Date: Friday 28th
-> FLG -> SEZ
An unusually cold, cold
front has been sitting over Arizona for the past few weeks. Result has been lots
of snow in the upper mountain regions, specifically Flagstaff. The buzz of
"its snowing up there" even reached the ears of the tyrant,
known as the Number Two Son.
So I am under pressure
to go up to see snow. Yeah, we could drive over, but it may be easier just
to fly. At least more fun. More challenging. More unusual.
The kid loves the idea.
The wife is not so enthusiastic, but does not veto it. So one morning I
pack the kid in the car and head over towards Stellar
Airport to crank up the favorite N5264R.
Austin agrees to come along, so I pick
him up and head to Stellar Airport. We do the usual preflight of the
aircraft, wheel it out of the hangar. Avi wants to sit up front, I fashion
a high chair out of pillows and a fat book, and he can now see out over
the high instrument panel.
We take off towards the South, then turn
around and fly heading North. North of Stellar lies the dreaded Phoenix
Class Bravo, I have to be careful not to violate airspace boundaries.
Using freeways and familiar roads as
navigation markers, I stay out of the Bravo core, at a low altitude
Avi wants to fly, but I decline as we
are still within Phoenix Class Bravo.
We call Scottsdale and get a transition
clearance. So from there it is over Pinnacle Peak and clim up and away to
fly over the rims of towering peaks of mountains surrounding
Soon we are out of the city boundaries
and climbing. Gorgeous views. High peaks. I turn over the controls to Avi,
who does his best holding a straight and level attitude while I take a
break. He can hold the plane on a reasonable bearing and straightness
using the attitude indicator and the directional gyro. The Microsoft
Flight Simulator has taught him how to do that. D*** kids and video games.
As we climbed over the mountains, I
tuned in Flagstaff VOR. As I twiddled with the dial, I noticed the huge
tall peaks of the San Francisco Mountains (12,500ft) perk up at the
horizon. SF Mtn is at Flagstaff. Who needs a VOR needle to follow when you
have such a landmark.
After about 20 minutes of mountain
flying the valley becomes wider and clearer and hues turn red. We see the
absolutely breathtaking cliffs of Sedona. The picture to the left does not
quite do justice to the magnificence
As I look out of my window and see
Sedona, I realize how close we are to Sedona airport. Immediately, I get
this urge to go there. I was not planning to, but it looks so inviting.
(The airport is clearly visible in the photo on the left - it is the flat straight
white line, in the foreground).
But we keep trucking, up to Flagstaff.
Closer we get to Flagstaff the snow on
the ground builds up. We establish contact with Flagstaff
Airport. I can barely see the airport from about 10 miles away, but
the map says it is beyond that curve in the road, so it must be there. I
can sure hear the controller and he gives us clearance to land on Runway
Since we are flying North, we are
perfectly setup for a 45° downwind
entry to 21. Soon I see the airport, and go into the patterns. The wind is
gusty, the pine trees are soaring upwards, and suddenly I realize this is
my first landing off the beaten track, with passengers. I subconsciously
mutter to myself "damn, I cant land this thing here!".
Those words get transmitted on the intercom, turning Austin's legs into
little bumpy in the air, but 64-Romeo touches the ground with grace. The
runway is *huge* - wide and long. We taxi off to the FBO and jump out into
the fresh crisp cold air, with snow piled up all around.
The FBO (Fixed Base Operation) at
Flagstaff, called Wiseman Aviation,
is simply beyond compare. Run by a dedicated couple it is charming. A guy
in a golf cart pulls up and flags us to a parking spot. He lays out nice
red carpets to step out on. Then shows us to the "office".
The office is lovely, gleaming wooden
floors, gentle fire in the fireplace, a cat on the comfy sofa--it looks
like home as home is supposed to be. Hot coffee, chocolate chip cookies,
pilots lounge, planning room, clean restrooms--no charge. The kid grabs
handfuls of cookies and deposits crumbs on the floor. That is his
genetically programmed duty.
|Wiseman offered to sell us fuel,
but since we flew for just an hour on tanks that hold 5 hours of fuel, it
was prudent to decline. Taking off from a high-altitude airport (FLG is
7000ft) with full tanks is not prudent.
Austin and Avi go out and play in the snow. Standard
screaming and snowball fights.
Time for hunger pangs to set in. The cafe at FLG is
closed for winter. We could take a cab ride into town, that is the only
option at FLG.
The lovely landing strip at Sedona (SEZ) flashes
in my mind. Sedona is blessed with a nice restaurant on at the airport. It
is a place where flyers from all over Arizona congregate for lunch.
So off we go to Sedona
||The ride from Flagstaff to
Sedona is a treat. Fly along the Oak Creek Canyon. Over the majestic
cliffs and pine forests. Peer into the canyon.
Do not even think of emergency landings here. Keep the
engine happy, please.
Soon after the Oak Creek Canyon we came
upon the city of Sedona (below) and the famous "aircraft
carrier" airport. Perched on a "mesa" or high flat mountain
top, is the runway, with sheer drop offs on each side. The runway slopes
downwards from north to south, hence pilots prefer to land from the south
(going north) and takeoff from the north (going south). This also avoids
buzzing the city, and keeps the mystics happy.
SEZ is uncontrolled, and the radio
traffic was incessant. Planes are landing and taking off and approaching
from all sides. Since landings and takeoffs are in opposite directions, it
is quite a mess. I found a few seconds of radio silence, started calling
in my intentions. I flew over the airport at mid field and joiced the left
The elevation and the unconventional
view threw off my elevation perception. As I was on short final, I
realized I was diving at 90kts into a strip a few hundred feet away, at
over 600 off the ground. Too fast, too high.
Of course, as the keep telling you at
flight school "do not get macho, do not do anything stupid." The
advise suddenly hit home and I announced on the radio "Cessna
64-Romeo on short final, we are going around".
Next time around was better, but not by
much. Too high again, but this time I decided I had enough space and time
and nerve to bring out the big guns. I jammed in the right rudder and held
direction with left aileron. The plane descended like a stone (recall,
slips!). The airspeed was on the mark at 70Kts, and when I took off the
cross controls, 64R was poised to land.
Touchdown was followed by lunch.
Service is slow, but the location is
perfect. Food is way better than what you would expect at any airport
We spent a great deal of time hanging
out at the restaurant overlooking the runway. Eventually it was time to
Jump into the trusty plane and off we go
The city is easy to find, just head for
the four-peaks and keep on the right. Follow the outbound path back, fly
over Scottsdale and then Rt-101 and graze Chandler (class D) to enter
Stellar on a downwind.
Mission accomplished. Tach time: 2.7
hours. Amounts to a $143 charge for plane and fuel. Well worth it.