Photographs courtesy KP.
Sedona, a land of timeless beauty, surrounded by magnificent, natural red rock sculptures and pristine National Forest. Standing about 4,300ft above sea level, centrally located less than two hours north of Phoenix and just two hours south of the Grand Canyon, it is one of the most spectacular secrets of the world. Erosion has sculptured this masterpiece for over 350 million years.
As we drove north, I was almost disappointed. All that we saw were pine trees and the landscape looked no different from other countrysides. When we had set off it was hot and 90 degrees.
“Isn’t early morning better for a flight?” I had asked.
“No, anytime is fine,” was the response.
Checking the forecast that morning, I wondered how the day would play out. With thunderstorms in the forecast, chances of pulling off this flight were diminishing. I weighed the odds of planning something else as opposed to keeping the afternoon open and have my flying plans cancelled.
We arrived at Flagstaff (FLG) airport a little early, eager to take to the skies. Fred, the instructor at Wiseman Aviation who was going to fly with us had assured us that thunderstorms in the forecast were not a factor. In no time we preflighted and departed with me at the controls and Fred’s able guidance. He made sure to remind me about the the departure procedures, density altitude and other necessary details. Fred was also our tour guide, as he pointed out landmarks along the way – painted dessert, canyons, native American dwellings, dormant volcanoes, Sun coast crater, ski areas and more.
When I put together my flying bucket list a few years ago, I had added Sedona and Grand Canyon as an after thought. My interest had been sparked by the beautiful aerial images that Greg Brown had posted on his blog and in articles he has written over the years. Despite seeing the images, and reading the articles, nothing really prepares one for the incredible views not just from the air, but even from the ground.
We looped around flying turns about a point over key landmarks, awestruck by the natural beauty of the land, painstakingly etched over millions of years. With lots of help from Fred, I made my first landing at Sedona (SEZ). Taxing back, we took off again and this time climbed slowly to 10,500ft as we overflew Falgstaff airspace to make our way to the Flagstaff Snowbowl, a ski area very popular during the winter months. With spring here, the ski areas were deserted. But we could easily identify the ski slopes, the ski lifts and resort area.
In good time we retraced our path back to Flagstaff and all too soon the flight ended. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend looking up Wiseman Aviation. If you have the time, you can do an aircraft checkout and rent an aircraft to fly. If not, take Fred.
Sedona does have a restaurant on the field: Mesa Grill. Although we did not stop on the day of the flight for a meal, we did have breakfast there. And I highly recommend staying at the Sky Ranch Lodge that is next to the airport and within walking distance to the Mesa Grill. While there, hike the airport loop for some spectacular views of the Sedona red canyons!
And that bucket list item, I think I will leave it on.
February brings fond memories of Bahamas…
Has it really been 5 years?
If wishes were horses, I would, I should, I might, or I already would be in the Bahamas!
Five years ago today…
Last year when we planned the Bahamas trip, we set off with a hotel reservation in Fort Pierce, FL, which by the way, we had to change since we departed one day later than planned. Of course, we did need to prepare ahead of the time: radio licenses for the aircraft as well as the pilots, decal for the aircraft, and eAPIS accounts to submit passenger manifests. That was the extent of our planning. I roughly planned what stops we would make on the outbound, so we could have a rough estimate of flight times to expect and where we would stop for fuel, food and customs. But that was it.
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Four years ago…
Miami Center, can we get direct Ft. Pierce,” I asked eying the ominous looking dark clouds at our 12 o’clock.
“Unable for the next 10 minutes. Maintain heading,” responded Miami Center.
We had departed Bimini, our final halt in the Bahamas before heading back to the States. It was cloudy and IMC along the Florida Coast and we had filed an IFR flight plan for the return. Bimini is a mere 10nm miles from the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ ) and with luck, we had circled as we climbed to altitude and after multiple attempts, finally established radio contact with Miami Center. This was not only crucial since we were in-bound, crossing the ADIZ, but also because weather along our route was mostly IMC.
We proceeded as directed, continuing to watch the rapidly approaching weather system, straight ahead. When is the best time to tell the controller I am unable to follow his directive, I pondered. The system ahead looked turbulent and moisture laden. It is not fun heading into this mess in a Cessna 172. But I was also curious to see how it felt, how I would handle it, and understand my limits. Fortunately, just as we started penetrating the mess, Miami Center, cleared us direct to Ft. Pierce, so we could avoid the system.
Unable might seem like a taboo word, something you should never use or one you feel affronted to use since it admits a weakness of some sort or some such frivolous reason, but believe it or not it is the most effective word in your pilot lingo that might just save the day.
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I almost missed this milestone.
This month marked two decades since my first intro flight when I officially began my flight training. Has it really been that long?
I still fondly and vividly remember that day like yesterday, when I flew my first solo.
Or that first cross country I made to King City, that made me nervous I would get lost. Or better yet that second long cross-country to South County airport that required two go-arounds, to the ire of others in the traffic pattern.
Or the first foray to Bakersfield after getting my ticket and getting lost for dialing in the wrong VOR frequency and having a non-functioning transponder! How about that first ILS approach into Watsonville in actual IMC after getting my instrument rating ?
Or that time I took my friend from college to Monterey and experienced my first instrument failure.
Or the long solo cross country to satisfy the requirements for commercial pilot license.
Seems like yesterday 🙂
“You have to go down to 350 feet for the flyby,” I reminded gently. “I am not going any lower“, pat came the response while Grace stayed steady at 400 feet. “We’ll be disqualified if we are not at or below 200 feet for the flyby,” I said a trifle forcefully.
If you spend any time around us, about this same time every year, our vocabulary begins to take on a few special words (GREEK to some, GEEK to others). In particular, Oshkosh, AirVenture & “Goin’ Again”. (Okay, that last one is two words). For those who don’t know what it’s all about, here’s the best […]