“High Country Breakfast,” Greg’s September, 2019 Flying Carpet column

“Care to meet up at Sedona, Greg, for Sunday breakfast?”

It was Mike Harrison, a recently certificated 130-hour private pilot flying out of Phoenix’s Falcon Field (KFFZ). This would be Mike’s first warm-weather flight to Arizona’s high country and his wife Tammie’s first cross-country.

Sedona’s 5000-foot elevation diminishes aircraft performance due to “high density-altitude,” meaning air thinned by the combined effects of altitude and elevated temperature.

We partially counter it by flying lightened airplanes at cool times of day. To prepare, Mike had flown there with a more experienced pilot, but on a cooler day, so we reviewed procedures. His preparation was impressive.

Tammie & Mike Harrison at Sedona Airport, Arizona (KSEZ)

Mike had planned his flight with just enough fuel for safe reserve, putting his Piper Warrior a healthy 200 pounds under gross weight departing Sedona Airport (KSEZ).

He intended to land at 7am, and depart by 9am in 70ºF temperatures. He would lean the mixture before takeoff, and accelerate in ground effect to climb speed before ascending. Landing uphill on Sedona’s sloped runway and launching downhill would shorten his landing and takeoff rolls.

Meanwhile, Jean and I debated whether to fly 20 miles from Flagstaff to Sedona. Driving there via mountain roads would take 45 minutes, so we launched grinning into crisp morning air.

“It’s time for a longer flying trip,” she said, as we plummeted moments later between crimson spires to Sedona’s traffic pattern. While 3,500 feet higher than Falcon Field, Sedona is 2,000 feet lower than Flagstaff…

**Read Greg’s entire column, HIGH COUNTRY BREAKFAST” **. (Mobile-device version here.)

Top Photo: Downwind to Runway 3, Sedona Airport, Arizona (KSEZ)

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


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