Flying Across America

Promoting General Aviation

Best of day 17: In the desert, you can’t remember your name

The departure out of Sedona was incredible. The rocks and canyons around the airport are impressive and climbing between them was very cool.

Departing from Sedona

After that, it was all about desert, mountain, headwinds, turbulence and trying to climb and maintain 9.500 feet. The flight from Sedona to Safford took us two hours and fifteen minutes. Crossing one mountain ridge after the other, being shaken in thermal turbulence and in mountain waves.

The stop at Safford was short and tense. Cumulus were developing on the ridges west of the airport, and we thought that the same could happen along our route. The combination of high elevation and high temperatures resulted in a very low climb performance and we had to decide if we wanted full fuel or not. Because of the developing weather we went for full fuel. The take-off roll was approximately 1.500 feet long, and the climb rate during the first minutes was barely positive.

After passing 4.000 feet and reaching colder air the performance increased. At least until 8.500 feet. Flying east we wanted to cruise at 9.500 feet but we never really achieve it. Some updrafts took us as high as 10.000 and downdrafts had us down to 8.500. This was in continuous turbulence, and the two and a half hours of the flight to Dona Ana (5T6) seemed to last forever. Our ground speed was in the low 70’s. The only positive part of flying in these conditions was the almost unlimited visibility. We could see some mountain ranges from more than 70 miles away. We spotted our destination airport from a distance of 30 miles.

Being on final, 30 miles out, with the GPS predicting an en-route time of 30 minutes was kind of depressing. The airport seemed very close but it really took us half an hour to reach it. Probably the longest final ever. We kept the approach high until very short final to avoid being caught in downdrafts we could not counteract with our limited climb performance. The runway at Dona Ana is long enough to land a bit long…

After four hours and forty minutes of flights, we were welcomed by the team of Blue Feather Aero. This FBO and flight school is the perfect example of what the General Aviation community is. Their primary goal is to serve and develop General Aviation. Most of their staff have at least a private pilot license and fly actively - even the line staff. They offer all possible services in family style. Spending time there talking with Mike and the rest of the team was really great. Mike told us about his own southwest cross country flight from here to San-Diego, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. Click here to see pictures from this cross country trip. Blue Feather Aero has been very generous with us, offering fuel, food and a courtesy car. We could not resist to the temptation of driving across the New Mexico - Texas border to get a Texas BBQ…

Tomorrow’s leg will take us from Dona Ana to Midland. We’ll cross the Guadalupe Pass, east of El-Paso again, and then leave the mountains behind us. After Midland, we’ll fly to Georgetown the day after tomorrow and be there on the 10th for the GTU Safety Days. More about that soon.

We keep an eye on the weather situation in the Gulf of Mexico. A new low pressure system is developing that has the potential to become a tropical storm or even a hurricane. Let’s hope we won’t have a bad surprise during the last week of our trip. We prepare another surprise for you, which will be online very soon…

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