Sunday, October 07, 2007

Vegas & Grand Canyon West

It makes no sense to me why Chicago is called the windy city with Las Vegas on the map. The wind here has been terrible. Yesterday, I had to cancel my flight because the wind was 20 knots with 30 knot gusts. Today, it wasn't nearly as bad. Still, it was bumpy and gusts made smooth landings a challenge.

For the past year, I've been flying amost nothing but glass panel G1000 aircraft. Since West Air Aviation requires a 4 hour ground school in order to fly their G1000, and their plane is much more expensive to rent than a plane with traditional instrumentation, I opted to fly the cheaper plane. My check ride went well. The instructor, John Romero, was very thorough putting me through power-on and power-off stalls, slow flight and three landings with varying degrees of flap deployment. After the flight, I took the plane to the Grand Canyon West (1G4) airport.

The flight over from North Las Vegas (KVGT) was great, but the destination was a bit of a disappointment. After I was clear of the Class B airspace, I was free to fly as I saw fit. On John's advice, I climbed to 9,500 to stay above the canyon tour traffic. I followed the river into Lake Mead, then up the Colorado into the Canyon from the west, then over to 1G4.

Looking at Google Earth, the airport appears to be situated right next to the Grand Canyon and is only 2 miles South of the glass walkway that the local native American tribe has built. My plan was to land a the airport, then hike up to the lookout point and take lots of neat pictures. The trouble with this plan is that the local tribe won't let you off of the airport parking lot unless you are in one of their tour buses. The tours start at $49.95. However, the glass walkway takes an additional $25. And to make matters worse, you can't take cameras or binoculars on the walkway.

According to the folks in Vegas, the landing fee was a steep $100. After I landed, I found out that if you take a tour, there is no fee. I told the guy at the desk that I wanted to hike around and take some photos, so he said there would be no landing fee. That was a relief. I had expected to hike to a place to grab some food, but there was no place nearby - and they wouldn't let me off the property anyway.

I managed to wander to the southern end of the runway and took some shots of the canyon as well as the runway, but a security guard caught up with me and told me I wasn't supposed to be walking where I was. He was nice and offered me a ride back, but I declined saying I'd walk back and take more pictures.

There are tons of helicopter and tour plane operations at this airport. There is no taxiway, so you have to use the runway to taxi. After I started my engine, I patiently waited on one private plane and one tour plane both of which had departed on runway 35. The wind was favoring 35 and judging by the wind sock, it was gusting to 15 knots from about 320 degrees. After the tour plane took off, I took runway 35, and that upset another tour plane that was lining up on runway 17 for some unknown reason. The wind didn't favor this runway and the last three operations were on 35. The pilot said something unintelligible and then said he couldn't land with me on the end of the runway. I continued to taxi to the end of the runway - no place else for me to go. I noticed the windsock was showing some strong activity that would make anyone with any sense want to use runway 35 rather than 17, so I advised the tour pilot that he'd have a strong tailwind if he landed on 17. I took off and saw the tour plane in an extended base leg for 17. I turned crosswind and got the heck out of there.

The flight back to North Vegas was nice, too. I was eventually told to overfly the airport at no lower than 3500 and to make right traffic for 12 Right. The wind was from 070 at 6 with some gusts that I felt on short final. I managed to get her down safely and had a great time doing it.

I only recommend going to 1G4 for the experience of landing at an interesting airport, no so much for the tours. All told, this was a great day of VFR flying in severe clear weather. 2.0 hours of cross country with two take offs and two landings other than the three that I did for the check ride.

Pictures will be posted once I get back...didn't bring the camera's cable with me.

1 comment:

  1. Hello David, I'm a private pilot willing to do the same thing you did rent a plane and fly over the grand canon and have a couple of questions for you.

    First how long did it take go to do the round trip from north Vegas to the canon.

    And did you got to fly low over the cannon like 2000 feet or something.