“Consolation Prize,” Greg’s November, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Our weekend guests Alex and Sabina arrived to unseasonably wet and cold autumn weather.

As with previous visitors, I’d promised Alex a Grand Canyon aerial tour. I mention only Alex because while he and I had flown together before, Sabina had expressed such fear of airplanes that I’d presumptively invited another friend in her place. Saturday, rain confined us indoors. Based on forecast improvement, we designated Monday for hiking and autumn leaf-peeping. That left only Sunday, weather permitting, for flying.

Sunday morning, both Flagstaff Pulliam (KFLG) and Grand Canyon (KGCN) Airports reported scattered clouds at 1,700 feet above ground (AGL), roughly 8,700 feet above sea level (MSL). While that was adequate for the route, the Grand Canyon Special Flight Rules Area requires a 10,000-foot MSL minimum altitude to overfly the Canyon.

Lacking pilot weather reports, I explained that we could safely fly to the Grand Canyon, but depending on arrival-time conditions we might not be able to cross. Alex was predictably game to go. Sabina, however, surprised everyone by volunteering to join us—her sister and friends had told her she’d be nuts to miss the Grand Canyon from above.

Although apprehensive, Sabina took the copilot seat, usually best for nervous passengers. Noting clenched teeth and hands while taxiing out, I offered to turn around, but she insisted we continue. After takeoff, however, she began peering out the window…

**Continue reading Greg’s entire column, CONSOLATION PRIZE” **.


Photo: “Inner Basin Aspens: Sunstruck autumn aspens line Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks.  (Available as a Fine Art Metal Print, Pilot Achievement Plaque, and in Art Note Cards.)


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


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“Sea of Gold,” Greg’s November, 2017 Flying Carpet column

We’d cleared a nasty line of thunderstorms departing Flagstaff, surmounted a vivid rainbow, and now cruised cumulus-flecked skies toward Montrose, Colorado.

Although datalink weather suggested clear sailing the rest of the way, I’d previously learned the hard way that an empty weather screen doesn’t necessarily equal “no thunderstorms.” After an unknown-to-anyone squall line turned us around halfway to Montrose last year, I’d discovered the large weather-radar gap spanning the Four Corners area due to lack of antennae.

We’d been so traumatized by last year’s “U-Turn” and Jean’s subsequent 16-hour round-trip drive, that she’d investigated flying airlines this year instead. But between such remote locations, general aviation can indeed save money. Yes, Flying Carpet fuel would cost $4-500 to drop and retrieve Jean and her mother, but far less convenient Phoenix-to-Grand Junction airline tickets priced out at $750 apiece.

FC-RainReflections_KFLG_5135eSmw1200Fortunately, I’d learned from last year’s misadventure. This time I previewed online weather-radar coverage maps, and ADS-B ground-station coverage from which we’d receive weather and traffic data. (Sure enough, there’s an ADS-B gap, too.) I loaded lots of fuel for the remote route, allowing hundreds of miles’ diversion in case of unforecast weather.

Given minimal radar coverage, I monitored satellite imagery for telltale cloud buildups. And along with gathering weather for the few airports within 100 miles of our route, I scanned non-aviation station reports for the tiny Native American communities passing under our wings. Even “sunny,” “cloudy,” and “thunderstorm,” reports are better than nothing.

Even then, every distant shadow raised the specter of last year’s lurking weather…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SEA OF GOLD“**

Top Photo: “‘Flaming’ autumn aspens carpet Colorado’s Uncampaghre Plateau.” (See my “Flaming Autumn Aspens” Fine Art Metal Print) Lower Photo: “Greeted by a downpour upon returning home.” SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown