to Big Bear, CA and Tucson, AZ. This week, we continue on with the flying trip with our next stop the red desert area of Sedona, AZ.

The stunningly beautiful landscape as we approach Sedona, AZ (KSEZ), left.
On final approach to Sedona, AZ just seconds before touchdown, right.

The flight from Tucson to Sedona was a bit of a bumpy ride with some early morning convection creating turbulence for much of the trip. Despite that, it was a beautiful flight and forwarded me the opportunity to get some air-to-air photos of "Romeo Mike" flying some distance off our left wing along the route. Traffic at Sedona was relatively busy upon arrival so we kept a particularly keen eye out for other traffic in the area and in the circuit. The stunning landscapes in and around the area made for some breathtaking views, proving that Sedona certainly is one of the most beautiful places in the western United States.

Sedona airport, shaved from the top of a mountain, makes for an interesting and
unique place to put down your airplane, but also a beautiful place to visit.

The runway at Sedona was carved from the top of a 'mountain' making it a very unique landing experience and maybe something that is not for every pilot. The drop-offs at either end can seem a bit un-nerving just looking at them, but adding to the danger are winds that can do scary and heart-stopping things to a landing airplane so one must be keenly aware of all the dangers before making a stop at this airport. Despite that, I highly recommend the experience as it is well worth the visit.

At the Grand Canyon Airport (KGCN), tour operators fly aircraft such as the De Havilland Canada Twin Otter and the Cessna Caravan, seen here fighting a stiff crosswind on landing, left. Even in the off-season, tour operators were kept busy flying tourists over the Grand Canyon, right.

After lunch at the airport restaurant, we headed back to the airplanes, strapped in and took to the air for our next leg of the trip, Grand Canyon Airport (KGCN). We circled and climbed to 8,000' above Sedona before heading out over the high terrain of the area and made for the Grand Canyon. The landscape slowly changed from that of mountainous, hilly terrain to a more flat and even somewhat greener landscape. As we neared the airport, we could see the gaping canyon spreading out westward in a spectacular mosaic of colours, textures, and shapes.

"Romeo Mike" some distance behind and slightly below as we approach
the Grand Canyon not long after departing the Grand Canyon airport.

Landing at the Grand Canyon Airport, the first thing that strikes you is the massive airplane parking area for such a small airport with nothing much around it. It is obvious that this is a huge tourist destination at certain times of the year, though it was not overly busy in mid-May, making it a good time of year to visit if one is not into long waits for landings and departures. Grand Canyon Airlines were out to our parking area within minutes of landing, offering a ride back to their facility where we made arrangements for fuel, did a bit of tourist shopping, and had a quick look around before heading back to the airplane for the trip along the Grand Canyon, westward, to the Hoover Dam.

Some of the most breath-taking landscapes and scenery you'll ever
see flying over and along the Grand Canyon.

When flying in the Grand Canyon zone you are required to follow strict procedures with height restrictions. There are many flying tour groups in the area operating aircraft such as helicopters, Caravans, Twin Otters, and an assortment of other aircraft with the potential for collision being great if rules are not followed and eyes are not constantly scanning the skies. There are a number of minimum altitude zones and corridors that exist to govern traffic over the canyon and reference to the Grand Canyon VFR Aeronautical Chart is a must.

Noel & Landis in "Romeo Mike" below and off our right wing over the Grand Canyon, left. There were several small airstrips along our route though this was the oddest, with no visible sign of aircraft, right.

The flight from the Grand Canyon to the Hoover Dam was both breath taking and spectacular. I had seen the Grand Canyon from a sardine can a number of times and that is impressive enough from 36,000' but from these lower altitudes…WOW! The twists and turns of the river, the steep canyon walls, and the variations in terrain and colour were stunning. If you only ever make one trip like this, the Grand Canyon is a must and an experience you'll not soon forget!!

As we approach the Hoover Dam, we flew over this stunning blue man-made reservoir/lake, left. Flying along the gorge that flows into the Hoover Dam, you can see just how low water levels currently are by the whiter part of the gorge walls, right.

As we reached the Hoover Damn one was struck by the depth of the gorge and the low water levels that were apparent in the highly visible waterline. The damn is massive, even from the air. The new bridge, though still under construction at the time of the trip, was also an impressive sight. In a wide 360 degree circle, we overflew the dam, gorge and Lake Mead, taking in the view and me snapping off close to 100 photos just of the dam itself.

Views from both sides of the Hoover Dam.

From there, we made for Palm Springs, CA (KPSP) our next destination, and an uneventful flight. As we flew over the mountains from the east heading into the valley where Palm Springs is located, we immediately noticed the terrible pollution problem hanging thick in the air to the west and, more apparent, to the north through the pass, the direction we'd be heading two days later.

Palm Springs, CA and Palm Springs Airport (KPSP), left.
"Six Three Sierra" on the tarmac at Palm Springs, right.

Our circuit and landing at Palm Springs done, we taxied into to our FBO, Atlantic Aviation where, again, "rampies" were waiting to help us hangar the airplanes for the next day and a half. This superb FBO couldn't do enough for us and if you're flying into Palm Springs, we would highly recommend them to look after both you and your aircraft. From there, we piled into our rental and headed for our hotel.

Heading up the mountain on the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, left. One of many
views from the top of the mountain, right, overlooking Palm Springs.

The next day we headed to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram and took in the magnificent view from the top the mountain 8500' above the desert floor. Below us was the city of Palm Springs and the airport, surrounded by mountains and foothills. Despite some pollution to the north, the skies were clear and blue and the gorgeous day made for warm temperatures even several thousand feet above the city.

Climbing out from Palm Springs, we flew past hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines spread out across miles of the desert floor and up into the foothills of the mountains, left. Flying through one of the mountain passes bound for the 'bread basket' area, we faced hefty headwinds as shown on our Garmin screen, right.

With our trip nearing an end, we headed to the airport the next morning, took care of flight planning, weather and trip preparations and made our way northward, through the mountain pass and on toward the California 'bread basket' and our next, brief stop for lunch, Harris Ranch (308). This single paved runway is a great place to stop for a rest and a meal and also offers self-serve fuel availability.

Heading for Harris Ranch, the landscape below started to change from dry, brown desert to slightly greener, rolling hills with trees, left. Leaving the mountainous area and back to flatter lands where many different crops seemed to be growing, right.

After a marvelous lunch, we parted ways with Noel & Landis in "Romeo Mike," who headed for their home field of Livermore (LVK) with Peter and myself in "Six Three Sierra" heading for our final stop at Palo Alto (KPAO). We made for 'home,' flying over some mountainous area, up through the valley past San Jose, Moffet Field and on to Palo Alto where we landed and taxied the airplane to the tie-down area. We cleaned out the aircraft, and paid the bill ending a week superb flying and touring with great friends through southern California and parts of Arizona.

Finished lunch at Harris Ranch (308) and back at the airplanes, here getting ready to fuel up "Romeo Mike," left. "Six Three Sierra" climbing out after take-off from Harris Ranch, leaving "Romeo Mike" below, right.

We had no major problems during any part of the trip other than 'fighting' headwinds on every leg, with the worst winds through the mountainous area north-east of Palm Springs where they hit as high as 45 knots for a brief period, making our ground speed about 95 knots at times. The only effect was a slower flight and extra fuel, something easily dealt with verses major issues that can often pop up unexpectedly from time-to-time with aircraft.

On final for Palo Alto we flew past the old airship hangars at Moffet Field.

You don't have to be a high-time pilot with thousands of hours to make such a trip, but you do have to be experienced enough to handle whatever may come your way. You need a certain amount of confidence in your own ability, the ability of those with whom you are making the trip, and in your aircraft. The toughest part is probably in the planning. The easiest part is the enjoyment and the experience you'll have. As a pilot, there is no better way to see your country than from a few thousand feet above the earth where one can truly enjoy the view.

"Romeo Mike" over mountainous terrain, left, and desert terrain, right.

For more information on the West Valley Flying Club visit:

The greens and reds of the Grand Canyon prove to
be a fabulous backdrop for "Romeo Mike."
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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