Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lessons Learned - KSDL Trip

Sally over the Big Ditch

Some pictures from our trip: here.
  1. MVFR - Marginal Visual Flight Rules; means visibility less than 5 miles and/or ceilings lower than 3000'. Normally this would be "No Go" for me. We took off on our first leg of the trip in MVFR conditions. While not recommended, this can be a "Go" decision IF you are flying into improving weather. We successfully navigated around some rain showers and were headed toward rising ceilings. It worked out well.
  2. Endurance - how long can we fly? Sally can fly longer than I can. The KAFJ to KMTO leg was really hard on me, but it was early in the trip and I was excited about reaching my first overnight stop. The KGNT to KSDL was also hard due to end of day into the haze. Better planning and awareness of my own limitations might have included an additional stop. 2 Hours (@ 100 MPH) is a good planning number. 
  3. Packing for Sally - If anything I over packed for me. Plenty of T-shirts and jeans with one set of "nice" clothes for going out. I thought I packed well for Sally. Tie downs, chocks, covers and plugs but I also should have packed an extra bottle of oil. You just can't get Aeroshell Sport Plus everywhere.
  4. Autopilot - Sally flies very well here on the east coast. Mountain flying is different. She just couldn't keep up with the rapid updrafts and downdrafts. Just click the altitude hold off and ride the waves. +/- 500' is just fine.
  5. Density Altitude - Over 8,000' for one take off. Full tanks, full baggage and me, that's a lot to haul. Sally did fine but the climb was less than 500 FPM. Check and understand the impact of high/hot/humid and be prepared to react accordingly (or not go at all.)
  6. Cash - At least take enough for a full tank of gas. Only one place didn't take credit cards, and he was willing for me to mail him a check. Fortunately my wife insisted I take more than the $50 I was planning.
  7. Turbulence - It got very bouncy out there at times. Remember that when packing. It wouldn't be good to have a laptop or tablet come flying at the canopy from its 'stowed' position in the back. I used a cargo net to cover everything in the back except my snacks and a small overnight bag.
  8. Flight Following - use it.
  9. Mountain Obscuration - The clouds are low but you can see the tops of the mountains. It should be good enough to go, but is it?  Know the tops of the mountains and expect some new cell towers to be put up there. Listen to the forecast closely. I had decided that if caught in IFR I was going to climb to get out instead of trying to maneuver over the mountains. So, better know where the tops of the clouds are. Another consideration was my choice of alternate. Had I chosen a stop beyond the ridges at KUNV it might have been an easier decision with fewer obstacles. 
  10. When to fly - Convection in the desert is a big deal. Add to that the mountain waves and the afternoon can get pretty interesting. We flew over the Grand Canyon in the morning and had a very smooth enjoyable flight. We flew up to Page in the afternoon...not so smart.

Descent into KSEZ

*This should be my last post on the trip. Time to start thinking about the next adventure.

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