aircraft, airplanes, Altitude, aviation, Bravo, Class b, density altitude, Flight plan, flight training, hour building, mountain checkout, phoenix area, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Sedona, Sedona Arizona
For renting an aircraft in the Phoenix area, with some very high terrain in the nearby, probably the smartest thing you can do is take a mountain checkout, with an instructor. Today, this was exactly what I did. In fact, not only is it highly recommended, but it is also a requirement of the rental agreement if you plan to fly into mountainous areas or equally as critical, to operate out of high altitude airports. Generally a high altitude airport is considered to be at 3000ft, or above, sea level.
There’s 3 basic dangers with mountainous terrain. The first, is flying into a mountain. The second, is the weather in the mountains and how it can cause you to fly into a mountain. And, finally density altitude which also has the habit of causing pilots to fly into mountains. Generally flying into a mountain doesn’t have a great outcome. So, the idea of the checkout is to make you aware of the dangers, where they exist and how to avoid them, or at least, take precautions so that should you find yourself in trouble that you have a way out. Spoken like a man of many years experience, which is quite the contrary. At least for the remainder on this trip, I’ll be making reasonably cautious excursions into the mountainous areas.
There’ll still be many fantastic places to see, the big concern however for me, was the effects of density altitude. This is basically the combined effect of current pressure of the day, the altitude and the temperature deviation from a standard day. If you have a low pressure day the air is thinner, if you go up in altitude the air becomes thinner and if the air is warmer, it’s also thinner. The biggest changes occur with increases in altitude and temperature.
So, flying into hot and high destinations can give you very thin air which effects how much power your engine produces, how much the propeller bites and how much lift the wing produces. The most dangerous time to find out of these effects is during the takeoff. The worst case scenario being, where you manage to just about get off the ground but are unable to climb and end up, yes you got it, flying into the mountain.
Anyway, enough of the flying into mountains, of course that’s not what we’re here for.
Another bright and early start, which is becoming an unwelcome trend. It was hard work going to bed early, as the party seemed to really kick off here last night. But, needs be, and in fairness, it was really worth it in the end. Maybe there is more to life than drinking?
I got up at 5am to check the weather and complete the flight planning. Then headed out to the airport, where I met up with Jason again. We had most of the theory covered from the previous day so it was pretty much, file the flight plan and go.
As I mentioned yesterday, the first leg of our flight would take us directly over Phoenix International Airport. This airspace is catagorised Class B or Bravo airspace. That means, it’s the second most controlled airspace you can have. It was as simple as calling up the approach controller, asking for a transition and being offered one. Please take note Europe!!
After clearing the Bravo airspace, we continued our flight Northbound for Sedona, flying over some awesome rugged terrain before crossing the mountain ledge into “Red Rock Country.” As beautiful as the view was from the air, I would love to get a day or two on the ground. Maybe a day trip back up there before I go home.
The airport itself, is placed up on a plateau offering yet more stunning views on approach. With no major problems on landing, we taxied in for the $100 burger, or breakfast in this case.
After parking up, I had to just take a moment(and a photo) to take in the view, fair play to you mother nature, you were on the ball making this one.
And, after a great omelet, apparently they didn’t do the hot bollix potato balls, and enough coffee top-ups to have me twitching for the rest of the trip, we set off again. Rather intelligently, I forgot to re-install the SD card back into the go-pro, so no images of the rest of the trip to show you I’m afraid.
Taxiing out, we prepare for what we now know will be a long takeoff roll due to density altitude(DA). This involves leaning the fuel mixture at full power to insure best possible performance out of the engine during the take off. And as expected the take off was a little long, but not a problem, because we knew to expect it and we had plenty of runway. A good example of how being one step ahead makes aviation work.
Payson, was another pleasant little airport, although at this stage Sedona had stolen the show. We made an approach and full stop landing before an immediate taxi back for departure back to Chandler.
Again a pretty uneventful flight back, although you could really start to feel the heat building in the day. The rising heat made for a bit of a bumpy ride and the cockpit started to cook a bit as well. It was a definitely a contrast to the morning where the air was as smooth as you like and the cockpit was quite comfortable. Anyway, we were glad to get back to base for a quick debrief and a cold drink of water.
Tomorrow the plan is to do a few touch and goes with Jason in the other Cherokee due to some differences in the two aircraft and then I should be set free on my own. Time to plan some interesting destinations.