Archive for Arizona

“Rock Art Ranch,” Greg’s featured past column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2017 by Greg Brown

Journey Across Time

“Never did I imagine ever finding myself in a place like this!” said Purna, as we lurched along the rutted cattle track, like characters from a Tony Hillerman Navajo detective novel. “Always I have lived in the city, and this is unlike anything I’ve ever imagined.”

My wife Jean and I had plucked the young native of India and her fellow graduate student, LeeAnne, from plush Scottsdale, where the two were visiting from Chicago.

Together we’d flown from urban landscape to high-desert plateau, notable from the air not so much for its own featureless surface, but rather for the distant buttes and mountains to which it leads one’s eyes.

Petroglyphs1003eSmw1200

Parched and treeless below us, high plains rolled like soft flesh to the horizon, slashed here and there by deep incisions cut by water zig-zagging through the land. What’s down there, I wondered, in those crevices rendered bottomless by harsh desert shadows?…

**Read the entire column, ROCK ART RANCH“**

Top Photo: “Lush Chevelon Creek cuts its deep canyon across barren high desert near Holbrook, Arizona.” Lower photo: “One of many petroglyph panels in Chevelon Canyon.” SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

An expanded version of this story appears in Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane.

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

Greg

©2001, 2017 Gregory N. Brown

“Tight Quarters,” Greg’s December, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2016 by Greg Brown

gregbrownft1216_5091-1smw1200Pirate pool party

Attending a kid’s 4th birthday party might sound unimportant, but Jean and I felt high emotional stakes in flying to Alamogordo, New Mexico for the occasion.

Our son and daughter-in-law Austin and Desi and their children had recently moved there from overseas. That would make our grandson’s “pirate pool party” our first family celebration together in six years.

Alamogordo is nine hours’ drive from Flagstaff, but less than three hours by Flying Carpet. Perusing the charts, I was pleased to find manageable terrain en route. However, a 140-mile thicket of restricted airspace encompasses nearby White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base, blocking general aviation access from the west. High mountains and additional military airspace also limit access from the east.

That leaves two flying routes from Arizona, neither direct. Shortest is to fly east beyond Socorro to JUPTR intersection, then steer 90 miles south between military airspace and the Sacramento Mountains. The longer alternative is to fly southeast to El Paso over high and remote terrain, then thread an exceedingly narrow 60-mile corridor northward between restricted areas. Both routes are comfortably flyable in good weather, but given such tight quarters each can be blocked over many miles by a single thunderstorm…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, TIGHT QUARTERS**

Photo: “Massive thunderheads crown the Sacramento Mountains northeast of Alamogordo, NM. (Note malpais volcanic lava fields in foreground.)” SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown

“Ode to Night Currency,” Greg’s November, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , on September 22, 2016 by Greg Brown

Tough, beautiful, and a little scary

gregbrownft1116_1139-2smw1200I taxi my noisy little capsule toward the runway, arm out the window, in a cocoon of flashing red beacon light.

I’m practicing landings tonight, and it’s a dark one. Although nervous, I’ve done my homework and the facts say I’ll be fine. So I grit my teeth and go. We learn valuable things about ourselves through piloting.

I scan the flight controls with my flashlight, and perform an extra-thorough engine run up. Then I squelch the butterflies, and take the runway.

Sure, our little city will appear on downwind to base, but every other direction will be black, black, black. Instrument flying skills will be required, and takeoffs anemic at Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation.

First circuit: When possible, I time night flights when moonlight offers a glimpse of terrain, but this month’s opportunity was fogged out. So I launch into utter darkness. It’s warm this evening, and at nearly 9,000-foot density altitude the airplane is sluggish.

Slowly I skitter aloft, accelerating in ground effect to climb speed. Hardly off the ground, I punch blackness beyond the runway. There are invisible pines and foothills down there, and nearby lurks 1,000-foot-high Woody Ridge…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, ODE TO NIGHT CURRENCY**

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown

“Car Shuttle,” Greg’s October, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , on August 27, 2016 by Greg Brown

“Big bumps and smoke”

GregBrownFT1016_4917-1Smw1200Smoky air filled my cockpit as I navigated the final miles home. Thankfully the odor emanated from outside the airplane, but it was stressful and unpleasant all the same. Still, today had been a delightful and practical Flying Carpet mission.

Our son Austin has worked overseas the last few years, necessitating storing his car in California. While visiting Flagstaff for a few days, he’d asked that we retrieve it for his family’s pending return to the States. The pickup location was just a mile from San Diego’s Gillespie Airport (KSEE), and we’d enjoy some family piloting in the process.

After shuffling our planned schedule due to weather, we launched for Gillespie on the one good flying day during Austin’s brief visit. Jean joined us to share driving duties back to Flagstaff.

Even the nicest flying days offer surprises. Thirty minutes after takeoff, Phoenix Approach vectored us around Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University traffic holding at Drake VOR near Prescott. Then Albuquerque Center radioed asking about a possible wildfire off our right wing as we crossed the Colorado River…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, CAR SHUTTLE**

Photo: “Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (KFLG) materializes behind a wall of forest-fire smoke.”

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown

“Million-Dollar Brunch,” Greg’s September, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , on July 21, 2016 by Greg Brown

“All the sights we saw”

6-GregBrownFT916_1796editeSmw1200Except for two brief local hops, I haven’t flown in a month. First rain stopped me, then weeks of winds gusting as high as 48 knots.

Today I awoke to the first beautiful morning in forever. I long to fly! I’ve scheduled routine avionics maintenance next week in Prescott—perhaps they could take me today instead. Nope, I call but they’re too busy.

“Jean, want to fly somewhere for breakfast?”

“No, I’m playing tennis this morning.” (No kidding; she really says that to me all the time.)

Okay, if I can’t find anyone to join me I’ll go myself. No way am I letting a morning like this pass after being grounded for weeks, mission or not. I grab a weather briefing to Payson. It’s a mere 30-minute flight, but scenic, and the field’s Crosswinds Restaurant boasts great affordable food and a “million-dollar view” of the towering Mogollon Rim.

Who might consider joining me for such a mission, at the last minute on a weekday morning? It’s a long shot but I phone my nature-photographer buddy Don Hill. He and Barb are usually booked busy but today she’s out of town visiting relatives, and…

DonHill-annotatedMtn-3aeSm1200“Yeah, I’d love to go, Greg! I’ll just load my camera with a fresh memory card and battery and meet you at the airport.”

Don starts snapping photos as our wheels leave the ground. It’s bumpier than I expected, but Don says it doesn’t bother him. I guess a guy who served in Vietnamese river ships in Viet Nam has experienced worse than a little turbulence…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, MILLION-DOLLAR BRUNCH**

Top photo: Don Hill enjoys the Crosswinds Restaurant’s “million dollar view” at Payson Airport, Arizona. (KPAN)

Lower photo: “Don’s email-blast photo of the San Francisco Peaks, annotated with sights from our morning flight.”

SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown

“Vegas for Lunch,” Greg’s August, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2016 by Greg Brown

“What’s that smell?”

GregBrownFT816_4878e-1Smw1200

I awoke to a text from my friend Sergio Schaar of San Antonio, asking if I’d noticed the airline-window view of Flagstaff he’d posted online. I had, and wondered at the time where he might be going.

“We’re in Las Vegas to see Rascal Flats; Deanna is a big fan.” he explained. “When I spotted the San Francisco Peaks from 40,000 feet coming from Texas yesterday, it didn’t take long to identify Flag.” I asked how long the two were staying in Vegas.

“We’re leaving tomorrow at noon,” he replied.

“Ugh. I was thinking of flying over tomorrow to meet you for lunch. You’re only 90 minutes from Flagstaff by Flying Carpet, practically in the neighborhood.”

“That’s a cool idea—how about today?!” wrote Sergio. This is what airplanes are for, right? So I texted back “Sure!” and scrambled to get up and out the door to the airport.
It proved to be a sparkling clear day, with light winds on the ground and aloft. En route to Las Vegas I entertained myself ogling vistas of the western Grand Canyon. In seemingly no time, I rendezvoused with my friends at Henderson Executive Airport (KHND).

GregBrownFT816_3726eSmw1200Jean and I first met Sergio and his son Max three years ago when they toured the Southwest in their 180hp Cessna 172, the Green Hornet. (See Flying Carpet Tour, FT 6/13.) We dined with Sergio and Deanna in San Antonio a few months later, but that’s the last time I’d seen them in person.

Sergio flies often, including numerous Pilots N Paws missions, and excitedly revealed that he’s changing careers to pursue pro piloting. He recently earned his commercial pilot certificate, and just enrolled for flight-instructor training.

Deanna backs Sergio’s dream 100%, having left a corporate job to indulge her own passion for animals with a thriving pet-sitting business. What an inspiring couple! A brief but fulfilling hour later, my friends dashed off to catch the shuttle back to the Strip.

I was cruising happily homeward through cobalt skies, when a nasty odor filled the cockpit

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, VEGAS FOR LUNCH.**

Top photo: The Las Vegas Strip viewed from final approach to Runway 35L, Henderson Executive Airport, Nevada. (KHND)

Lower photo: Sergio and Deanna Schaar greet me at Henderson Executive Airport.

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown

“U-Turn,” Greg’s July, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2016 by Greg Brown

Knowledge is power

GregBrownFT716_3743-Edit-2Smw1200For pilots, knowledge is power. Today’s broad aviation weather access contributes immeasurably to flight safety by allowing us to anticipate and plan for what lies ahead. Without it, we return to the dark ages of flying.

Recently Jean proposed picking up her mother Marge in Phoenix, and from there visiting her brother in Montrose, Colorado. Phoenix to Montrose is a long flight for the uninitiated— 3½ hours through often-turbulent desert skies. What’s more, Marge is in her eighties and limited in mobility. Most any precautionary landing site along this remote route would lack people, water, or shade, with help potentially hours away. Oh, and another brother was flying in from Chicago, making the schedule immutable. So as much as I love piloting, I suggested dropping Jean in Phoenix, where she and Marge could hop a 1-hour commercial flight instead.

“Mom says she’d rather go by Flying Carpet than airlines,” Jean answered with finality, but she did compromise. After retrieving Marge in Phoenix she suggested we overnight in Flagstaff before proceeding, thereby shortening our Montrose flight by an hour. Although helpful, that didn’t relieve my concerns. But at least Jean and Marge had made an informed decision.

Pilots outside the intermountain west may not easily picture a 275nm route with virtually no attended airports, minimal weather reporting, limited ATC radar and voice communications, marginal to non-existent weather radar coverage*, and 14,000-foot peaks surrounding the destination…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, U-TURN.”**

Photo: A ridge-top “sucker hole” materializes under a line of thunderstorms near Kayenta, Arizona.

SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

* Check out the NEXRAD weather radar national coverage map. NE Arizona to SW Colorado features one of the biggest weather radar coverage gaps in the country.

©2016 Gregory N.Brown

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