Archive for Southwest

“Painted into a Corner,” Greg’s December, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2018 by Greg Brown

 

Thunderheads_2686eSmw1200“Oh, and the St. Johns VOR is out of service,” said the flight service briefer before we departed Santa Fe for Scottsdale.

In those pre-GPS days, St. Johns was the only enroute radio navigation aid on Victor-190, the 274nm instrument airway between Albuquerque and Phoenix. No matter, I anticipated good weather throughout the 2½-hour flight.

Launching late afternoon in a rented Cessna 172RG Cutlass, we cruised clear skies southwestward. Entering Arizona, however, I spotted unexpected clouds ahead. It turned out that an unforecast stratus layer had developed almost to Phoenix. Fortunately, visual flight conditions prevailed underneath, the only concerning weather being a line of heavy thunderstorms paralleling our route 30 miles to the north.

Soon we cruised under clouds at 8,500 feet, ogling intense distant lightning off our right wing. I’d anticipated reaching lower country by nightfall, but we’d been slowed by headwinds, and darkness falls early under clouds. I calculated ceilings to be 1,000 feet above the highest ridges ahead. While usually plenty in daytime, that’s risky for night flight over mountains…

**Read Greg’s entire column, PAINTED INTO A CORNER**

Photo: A line of heavy thunderstorms paralleled our route 30 miles to the north.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Routine Flight,” Greg’s November, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2018 by Greg Brown

GregBrownFT1118_7379-Pano-3000Smw1200

“For once,” said Jean, “a routine flight.” We cruised homeward through cool, calm skies thanks to a high overcast filtering New Mexico’s high-desert summertime sun.

Driving from Flagstaff to Alamogordo takes eight hours each way. Going commercially requires two airline legs plus ninety minutes’ drive from El Paso. So general aviation truly offers the fastest way to get there, circumstances permitting, and this weekend was proving to be such an occasion.

But what is a routine flight, anyway? Piloting light airplanes turns out to be more about anomaly than routine. However often we travel a given route, every flight is different. Most aviators learn to appreciate that variety as adventure, but anyone expecting uneventful aerial “auto trips” is doomed to disappointment…

**Read Greg’s entire column, ROUTINE FLIGHT**

Photo: Thunderstorms threaten Alamogordo White Sands Regional Airport, New Mexico (KALM) from the Sacramento Mountains.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Time Warp,” Greg’s October, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2018 by Greg Brown

The weekend had long been planned.

Jean and I would fly from Flagstaff to Phoenix, soak up sun at a tony resort, and attend a late-afternoon wedding in nearby Tempe.

Shortly before the wedding, however, Navajo friends invited us to a same-day high school graduation luncheon in Gallup, New Mexico, an hour in the other direction.

For days Jean and I calculated and recalculated how we might attend both events, but the timing was too tight—even an embarrassingly-brief Gallup stop might make us late for the wedding. How disappointing, that two celebrations involving treasured friends should land so far apart on the same day.

“We’d need a time warp to make both events,” lamented Jean as she RSVP’d regrets to Gallup.

But “time warp” triggered an epiphany…

**Read Greg’s entire column, TIME WARP** (Mobile Link HERE)

Photo: Gallup Municipal Airport sign, New Mexico.

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

Greg

©2018 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

“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?”

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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

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