Friday, February 15, 2013

Planning the great escape

We are in the middle of snow-boarding season up here in flyover country. It's waterboarding, basically, with snow. Every day, we get about an inch of snow -- which doesn't melt -- and suddenly you look out the window and realize there's two feet of snow on the ground and we've not had a single big storm. It's like death by a thousand paper cuts and it only serves to make winter longer than it really is. It makes you confess to crimes you didn't commit, if only to make it stop.

The ice and snow around the hangar is preventing N614EF from getting outside. I'm still working on getting the wheelpants gussied up now that the intersection fairings have been strengthened and improved. The engine preheating system has been installed, although now I wonder if it was worth it if I can't get the plane out to fly, and what I believe was a bad #1 EGT probe from Grand Rapids Technology has now been replaced ($36), but I can't start the engine to see if it's fixed the problem.

I still need to get up in the air to take video of the Tru Trak wing leveler to send to TT to figure out why it won't track the flight plan in the Garmin 296, but apparently that will have to wait.

So what does an RV pilot do during these times? Plans an escape.

My son, Patrick, and I -- both big Cleveland Indians fans, are planning a trip to the Phoenix area to watch the Tribe play some spring baseball.

I've never flown a plane outside Minnesota. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever flown a plane for more than 2 or 3 hours, so this is a big deal for us.

My pal, Darwin Barrie, has offered to put the plane up at his airpark in Chandler, so this week I gathered all the charts and books to begin planning the trip. It appears the first refueling stop will be in Lexington, Nebraska (on the Kansas border), the second will be in Dalhart, TX, and then we'll try to put some air underneath us to get up over the mountains, probably stopping for a load of fuel in Saint John's Industrial, about an hour outside of Phoenix.

Assuming good VFR weather, none of that bothers me too much -- except for the question of whether we'll have enough oxygen in the bottle . But Phoenix airspace? Man, it looks difficult.

First, you've got mountains to the East to get over, and then you've got to drop altitude -- a lot of altitude -- to get under the Class B. It's obviously doable, but should be a challenge, and I'm not sure all the examining of charts really prepares you as much as one should be prepared.

Here, for example, is the Phoenix VFR flyway map.

It doesn't look simple, but it looks manageable.

Here's what it looks like in real life:

It'd be a lot easier, Phoenix, if you'd paint a big blue stripe across yourself.

I'll be on the phone with Darwin this week looking for advice.


  1. Ah, the GREAT adventure! Enjoy every aspect, from the planning to the smooth landing at the other end. I highly recommend Flight Following, it will really alleviate issues with the Class B. My adventure to Scottsdale is here:

  2. Here's a question that often befuddles me about flight following -- which I do like to use. If you're on frequency with Flight Following, and your route takes you through someone's Class C -- let's say ABQ -- do you need to ask to change frequency to contact the ABQ tower or are you already in contact?

  3. Generally no. The center controller would normally hand you off to ABQ approach (not tower) and provide the correct frequency, "November 614EF, contact Albuquerque Approach on 127.4". As soon as you check-in on the new frequency you will have established contact with the controlling authority. Approach will send you over to tower if necessary. But keep in mind flight following can be terminated if the controller gets busy, or they can simply miss the hand-off (to approach). In those cases, it is your responsibility to contact ABQ Approach prior to entering Class C. Only if you are on an IFR flight plan are these things guaranteed.

    When planning to enter Class B (PHX), in addition to establishing two-way communication, you absolutely need to hear the magic words "cleared into Class B" prior to crossing the blue line.

  4. I will chime in for flight following as well, Bob. Mitch has explained it quite well. Get with MSP approach when you depart KSGS and tell them who you are, where you are, and that you would like flight following to Lexington Neb. (have the identifier handy because they will probably want it) at whatever VFR altitude you want. They will probably come back with a squawk code and may give you some headings and altitude restrictions to get you through the MSP Class B, and away you go. They will hand you off to controllers down the line, as Mitch notes. The controller you are talking to when you get turned loose for the Lexington CTAF will most likely be the one you talk to when you depart Lexington for Dalhart. Ask him before you let him go and jot down the frequency. It will make the transition in to the PHX Class B very easy. As Mitch notes, make sure you hear the magic words, "cleared in to XXX Class B airspace"
    My brother and I flew my plane to Scottsdale last spring for some baseball and had a great time. Have fun!

  5. P.S.
    Flight following also means you are communicating with someone who knows exactly where you are if you run in to some kind of problem. That is a very nice thing on a long cross country over unpopulated areas. They will also give you a heads up on active MOA's, restricted airspace, weather, traffic, etc. What's not to like about all of that?