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 Post subject: Wagons West!
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:51 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:15 pm
Posts: 189
This week I had to buy plane tickets for my holiday travels. We're leaving Wednesday for my in-laws place in Salt Lake City, UT. Then on Christmas day we're flying down to southern California for my brother's wedding, and then back home from there a few days later.

I thought I'd do the trip in my new Baron, just for comparison. It seemed shame to take that big airplane with just two of us, so I simulated having my 85-year-old grandparents along for the ride in the back. They'll be coming out for the wedding, anyway, and since they're from Utah, I figured they wouldn't mind the trip.

With four of us and 100 lbs. of baggage, the airplane was at max gross with 124 gallons of fuel. That's enough for three or four hours plus IFR reserves. Heading west against the prevailing winds I planned on about 500-mile legs, and I wanted to make the trip all in one day.

Preflight at KCPK started at 5 in the morning. We were rolling by 5:15 on an IFR flight plan to Cincinnati Municipal (Lunken Field, KLUK). Smooth ride out, through some clouds. Got there just as the sun was coming up around 7:45.

Leaving before dawn
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We took half an hour to stretch our legs while the plane got refueled, and then saddled up for the next leg to Kansas City Downtown (KMKC). There was a huge storm moving across the midwest by this point, but I thought I'd be able to scud run along underneath, so we headed out VFR at 6,500 ft. Then the clouds got lower and it was 4,500 ft. The clouds were still coming down, with a few hundred miles left to go, so I called uncle and filed IFR.

Broke out before we even hit the final approach fix at Wheeler Downtown, but it started snowing while we were there, so it was an IFR departure for our next stop, Centennial Airport in Denver (KAPA).

Snow in Kansas City
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We were more than halfway through Nebraska before the weather finally got better, and the 50+ knot headwind we'd been bucking all the way across the midwest, through clouds and rain and snow, turned into a little bit of a tailwind as we whisked across the high plains of eastern Colorado, toward the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Finally, out of the clag!
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Coming out of Denver, we put on the oxygen right away and vaulted through broken clouds up to 16,000-ft. for a 2.5 hour IFR jump over the mountains to Salt Lake City. The winds were out of the south in Salt Lake, so I pointed us straight for the Ogden VORTAC (about 30 miles north of the city) so we'd have enough room to let down into the valley on a long, straight-in descent for runway 16 and Salt Lake Municipal No. 2 (U42), about three miles from the in-laws new house.

Rocky Mountain High!
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We got to Salt Lake City just as the sun was setting. Departing KCPK at 5:00 local, and arriving at the end of our day at 16:30 local (18:30 in the time zone we started from!) That makes for a long, long day of flying, but mostly fairly easy going, and mostly in daylight.

Still had a bit of altitude on coming into runway 16, and it's not nice to make a long straight-in to an uncontrolled field anyway, so I flew an overhead approach. I flew up the right side of the runway at 1,500' AGL, 160 kts. Abeam the departure end, I pulled the throttles back and flopped over to the left in a 30-degree AOB, level, decelerating turn. Passing through 150 KIAS, I lowered the gear and arrived on downwind, 120 KIAS, gear down, 1,500' AGL. Descended to pattern altitude on downwind, lowered the flaps abeam the numbers, and brought it in to land. Very smooth and stylish way to arrive.

Left Base for 16, U42
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All in all, the Baron is a great way to travel with four folks and plenty of bags. We flew 1,600+ miles against the wind in a single day in four legs, the longest of which was 3.5 hours and the shortest being 2.5. There's plenty of room for two people in the four club-configured back seats. The airplane is climate controlled, and has all the instrumentation and de-icing gear you need for hard-IFR operations. Its only weakness is not being a stellar high-altitude performer due to a lack of pressurization and turbocharging. Even so, the vast majority of this trip didn't hurt much for that. Only two hours were flown above 10,000 ft., although it would have been nice to be able to get higher to get on top of the blizzard in the midwest, instead of punching through it at 8,000 ft. But it was smooth in the clouds, and with the de-ice gear, I wasn't too worried.

On deck in Salt Lake
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 Post subject: Re: Wagons West!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 7:48 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:15 pm
Posts: 189
Time for the next leg of the journey, from Salt Lake City to Orange County. Today I made it to an short layover in St. George, in the very southwestern corner of Utah. It's a bit warmer there than in Salt Lake, but still only a few degrees above freezing.

The Salt Lake area is in the middle of a good sized snowstorm right now. It's beautiful, except we have to go out and drive in it tonight. But it made for a very picturesque departure for my virtual Baron today.

Taxiing out, U42
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We flew through the clag for the first 45 minutes or so, against a very strong headwind. IFR on the airways. Oxygen was on, since we were cruising at 12,400 ft. for most of the flight. We finally broke out of it for a while, and had a nice view of the mountains in central Utah. But just south of Cedar City, we hit it again.

More clouds ahead
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The letdown into St. George was very smooth. Took the VOR-B approach and held a steady descent all the way through that put us just at the right spot to hit a left downwind for 16.

On final, 16, KSGU
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The airport in St. George is on a mesa, so it's about like landing on a big rock aircraft carrier. When I was 12, I lived in Provo, UT, and my dad's boss chartered a Piper Aztec for a trip to St. George. I got to ride in the right seat up front. It's the first entry in my logbook. So coming into 16 in a light twin in FS brought back some good memories.

Next stop: KSNA, perhaps with a low pass through Vegas if I'm feeling like it :wink:

This is the kind of mission at which the Baron excels. It's a little tougher to get her up above 10,000 ft, and in the real world you'd have to consider oxygen. she's not as fast up there, but I check the tanks when I landed, and we made the whole trip on about 38 gallons total, for a 1.8-hour flight. Speed drops off a bit at altitude, but the gas mileage is pretty good.


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