“Viva Las Vegas International!” Greg’s January column

Expect the unexpected at airline airports

“You’re cleared to land Runway 1-Left, reference the Airbus approaching the parallel runway,” said the Las Vegas Tower controller. “Caution, wake turbulence.”

Eyebrows raised, Jean noted the altimeter. We’d just passed the numbers on downwind to McCarran International Airport, still at our last assigned altitude of 7,000 feet. That meant descending a vertical mile over the remainder of downwind, base, and final approach.

“Slow to minimum approach speed,” added the controller. That was a relief since it’s hard to keep pace with airline traffic on final. Slowing to the white airspeed arc, I dumped flaps and kicked rudder to enter an aggressive slip. We soon descended nearly 2000 feet per minute.

“Kinda fun to see those old glider-flying skills in action,” said Jean. “But I’m glad neither of us has a cold!”

“A 360º turn on final is approved if you need it to lose altitude,” offered the tower, too late for us to benefit by it. Instead I requested a long landing. We met pavement a third of the way down the nearly two-mile-long runway.

“First time I’ve seen anyone slip 4,000 vertical feet in the traffic pattern,” said Jean after we cleared the runway. “Nice job!” Along with that “attaboy,” my dive-bomber approach was rewarded with a “view tiedown,” mere yards from the Las Vegas Strip.

Light-plane pilots typically avoid airline airports like McCarran. They’re usually wildly busy, complex to navigate, and expensive to visit. What’s more, our speed disparity with the majority jet traffic can make us unwelcome visitors. Yet such airports can be highly convenient for specific missions. In this case, Jean was speaking at a Las Vegas conference. Normally, I’d drop her at Henderson Executive Airport, easily accessed outside of Bravo airspace. But that’s a half-hour drive from the Strip, and today I had an additional mission…

Read the entire story in Greg’s January Flying Carpet column, “Viva Las Vegas International!”

Top left photo: “View tiedown” at Atlantic Aviation, Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Above right: No kidding, this was our view turning final for Runway 1L, KLAS! See more photos here.

©2012 Gregory N.Brown

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

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