Just some stuff I want to share with you

Posts in category Western USA

Cowboys, deserts, gambling, big cities and a wonderful coastline. It’s all here. Let’s have a look.

Viva Las Vegas

We’re having a “day off”; so no flying today. Well even when we planned to go for a flight, most of the pilots were not capable of doing so after last night…

I pottered around with Niels. After walking from the Stratosphere (which is at one end of the boulevard) to the MGM (which is at the other end), we went back with the monorail.

We bought tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show KÀ at the MGM Grand. I think it’s one of the best performances I ever saw! It’s an amazing combination of performance, sound, light and technology. Visit it when you have the opportunity!

After all that excitement, we looked at the outdoor shows and ended up at the hotel just before midnight.

That’s it for today. Have a look at the pictures of today.

Hey, there’s a big hole in the ground…

It’s hard to believe that the weather in the San Diego region is still poor. We’re having the best flying conditions one can imagine. After an American breakfast (yeah right…) it was time to move on again. Just after takeoff at Page, we overflew this nice scenery.

We’re in the “Grand Canyon” region. Everyone knows the tourist spots at the canyon, but there are far more similar locations. Just have a look at the pictures.

Lex and Max finally managed to orchestrate a nice “fly-by”.

We are on route to Grand Canyon National Park. This is the airport where all the helicopter rides over the canyon start. It’s extremely busy in the sky and we have to make sure that we follow the instructions. When we are on the base leg for landing, the helicopters pass below us! There are no facilities on the airport, but there is a small area nearby for lunch. This is also the place where you can find the IMAX theatre. We didn’t visit it, but I did a few years back and they show a very nice movie about the Grand Canyon; visit it when you’re here!

After lunch it was time to move on to another airport in the area: Grand Canyon West. It’s a great airport to fly to. The airport is more or less at the edge of the canyon. On our way over, we have magnificent views. This landscape is amazing.

Once you’re on the ground, fun is over. There’s nothing at this airport at all. It’s here to bring tourists in or to execute a scenic flight over the canyon. That’s it. It’s also the starting point for a short bus tour. The tour will bring you to 3 different points where you can overlook the canyon.

At one of these points you can visit the Sky Walk; a construction with a glass floor over the edge of the canyon.

Having looked at all these nice sceneries, it’s time to move on to the place of all sins: Las Vegas! It’s getting late and the sun is getting at its lowest positions. The windscreen or our plane is extremely scratched and having the sun right in our face makes it very difficult to see. By the time when we are over Las Vegas, we’re asked to “report when Stratosphere in sight”. The Stratosphere (see picture: it’s the pointy one on the left/bottom side) is the tallest tower in Las Vegas, but we couldn’t see it until the point where we almost passed it… From that point onwards it was just a short flight into Last Vegas North.

It took some time to book a hotel room; it’s Friday and almost every rooms seems to be booked. We ended up in the Stratosphere hotel (yep the one that is part of the big tower). After another great day of flying, we ended up in the Stratosphere restaurant. The restaurant is located almost at the top of the tower and rotates; you’re having a good view on the whole city while having dinner.

After dinner it was time to get out and “do Vegas”. Due to the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” rule, I can’t tell you anymore…

That’s it for today. Have a look at the pictures and the tracks of today:

Let’s get the hell away from here…

As mentioned in my previous post, Laughlin is a cheap version of Las Vegas. Well, I think that “cheap” doesn’t cover it at all… It’s worse than that! We’re more than happy to leave this place. According to the forecast we will have beautiful flying weather today, so time to move on to Sedona.

Sedona… A place that we will remember for some time. This airport is situated on a hill and is located in a valley, so it’s surrounded by hills and mountains. Add a lot of wind to this scenery and you’re faced with a challenging landing! There is a strong crosswind, which is very gusty; then due to its location, there are updrafts and downdrafts just before landing at the strip. Jeroen had to work very hard. Ferdinand didn’t make it on his first approach and the second one was “interesting”. After all that excitement, we went into town for a bite and a drink.

On our way back to the airport, we stopped at a viewpoint. Have a look at this:

Next stop: Winslow-Lindbergh. On this track we passed Barringer crater.

Then on to the next challenge: landing at Kayenta. The wind is very strong and gusty. But I mentioned to land the plane safely. Then we waited for “Team Slow”. Flying a Cessna 172 in these conditions (high temperatures, high altitudes, 3 people on board) is quite difficult. This plane doesn’t have the engine power that the other teams have. It’s safe to fly in these conditions, but it requires skills to land the plane under these circumstances. The team tried, but finally decided to abort the landing and fly to the next field. Looking at their approach and the effort it took to get our plane of the ground, I think that was a very wise decision. Kayenta lies in a valley and this shows quite nicely on some of the picture, where a dramatic change in the landscape is shown.

The last track of today brings us to Page. After takeoff at Kayenta, we overfly Monument Valley; it’s just fabulous.

Today we found that flying at the end of the day, with the sun going low on the horizon and having a windshield that scratched to the max is not the best combination. The visibility was so poor, that at we had to look out of the side windows in order to find our way. Something to keep in mind for the next days.

We ended the day in a local bar and grill restaurant just 50 meters away from our motel. There’s a band playing tonight and it’s great to see the “locals” dance and having a good time. That’s it for today. Have a look at the pictures and the tracks of today:

Finally, we’re going!!

After days of paperwork and check flights, it’s time to go flying. The weather is still very poor in the whole region and as a result we will not be able to follow the original route. After looking at all the forecasts we came to the conclusion that if we would do the route counter clockwise, we would get behind the bad weather and would be able to follow the original plan (more or less).

So, on to the airport (which is just across the road) and after loading the entire luggage, it’s time to take some pictures of the individual teams. Here they are:

Lex and Max will be flying a Cirrus 22 with the call sign N8148F.

Addie, Niels and Jeroen will be flying a Cessna 182 with the call sign N2454G.

Marianne, Henk and Ferdinand will be flying a Cessna 172 with the call sign N372TA.

It’s a bit of a risk, since we need to pass some high hills/mountains to get to the good weather. In order to do so, we need to fly through the few gaps in the clouds and get above them. Although not everybody liked that idea, we came to the conclusion, that this is the only option we have right now. Staying in Palomar for another few days is not an option. The forecasts are not good for this region. It turned out that this was the right approach. After climbing above the clouds (Have a look at the track at the bottom of this post. You will see the turns above the ocean that we had to make in order to climb through the clouds.), we had perfect visibility and after some time, the clouds just disappeared.

We’re flying a Cessna 182 with a Garmin 1000 glass cockpit. It’s a great “toy” that really helps in these conditions. It nicely shows where you are and gives a lot of information about the airspace, the route, weather and airport information. It puts a smile on your face… 

Our first stop today is at Palm Springs airport. Clear skies, dry and high temperatures. This is how a holiday should look like!

The scenery is beautiful; dry desserts, hills, mountains, rivers, sand dunes, green acres; we see it all. Next stop: Blythe. This is as close as we will get to the Mexican border. We can see the fences on the border. Then on to Imperial; a small strip in the middle of nowhere.

This is something we will see far more for the next days: the Cirrus is by far the fastest plane. The Cessna 172 the slowest. So, Lex and Max will arrive at each destination first, Jeroen, Niels and myself will be second and then we all wait for Ferdinand, Henk and Marianne.

Finally we fly to Laughlin; a small and very cheap version of Las Vegas. This town is focused on gambling. The average visitor is old and it’s clear that this place doesn’t have the glamour of a place like Vegas.

That’s it for today. Time to spend a dollar in a slot machine and have dinner and drinks. Have a look at the pictures of today. The track of today (last track missing, due to low batteries… again):

Yo, taxi…

Although Jeroen and myself have passed the check out phase, the other pilots have not reached that point yet. The weather is not helping either; we have fog, drizzle and rain. Not great flying conditions… As a result we are faced with a small delay.

Our plane is located at Palomar airport. The other two planes are located at Montgomery; an airport nearby. Since Jeroen and myself have the ability to fly our plane now, we decided to “transport” the other pilots to Montgomery for their last steps in the check out procedure. So, we did some hopping between Palomar and Montgomery; we can not fly more than 2 persons per flight.

By the end of the day all pilots passed the check outs and all the planes are now at Palomar. Let’s go flying!

Here’s the track of today.