Wednesday, April 7, 2010

California Flying Trip 2010

I just got back from our yearly spring break trek to California from Colorado. It has been a fun destination for us in the past in 2006 to San Diego, 2007 to Carlsbad, 2009 to Disneyland. And it was fun again this year both for the flying route and the visiting in San Diego.

Below is my track on this year's California trek using the method I described in a past block entry using my Spot Satellite messager. The route between KHII and KCRQ is missing below, but I will describe it further below.



The flying back and forth was similar to past years. It seems we typically have good weather on the way out, and then have weather to divert around on the way back. The one difference this year was that the marine cloud layer in San Diego was not around on departure or arrival, so IFR was not required. If we had arrived or left on any other days, we would have had the clouds, but not on our days.

We break our path each direction into three pieces. Two pieces done in the first day, and then we leave the last short piece for second day.

Getting there: Day 1

Starting off, we had to wait a day before leaving due to weather. But this worked out. We had an extra day to get ready and plan. The weather also left behind a nice blanketing of snow on the mountains for our route. Very pretty!

Our starting path between Longmont, CO and Page, AZ was roughly by klmo-dobee-funds-kege-kpga and weaving over Rollins Pass and through valleys and over Vail Pass. Along the way we looked at Breckenridge, Copper, Vail, and Beaver Creek ski areas.

Page, AZ (KPGA) is a great place for a inexpensive fuel stop and picnic lunch. The view on the approach over either Lake Powell or Grand Canyon are incredible. The view from the ramp is pretty nice too.

Page Arizona Airport Ramp

Our next path from Page, AZ to Lake Havasu, AZ was roughly by kpga-kgcn-khii and following some of the Grand Canyon cooridors as described in my earlier post.

In more detail, I went from kpga to Zuni north, Dragon north, Dragon south to khii. I went ahead and made waypoints in my GPS and followed that flight path. I also watched my altitudes so that I am in compliance with the needed altitudes in the Grand Canyon area. Basically 8500' initially, and then up to 10,500' when got closer to the Zuni North Corridor point. See the Grand Canyon chart on-line at skyvector.com and click the Grand Canyon VFR button.

Desert Skies FBO in Lake Havasu (KHII) was very helpful and had a wonderful free slushy machine. We stayed at the Travelodge at Lake Havasu; it was ok. We heard that the Desert Skies FBO had a deal on the Hampton Inn for $89 and we might try that next time. We found a nice beach/park area to park and walk around near the London Bridge; this part is worth looking around more next time.

London Bridge at night

Getting there: Day 2

For getting in and out of the San Diego area and just in case of a marine layer, I filed IFR. I received the following clearance: khii-tnp-v208-ocn-kcrq. In the end, I did not have to go to OCN and flew this route: khii-tnp-trm-jli-escon-kcrq. The Western Flight Services FBO at Carlsbad/Palomar Airport (KCRQ) greeted us and was very helpful and nice. We selected KCRQ since they had the best deal on rental cars ($33/day) and KCRQ was still convenient to San Diego.

Visiting San Diego

We found our hotel by searching on tripadvisor.com and clicking the best deals button. We ended up at the Best Western Island Palms Hotel on Shelter Island ($123/night including taxes); it was very nice!.

Island Palms balcony view

This trip, we visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park and fed the giraffes on the Photo Caravan Tour. The next day was San Diego Zoo. Then we visited the La Jolla seals. Then Cabrillo National Monument. Then it was time to head home. The highlights of the trip were feeding the giraffes and the pandas.

San Diego Wild Animal Park Photo Caravan

San Diego Zoo Panda

Coming Back: Day 1

Snowy weather was in the mountains of Colorado and expected to stay there for a while, so we plotted our path towards the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area. This works well when the mountains are snowed in.


I filed IFR to get out even though it was clear. I ended up receiving this clearance: kcrq-ocn-jli-shadi-blh-v16-pxr-kffz. I did not quite fly to OCN at the beginning and Luke AFB approach sent me on the 100° radial of the BXK VOR. So in the end I flew this path between KCRQ and KFFZ.

Falcon Field (KFFZ)in Phoenix has cheap fuel and good food. We ate at the Anzio Landing Italian restaurant on the field like we did last year, and it was very good again. We did the self serve gas and that worked well too.

Our last path for this day was a straight shot to Santa Fe: kffz-ksaf. There was clouds, nearby snow, and wind at Santa Fe when we left Phoenix, but it cleared out about a 1/2 hour before we got there. This took some planning and required some backup plans.

Santa Fe Air Center FBO in Santa Fe (KSAF) was very nice and helped us with parking and a hotel. In the end, we bought fuel at the self serve pumps on the other side of the tower, but this was fine with them and did not change the service. We stayed at Courtyard Marriot for $75 using the FBO. It has an indoor pool and some restaurants near by and a shuttle back and forth to the airport. It was a ways from downtown, but we heard there was a bus that went into town. We might have to come back to Santa Fe again and try this.

Coming Back: Day 2

Our last part back was approximately ksaf-1v8-larks-klmo, but stayed east of the course along the west side of sangre de cristos then over hayden pass.

Possible Return Path Next Time

There is another similar return path I want to possibly try next time. Phoenix and KFFZ is nice, but for something different, we might try Sedona (KSEZ) next time as a lunch break on a southern route. Sedona is beautiful, fuel appears to be reasonably priced, and it appears there is a restaurant on the Sedona field. Maybe we will do a path like this next time between KCRQ and KSAF: kcrq-ocn-jli-trm-pke-ksez-ksaf.

I am not sure how Bagdad 1 MOA between pke and ksez would be if filing IFR if flying Mon-Fri when active. It seems like you could fly below it since the bottom is 7000'MSL or 5000'AGL whichever is higher. But would ATC give it to you since there is no airway and it might depend on the Minimum IFR altitude in that area. You might get the following between KCRQ and KSEZ which is still not too bad: crq-ocn-jli-trm-tnp-jotnu-zelma-eed-drk-sez

Summary

Once again the Colorado to Southern California trip is a winner. A recommended trip if you are in the Colorado area.

/Brian

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