Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grand Canyon Flying

Grand Canyon Aerial

Flying over the Grand Canyon is an amazing experience. Luckily, it is right on our path between Colorado and Southern California and we like going to Southern California. Navigating over the it with the special rules may sound like more hassle than it is worth, but it is pretty easy in the end if you have a GPS.

The Sectional and Grand Canyon VFR Maps

The first thing you look at is the Las Vegas Sectional, but it does not have much information on it except to avoid the entire area. Below is a snapshot. But the situation is not that bad.

Grand Canyon Sectional Piece

The next step is to buy the Grand Canyon VFR chart or at least look at it on-line with Below is a snapshot. The main areas you have to avoid are in purple unless you are at or above 14,500 MSL. If you avoid the purple areas, you can be much lower. You basically have to stay above the rim of the canyon. The altitudes you cannot go are marked somewhat similar to how it is marked on a Class Bravo area. You also should try to be at least 2000' AGL since you are over a National Park. I wish some of this information was included on the sectional chart.

The commercial traffic is allowed to go lower and below the rim. This is a little annoying that non-commercial GA traffic does not have the option, but it does separate the commercial and non-commercial traffic well. I monitor the advisory frequency of 127.05Mhz and have only heard the commercial traffic when I have flown through. So I have had no other traffic at might level while enjoying the scenery.

Grand Canyon VFR chart

The Grand Canyon Corridors

There are specific spots you can cross the canyon between the purple spots. These are labeled as the Grand Canyon VFR Corridors. I have highlighted them below with green lines. The beginning and end of these green lines are described with GPS coordinates, so it makes it easy to find the beginning and end as long as you have at least a handheld GPS. When you go across these corridors, make sure you are at the appropriate altitude for you direction on the corridor. The altitudes are marked on the map.

Grand Canyon Cooridors

Modifying My Route for the Grand Canyon

On the last trip, I need to go from Page, AZ (KPGA) to Laughlin/Bullhead, AZ (KIFP). Below is the picture of the direct route. If I looked at the sectional, I might be make a big loop around the Grand Canyon. Looking at the Grand Canyon VFR chart, it looks like I could just about make the route without crossing the purple. But I would not maximize my fun over the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon and PGA-IFP direct route

So below is what I modified the route to. See how I used the end points of the corridors to help with the path and maximize the time near the Grand Canyon. My first time over the Grand Canyon, I went over 1 or 2 more of the corridors to get more of the experience. But that was easier that time because Grand Canyon airport (KGCN) was my final destination and that was the purpose of the trip.

Grand Canyon and PGA-IFP modified route

For this trip, I first gained altitude outside the special areas to over 8000', then kept climbing over the Marble Canyon area to above 10,000', then went to the north point of the Zuni Point Corridor (36°17.38'N 111°51.04'W) then to the north side of Dragon Corridor (36°19.11'N 112°06.60'W) while climbing to maintain 2000' AGL, then through the Dragon Corridor to the south point (36°01.00'N 112°15.51'W) at either 10,500' or 12,500' for the southbound altitude, then towards KIFP. Note that there is a restricted area just south of the first westbound leg. I am not sure what it is for, but it is something to watch out for and bend your course a little north for.

Another Article

I found another article on flying around the Grand Canyon. I would recommend reading that too.

Staying at the Grand Canyon

My first trip around this area, we landed at KGCN and got a shuttle into the National Park. This worked out nicely. We stayed at one of the hotels inside the park and then took the National Park shuttles around.

Some spots I wonder about checking out in the future around the Grand Canyon that are more remote are:

Marble Canyon

Bar 10

Cliff Dwellers Lodge


Flying over the Grand Canyon is something everybody should do as a pilot. It is not that hard to plan, and it is a great experience.


Here is another possible path I showed someone. You can't quite go direct between the points like it shows since it clips the no-fly zones, but if you fly wide in those spots it should work. I would recommend something like this for your first trip through the Grand Canyon. Remember 11500 northbound and 10500 southbound and try to maintain 2000 AGL over the North Rim.
Possible Grand Canyon VFR route

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stepping Up to a C182

Somebody just asked me in an E-mail how much harder was flying a C182 vs a C172. So I thought I would try to answer it here. In general, I think any private pilot should be able to handle a Cessna 182 with a little instruction from a instructor who flies a C182 regularly. Not all rental places have C182s, and they are not usually flown for general training, so make sure you get an instructor with some experience in them. One other fun thing... After getting your checkout in the C182, you will also get a high performance endorsement to add to your logbook; the C182 has a 230hp engine which qualifies as high performance for the FAA.

Looking around, I found one other blog talking about getting a C182 checkout. And if you get the Cessna Pilot's Association 182 Buyer's Guide, it also has a description of getting a good checkout. This is an excellent booklet, and I highly recommend it if you are thinking about buying a C182.


The Cessna 182 is a great plane that can haul 4 people and baggage well. Depending on the weight of the people and baggage, you might not be able to carry full fuel, but the fuel tanks are often large (80+ gallons). In order to carry the extra weight, the C182 is a heavier plane to begin with and has a larger engine, a constant speed prop, and cowl flaps.

The way the C182 was designed, it is very hard if not impossible to get the Weight and Balance out of the CG envelope. The downside to this is that the plane is nose heavy. You will notice during flaring.

The C182 is roomier inside than a C172 also. That will make your wife and family happy. You aren't squeezed in and touching shoulders like you do in a C172. The back seat is amazing roomy. I fit my friend comfortably in the back who is 6' 8".

The C182 has a higher avionics panel and dash; this is due to fitting more avionics and a larger engine up front. Make sure you crank the seat up high and use a cushion if you need to. Your sight picture during landing will likely be a little different due to this.

Constant Speed Propeller and Cowl Flaps

One of the big questions for some is how hard is it to deal with constant speed propeller and cowl flaps. These really are not that big a deal. I haven't seen it described well for some reason though. There are lots of possible power setting combinations, but you don't use them all.

For each phase of flight, MP and RPM belong in different positions. But once you know it, it is easy. You do not change them that often. The throttle is the main thing you move.

The RPM will just be set at your personal phase of flight setting. On my 1974 C182P, I use full high RPM of 2600RPM at takeoff, 2450 RPM most other times which is top of the green RPM arc, sometimes 2200 RPM for descending fast which is bottom of the green RPM arc.

When you adjust the throttle during normal flight, you will be looking at manifold pressure (MP) usually. For takeoff, full throttle. On my 1974 C182P, I usually cruise at 20" MP and 2450 RPM which is 67% power; you will need to pick your own cruise settings. I descend at 15" which is the bottom of the green MP arc. On downwind or approaching the pattern, I usually go to 15" in level flight as well to slow down.

When you descend on base/final for landing, and you pull power below the green MP arc, the constant speed prop can no longer keep the RPMs so the RPM will drop as the MP drops. At this point, you can look at either the MP or the RPM for your power setting. I tend to look for around 1800 RPM, but my wife tends to look for around 10" MP. They will occur around the same time. The other thing is to just listen to the engine and look outside and feel what it should be.

If you are flying IFR, you will want to determine your power settings for different phases there too. I use 17" approach, 12" ILS precision descent, 10" non-precision descent. I like to do this with 10 degrees flaps too.

For cowl flap usage, just open them when you are climbing with high power, or close them during cruise and descents.

I do a LCGUMPS (Lights, Carb heat, Cowl flaps, Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Prop, Safety) check at different phases of flight (takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, landing), not just at landing . That way I check prop and cowl flaps and other times occasionally.

That is some of the main points, but there is more... When ever you change your RPM, do it slowly at the lower power setting when possible, and other items... Your instructor will give you all the extra details and specifics for your plane. Different C182 models and years will also have slightly different MP and RPM settings that are mentioned in the POH.


It is good to practice all the different take off types with different flap settings. My personal preference for general takeoffs is 10 degrees of flaps.

When you takeoff, you will notice that more right rudder is required. That is of course due to the larger engine.

Speed and Slowing Down

When you change from a C172 to a C182, the C182 feels fast and does not seem to want to slow down. But it actually slows down pretty easily, you just have to take measures to do this. If you leave full power and level out, it will keep going fast. If you change to 15", 2200RPM, and level out, it will slow down quickly. You can fly it almost as slow as a C172 if you want.

It is important to slow the plane down before flaring. The easiest way to do this when you are new to a C182 is approaching the pattern before you even enter the downwind.

Landing and Flares

There are a few important things with landings. They are important for C172s too, but you can be sloppy with a C172, and it is not too bad.

  • It is very important to slow the plane down to the speeds mentioned in the POH. Extra speed will cause the plane to float and make the flare harder to do correctly. It will require more back pressure on the yoke during flare too.

  • It is important to trim the plane correctly. Since this is a heavier plane, it will be much easier to trim than to fight the yoke pressure.

  • When you do flare, make sure you hold the nose high. Keep steadily pulling more and more back on the yoke. Remember a good landing is the stall horn bleeping right before the main wheels touch. Also do not relax on the back pressure until taxiing.
You will find that you probably want some power during the base and final leg especially if you have flaps in. You can, of course, do landings without power such as for emergency practice, but the C182 will drop fast especially with flaps in. This potential, fast descent rate can be nice if you are high on final. Of course, if you had power applied during final, you will need to reduce power to idle slowly before or while you are flaring.

I think it is key to practice landings a bunch and consistently. They get easier and easier over time. My personal preference is for 20 degree flap landings, although I practice all types.


Power off stalls are pretty much the same as C172.

The power on stalls are a little different due to the larger engine. Remember to use lots of right rudder. If you are not fully loaded and it is a cool day, it requires an extremely steep pitch up attitude to cause a stall with full power. For this reason, I wonder if it is good to practice with slightly less than full power. If you ended up in a true power on stall condition, it would probably be when loaded heavy or on a hot day which would probably closer attitude with lower power. Maybe practice both ways? Ask your instructor.


Since the C182 is a heavier plane to begin with, you will notice it is more stable and smooth on bumpy, turbulent days. It is nice and stable for IFR flying. If you trim it well, it will maintain altitude very nicely. I think crosswind landings are much easier in the C182 as well.

Carb Heat Usage

The carburated C182s tend to carb icing easier than other planes. Most C182s have a carburator temperature gauge that helps with this. When in cruise flight, I usually pull the carb heat partially so that the gauge indicates 10 degrees C. This keeps the carburator out of icing conditions, and it also helps to keep the intake temperatures best for fuel atomization. Full carb heat is not as good for atomization, and it lets in more unfiltered air. This partial carb heat usage should only be done in a plane with the gauge.


1st thing is to go find a good C182 instructor and get some instruction. Get a C182 POH for the plane you will rent or buy, and read it through thoroughly. Look through the POH and determine your own procedures or the differences from what you are used to.

I think most people become comfortable to practice on their own after only a few hours of instruction. The insurance may require a few more hours though.

These are some of my thoughts. Please, go ask your instructor for their thoughts. Then you need to form your own thoughts after you have flown the plane for a while.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Spot Tracking for Pilots

Last long trip I went flying on, I used my SPOT Satellite Messenger with an FSS Aviation Flight Plan, and I felt an added bit of safety. On my trip to Disneyland from Colorado to California, there are sections where I am flying over pretty remote areas, especially in Arizona and California. This new method made me feel a bit better.

Initial Thoughts

I got the SPOT Satellite Messenger primarily for trips like my Idaho backcountry trip last year. You are down low in the mountains for multiple days of flying with no access to FSS or ATC. If something goes wrong, you want some way of sending out an emergency signal. The other thing I like it for is flying around the Rocky Mountains here. I put the device on top of the dash, and click the "I'm OK" at the beginning of the flight, put it into tracking mode during the flight, and click "I'm OK" at the end. This makes the web tracking work best. If something happened on the flight, I would immediately hit the "911" button before even emergency landing.

Spot Satellite Personal Tracker

Look around for deals for the service, I was able to get mine free if I signed up for a 1-year subscription including tracking. I have at least heard of discounts since then, but not free. The tracking is an extra fee, but it seems worth it.

There are lots of reviews out there on the SPOT satellite messenger. Here is a good SPOT review on and another SPOT review on

Use on Long Trips

Then I thought of an even better way to use this during long trips. There is a "Remarks" section in the flight plan form. I figure there ought to be a way to let FSS know I have one of these things.

Before my flight, on the Spot Web Site, I logged into my account, click the "Share" tab. Here, you can either create a new shared page for showing your tracking path or find a previously created page. Once you are viewing the page, capture the long, convoluted link and make a smaller link using You can make up whatever smaller url link you want or can make a random one for you.

The next part is to put this newly created link into your "remarks" section of the FSS Flight plan. I think the did not like the ":" in "http://", but was fine with the rest of the link. I also talked with FSS on the phone on one of my legs and told him about adding it to my remarks section. He was intrigued by the concept and said he would watch my flight on the web as it progressed. That is very cool to hear; somebody in FSS watching your flight from the ground.

Then I track the flight with the SPOT like I mentioned above. Note: you have to do the "I'm OK" at the beginning and end or the web tracking does not work right.

My Last Trip Tracking

It is also fun to see the track of your trip. Below is a picture of my track from my Spot Tracking page. This one has all the labels:

Spot Share page

You can turn off the labels to make it more readable:

Spot Share page

There is an altitude profile as well that you can show, but I am not sure how accurate that is:

Spot Share page altitude profile

Other Emergency Beacons

The SPOT satellite messenger goes through the SPOT system and not the government ELT methods, so I do wonder about getting a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) sometime in addition. This works similar to the ELT in your plane and works with 121.5Mhz and 406Mhz and provides GPS coordinates to accurately find you. No subscription plan is needed for these devices and it works world-wide. The one I am currently looking at for the future is the McMurdo Fast Find PLB Model 210. But there is no tracking capability and no "I'm OK" button. It only works as an emergency device.


I think everybody should have some sort of SPOT or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). For the plane and for the outdoors. I have a friend who got stuck in a blizzard overnight and really wishes he had one of these things. I really like the idea that it can show your track even before you have a problem. What happens if your ELT does not activate when you go down, with this device search and rescue could get a lot closer to where you are. Within about 10 minutes of flying time since it tracks every 10 minutes. If you file a flight plan, they just know your approximate route and no idea where you went down. One way to help this is to file PIREPs or do Flight Following, but this is not always practical.