Flying Across America

Promoting General Aviation

Best of day 9: Mountains and Desert

Our overnight stop in El-Paso has been troubled by a thunderstorm. The hotel’s roof above Jason’s room was not waterproof and part of his room got soaked and Jason had to change room at 10pm.The winds and rain were so strong that we were worrying for N512R. The aircraft was not in a hangar.

Back at Cutter Aviation - our hosts for this stop - we found the aircraft tied down, and in good shape. Great relief before starting the day with a new TV interview for KFOX. This interview was one new opportunity to spread the word about the importance of General Aviation.

We took-of shortly after the interview, and headed towards the mountain range west of El-Paso. We needed an extra 360° climbing turn to reach a safe altitude to fly over the pass. Our wingtips were just at the nearby peak’s elevation.

Mountain pass west of El-Paso

With winds out of the East, we got turbulence on the western side of the mountains. Wind blowing across the ridge create turbulence on the other side. The extra altitude gained on the other side of the pass was precious.

The whole flight today was made of mountain ranges like this one and desert areas. We climbed to 8.500 feet in perfectly blue skies to be above thermal turbulence. Tracks in the desert were clearly visible, some extending over dozen, if not hundreds of miles. At times, we were not seeing any sign of human activity, apart from these tracks.

Desert of New Mexico

We crossed several mountain ranges, cruising for three hours at 8.500 feet. The last one was a few dozen miles east of Tucson. The northern peak of that one was exactly at our altitude. Descending towards Tucson, we got some thermal turbulence but nothing critical.

Mountain pass before Tucson

We got a great view of the Davis Monthan Air Force Base, located a few miles North-East of Tucson airport. The runway is not visible on this picture, we focused on the ramp. The aircraft are not in hangar and wait under Arizona’s sun. No risks of rain here. We asked the driver of our hotel’s shuttle about the last time it rained here. He took him a couple of seconds to remember, and the answer sounds incredible… the last rain in Tucson was in March.

Parking of the Davis Monthan Air Force Base

The FAA tower in Tucson is the fanciest we’ve seen so far. It does is not painted in the FAA standard beige / brown color scheme, and there is a giant TUCSON in neon light on it.

Tucson Tower

If you doubt we’re in Arizona, have a look at the traffic circle in front of the terminal. We did not even dare to get out to get this picture because of the rising temperatures. We have more than 100°F today and we should have 114°F in Blythe tomorrow (approximately 43°C).

Arizona Cactus

Click here to see more mountain and desert pictures from today’s flight.

We have now flown more than 1.500 nautical miles and we’re in the Pacific time zone. Catalina Island is only three days away. We continue to need your donations to continue promote General Aviation. Use the yellow buttons on the right hand side to buy miles via PayPal and to enter our raffle. The more miles you buy, the more chances you have to win a prize! A generous patron bought 100 miles yesterday and has lot of chances to be a winner. Contact us if you want to join the 100 Miles club.

2 Responses to “Best of day 9: Mountains and Desert”

  1. admin Says:

    Cold air is better. Warm air is less dense, which reduce both the engine performance and the aerodynamic forces. We need more approximately 1.500 feet of runway to get airborne at these temperatures and altitudes. El-Paso is at an elevation of 4.000 feet.

    Videos from mountain flying will come soon.

  2. Dutch62 Says:

    Wow what an experience! I had no idea the winds were so screwy like that around the mountains. Does the plane operate better in really hot weather like that–I’ve heard cold air was best.

    Keep going guys, You ROCK

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