Las Vegas's Premier Flying Club - Giving You A Reason to Fly!

By Lauren Scott, DFC Flight Instructor

Exhilarating, fun, adventurous, feeling free and independent, challenging, unique. If you ask any pilot why he or she flies, you are likely to hear some of these words. One word you will not hear is the word cheap!  Aviation is an expensive endeavor, and whether a pilot has significant wealth or is working three jobs to pay for flight training, we can all benefit from considering how to make the most of the money we invest in flying.

  1. Join a Flying Club

Clubs may be organized and run in a variety of ways, but at its core, a flying club is a group of individuals who come together to share in the operating expenses of a plane or group of planes in order to keep operating costs lower. Clubs usually require an annual or monthly membership fee to join, and then by sharing expenses like maintenance, insurance, and parking or hangar fees, are able to keep the hourly rental fee at a lower cost than flight schools. For example, at Desert Flying Club, basic 4-seat training aircraft are offered at about $20 less per hour than comparable rental airplanes nearby. With a monthly membership fee of $45, a pilot will start saving money if he or she only flies a little over 2 hours per month. 

Another valuable benefit of joining a flying club comes from participating in the social and safety seminar opportunities. Recent Desert Flying Club safety seminars have covered night flying, safety briefings, weight and balance, maintenance, and rusty pilot seminars. Even at casual social events like holiday gatherings, our love for aviation leads us to have conversations where we can learn from one another’s experiences, in turn increasing our knowledge and (hopefully) safety. If a simple question or new flight opportunity arises that a pilot would like to discuss with another pilot with more expertise, it’s easy (and less expensive) to call a pilot friend from the club than to pay for dual instruction (though of course we encourage you to get a CFI if you need one!)

  1. Do Your Research

The School or Club

Before committing to a flight school or club, do your research. Here are some important questions to consider: Are their rental rates and instructor fees reasonable? Are the planes kept in good condition? How full are the reservation schedules, and will you be able to fly the number of hours you’re looking for? What’s the policy for taking a plane overnight on a trip? Does the rental rate include fuel cost (wet) or is that an additional expense (dry)? Is the school or club close to home? (Studies have shown that students who live within 30 minutes of their airport are more likely to finish their training). If possible, ask a pilot in the community which school or club he or she recommends.

The Instructor

Especially if you are a student pilot, know that you will be spending hours of time with, and paying a lot of money to, your Certified Flight Instructor. All CFIs have hundreds–if not thousands–of hours of flying experience. They must be thoroughly knowledgeable about topics such as flight maneuvers, aerodynamics, weather, aircraft systems, etc. CFIs must also pass rigorous written, oral, and practical FAA testing about instructional methods, participate in continuing education to keep their certificate valid, and must also have high ethical standards. However, there are as many different instructors as there are personality types, and unfortunately there are “bad” instructors among all of the great ones. Experience is important, but I’ve also known pilots with comparatively low hours who made excellent instructors. The more important factor is probably how well you feel this instructor’s personality and teaching style work for you. Also try to find an instructor who really loves teaching, as opposed to one who is primarily building time to get the next job; not only will they take a more vested interest in your progress, they may be more likely to be around long enough to finish your training. Ask about their training syllabus. If possible, take an introductory flight with the instructor you are planning to train with; it is the perfect opportunity to check out the plane itself, the school or club, airport, and the instructor. Do not be afraid to consider switching instructors, or temporarily try a different instructor, if you have reservations about your training progress. It’s a big decision, but some students just work better with other instructors.

  1. Take Charge

In aviation, one of the attitudes that is detrimental to safety we call anti-authority. That is not what I am referring to here; rather, it is having a healthy perspective that the major responsibility for learning rests upon the student. The students who make the most rapid progress–and do it spending the least amount of money–are the ones who take initiative. They study between lessons, watch training videos, complete ground school, and show up to the airport prepared. They listen attentively and take notes at lessons, ask questions, and try to put into practice the instructions their CFI gives them. In short, they put a lot of effort into learning the material and skills.

  1. Do Your Homework

Closely related to #3 above, students can save hundreds of dollars on flight training by completing homework and readings between lessons. Make flashcards, watch free videos online, read the related material, print out a copy of the aircraft POH and checklists, practice flying the maneuvers in a chair (called chair-flying), sit in the airplane with the engine off and practice going through the checklist items, get a hard copy of the FARs (and read and highlight them), and study books like the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. If available, use a computer or flight simulator to practice procedures and radio calls. Also choose a good online or in-person ground school course, and start working on it before or while beginning flight training (some good online programs are Goldseal, Sporty’s, Gleim, MZeroA, and King).  Take multiple practice tests, and try to achieve a score of at least 90% on two or three attempts before taking the FAA Knowledge Exam. Your CFI and Pilot Examiner are both required to review the areas that were missed on the written test, so the better your score, the less time (and money) will be needed to go over the deficient areas. Finally, download the app Live ATC on a phone or computer to listen to radio calls and start learning the proper radio phraseology.

  1. Get Organized

Develop an efficient method of staying organized in the classroom and in the cockpit. Fancy pilot bags are nice but not necessary, but do select a bag with pockets or dividers to help keep things in their place so they can be located easily. Have a solid, quality headset and a case to protect it, as it is often an expensive investment and will be removed, used, and replaced every time you fly. Other helpful items are a small three-ring binder with plastic sheet protectors and a small notebook, which can be used for jotting down weather information and frequencies.  Some pilots like to use a yoke or window suction mount to hold a phone or tablet, and others like to use a clipboard with a leg strap to secure a tablet or notepad in place. Try to keep the checklist in the same place each time you put it away in the plane, so it is always easy to locate. Have a pen or pencil holder handy, or at least attach a pen or pencil to a string so it doesn’t get lost. 

  1. Don’t Rush the Pre- and Post-Flight Briefs 

Understandably, flying the plane is the most exciting part of training. But as the saying goes, the plane makes for a terrible classroom. It’s noisy, there is a lot going on, and when the engine is running, your expenses are building quickly. Yes, ground time with your instructor costs money as well, but it is time well-spent as they try to impart skills and knowledge to you that will be much harder to absorb in the plane. The pre-flight brief should be a thorough brief covering required pre-flight actions (such as checking weather, NOTAMS, maintenance status, weight and balance, and performance), as well as cover what is to be practiced in flight that day. Items such as a pre-takeoff safety briefing, radio calls, maneuver procedures, and completion standards, should be practiced and explained. Following a training flight, a thorough debrief will include a constructive evaluation of the tasks practiced that day: what items were done well, and what items to keep improving and how. It should also include a preview of what will be covered in the next lesson in order to help the pilot be prepared. 

  1. Save Up, Then Fly

Earning a private pilot certificate at the minimum 40 flight hours is unusual, with the national average being closer to 60-80 hours, which works out to about $10,000-$15,000. If you fly as you go, keep in mind that the ideal training frequency for most students would be to fly about 3-4 times per week. Any less often, and more lesson time needs to be spent on reviewing information and skills. Some students save up a certain amount, fly regularly, and then have to take a break to catch up financially. This will cost more in the long run, as piloting skills and knowledge can deteriorate quickly when they are not being used regularly.

  1. Fly Consistently

Setting aside certain days or times for lessons and for studying helps students to keep learning and progressing at a regular pace. This also applies to certificated pilots. Private and higher pilots are required to fly with an instructor once every 24 calendar months to maintain currency by completing a flight review. A pilot who has flown regularly since the last review is probably going to need a shorter ground lesson and flight lesson than a pilot who shows up and has not flown or studied since the last flight review. 

  1. Find a “Study Buddy”

Your CFI probably knows other students at around the same stage of flying as you. Ask them for the name of someone you can get together with outside of lessons to explain what you have been learning and quiz each other on topics like weather, systems, airspace, and regulations. If you have a friend or family member who is a pilot, ask them to quiz you. If possible and if training in a 4-seat airplane, ask if you can ride along on a training flight as an observer with another pilot. If you are building time toward an instrument rating or commercial pilot certificate, find another private pilot with whom to share expenses while you take turns flying “under the hood” (simulated instrument) and acting as safety pilot. Lastly, consider joining an aviation organization like Experimental Aircraft Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, or the Ninety-Nines. For a fairly low annual membership fee, these groups are a great place to network, share experiences and knowledge, and possibly qualify for flight training scholarships.

  1.  Become an FAASafety WINGS Program Member 

FAA WINGS (www.FAAsafety.gov) is a free program for pilots and mechanics in which to participate. For pilots, there are two types of activities: ground and flight. The ground activities include thousands of available videos, webinars, podcasts, and articles on every aviation topic imaginable to enhance your learning and safety as a pilot. Flight activities might include airport operations, maneuvers like slow flight and steep turns, and takeoffs and landings, instrument procedures, and must be completed with and validated by a CFI. Besides learning and reinforcing lots of valuable information, completing WINGS flight and ground activities can fulfill pilot currency requirements toward the flight review, (and even help CFIs renew their certification). Many of the monthly safety seminars offered by Desert Flying Club qualify for WINGS credit. All it takes to sign up is a current student (or higher) pilot certificate.

While aviation will probably never be inexpensive, there are many smart ways to approach training and flying which can reduce the amount of money required to fly well and to fly safely. Contact us to learn how DFC is a great way to save money while pursuing your dream!

By Lauren Scott, DFC Flight Instructor

The area near Jean Airport (0L7), 15-25 miles southwest of Henderson Executive Airport, is a popular area for general aviation flights. It can be very quiet one minute, and extremely busy the next, so it’s important to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for traffic, as well as to use recommended uncontrolled airport radio communications. Pilots can operate more safely and efficiently when they know what to expect when flying in this area, so read on for a familiarization with Jean operations! Typical operations at Jean include student airplane and helicopter training flights in the surrounding area and in the traffic pattern, skydiving, aerobatic maneuvers in a marked aerobatic box, glider and glider towing flights, as well as VFR and IFR traffic transitioning to and from the busy Las Vegas area.

As always, please consult the most recent VFR sectional charts, chart supplement, and current NOTAMS for the most accurate information, as the following information may change.

Flying Into Jean from Henderson

*Chart for reference only; not intended for navigation

When transitioning to Jean from Henderson, be sure to remain clear of the Bravo airspace. Just on the east side of the I-15 abeam the Sloan mine area, there is a racetrack. Here, head west of the I-15, and stay at least ½ mile west, as northbound traffic will often fly on the east side. The Bravo shelf here is 5000’, so most planes fly at or below 4500’ MSL in both directions. Once clear of the Delta airspace, look for “The Ruins,” a visual checkpoint where the railroad tracks pass under the I-15. Switch the comm radio over to Jean CTAF on 122.9 and monitor for a moment to listen for traffic in the area. Following the recommendations for approaching or operating in the vicinity of uncontrolled airports, report your distance and direction from Jean, and your intentions. (i.e. “Jean Traffic, Archer 55167, 10 miles north at 4,500, inbound for landing, Jean.”) Usually, other pilots in the vicinity will also report their position in response. As noted in the chart supplement, there are parallel runways: 2L/2R, and 20L/R. The longer west runways are most often used for airplanes taking off, landing, and practicing pattern work, and have a left pattern for 2L, right pattern for 20R. The east runway is shorter and more frequently used for glider operations and helicopter work. As noted in the chart supplement, powered aircraft are to use the traffic pattern to the west, and are asked to make an entry from the west side of the field. Because there is a prison to the northeast, as well as steep terrain, pilots are to avoid flying over that area. 

Pilots should approach the pattern from the west. There is no ASOS or AWOS available at Jean, but if other aircraft are in the pattern or on the ground, you can listen or ask on CTAF to find out which runway the wind favors for landing. If not, the surface wind is usually, but not always, coming from the same direction as at Henderson. There are a few windsocks located between the runways at each end, and midfield on the east side of 2R/20L in the segmented circle. A large American flag at a casino to the northwest of the field can also be observed for wind information.  If entering a left pattern for 2L, be aware of the aerobatic box area 3 miles west of the airport (depicted by white L and T shape markers on the ground), and enter the left downwind at a 45 degree angle, reporting as you join downwind. The traffic pattern altitude at Jean is 3600’; note that it’s 800’ AGL–lower than a standard 1000’ pattern. 

To land southbound on 20R, fly west to make a wide circle around the aerobatic box markings, then enter the right downwind on a 45 degree angle for 20R. Look out for power lines near the departure end of all runways and utilize the best angle of climb speed after takeoff to expedite the climb.

There are daily skydiving operations at the Jean airport. The pilots of the jump planes will make regular announcements of their position and when they’re dropping jumpers, but they climb and descend very quickly to and from around 15000’, so pay close attention to their radio calls. They drop the skydivers at 2 locations: a dirt lot on airport property west side of 2L/20R, and sometimes also on the north tip of the Roach Dry Lake Bed (4 miles south of the airport). As long as GA pilots are flying a normal, closed pattern, and staying mindful of the location of the parachuters and pilots, they may safely operate while the parachute operations are being conducted. However, pilots who are unsure of the operations or drop zone locations should remain clear of the airport until the jumpers are on the ground. The jump planes enter and exit the pattern at high speeds and high rates of climb and descent. If you are flying in the pattern while they are operating, please consider flying a wider pattern and coordinate letting them land or takeoff first since they are much faster than most small general aviation planes.

Jean Practice Areas

Noted on the first chart above in orange, there are generally four distinct areas used by student pilots as practice areas: over the Jean Dry Lake Bed (4 miles northeast of Jean), over and to the south of Goodsprings (6 miles west/northwest) along the mountain range, the Roach Dry Lake Bed (4 miles south), and the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed (10 miles south). If there is a pilot already practicing in one area, it is good practice to go to the next one, as the pilot will often be maneuvering at higher altitudes for items like stalls and slow flight (5000-6000 MSL) as well as ground reference maneuvers (3300-3700 MSL). Following recommended uncontrolled radio procedures, pilots are encouraged to monitor the Jean CTAF (122.9) while operating in these areas, make frequent position reports, make regular clearing turns before all maneuvers, and maintain situational awareness of other traffic operating in the airspace. It is also very helpful to utilize a portable ADS-B In device such as a Stratux or Stratus. (Some of the club aircraft already have these installed, but most do not.)

Departing from Jean

When departing from the Jean traffic pattern or the practice area, there are helpful procedures to follow to maintain safe separation from other traffic. To depart to the north from a right pattern on 20R, make normal right upwind, crosswind and downwind legs, and then depart northbound on the downwind leg. Fly north of the airport for about 2-3 miles on the west of the I-15 up to 4500’ so as to avoid other traffic in the pattern, then fly eastbound to reposition over to the east of the I-15 to continue flying northbound. Make frequent radio calls to announce your location and intentions, on downwind, when leaving the pattern, transitioning to the east of the I-15, over the colorful rocks (7 Magic Mountains), and before reaching The Ruins checkpoint. 

7 Magic Mountains

After listening to ATIS, monitor HND Tower to get a mental picture of what is currently happening in the pattern there. Call HND Tower at the Ruins and expect instructions on which runway to use and how to enter the pattern. For 17R, the directions will most likely be to enter a right downwind and report midfield. For 35L, the directions will usually be to enter and report a 2 mile left base, or to make and report a 3 mile final. Occasionally, depending on traffic, they will direct you to continue to fly northbound toward the M Resort, then fly directly east bound to enter downwind (in which case make sure to fly under the 4000’ Bravo shelf to the southwest of the M). Coming in from Jean, please be especially vigilant of other traffic that may be departing Henderson to the southwest, and make sure you stay on the east side of the I-15.

The Jean airport and practice areas are valuable nearby areas that can be used by pilots for checkrides, maneuvers and pattern work, and knowing the local procedures and flow of traffic can make flying there safer and more enjoyable.

By Lauren Scott, DFC Flight Instructor

Welcome to flying at Henderson Executive Airport! 

 Just minutes south of the famous Las Vegas Strip, we are next to a world-class city filled with restaurants, entertainment, sports, and conference venues. We enjoy beautiful flying weather (usually cloudless, visibility more than 10), with visual flight conditions for 310 days out of the year. In addition, we have gorgeous scenery within 200 nm in all directions. From the Grand Canyon toward the east, to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and other popular spots in Utah to the northeast, to Southern California to the southwest, Henderson is a great airport from which to depart.

Henderson Executive is a Class D (towered part-time) airport underlying the busy Class B McCarran International Airport. As of this writing, McCarran Airport handles anywhere from 800-1800 landings per day. Henderson itself tends to have a moderate amount of traffic with 200-250 landings per day, including general aviation, flight training, sightseeing fixed- and rotor-wing flights, medevac, corporate aviation, and aerobatic operations. Because Henderson underlies Class B shelves, the tower does have the capability to see aircraft on radar, as well as coordinate clearance delivery on a designated frequency (but will often use ground control when it’s not busy.)

Airspace

Every airport has its own unique quirks, and Henderson is no exception.  Please always refer to the most current VFR sectional charts, NOTAMS, and chart supplements for accurate navigation and airport information, as the following information could change. Quite possibly, the most important issue is being familiar with the dimensions of the overlying Class B airspace. A specific Class B clearance is required to enter Class B, and can only be requested and given by Las Vegas Approach/Departure Control. Without a clearance, pilots have the responsibility to maintain situational awareness and must remain clear of the Class B. At Henderson, Class D airspace begins at the ground and reaches to 3,999’ MSL. Above that, the Class Bravo shelf begins at 5000’. Aircraft approaching and departing from Henderson should be aware of three “Class B hot spots” that cause more problems than others. The first one, shown below and outlined in red, is the area directly north of the departure end of 35L and R.

Only 1.3 nm north of the departure end, Class B drops down to the surface. This means that on takeoff from 35L and R, for single-engine GA aircraft, it is important to expedite the climb after takeoff, in order to reach 500’-700’ AGL to begin the turn to crosswind prior to the class B shelf. It also means using care when making a L or R downwind-to-base turn onto 17L or R. If a pilot stays south of the large power lines that run west to east just north of Henderson, that is a good visual reference for avoiding the Bravo.

The second area to be careful to avoid the Bravo is the corner shelf that comes down to the surface, 1.7 miles directly west of the departure end of 35L, and just to the north of the easily identifiable M Resort and Casino. Just a couple of miles south of that, the base of the shelf rises to 4000’ MSL. Aircraft departing Henderson to the west or southwest must remain vigilant in these areas, shown below in red, with a suggested exit/entry route in green.

Whenever operating near this area, remember that the Class B starts at either 4000’ MSL, or at the surface, west of and up to a mile south of the M Resort. Another note about the area near the M is that there are sometimes medevac helicopter takeoff and landing operations out of Action Ranch, just ½ mile south of the M Resort and Casino.

The third area is really the same as the first area, but it affects mostly pilots coming into Henderson from the east-northeast. There is a mountain range just east of the Henderson Airport, so in an attempt to go around the lower terrain of the range to the north, some pilots have violated that Class B that starts at the surface. Also note that radio coverage is not great in this area, and it may be a challenge to receive ATIS Northeast of Dutchman Pass. A pilot may both safely clear the terrain and remain outside the Bravo, but must be paying attention to their position closely. That caution area can be seen below in red, along with a recommended route in green:

Transition to the Southwest

Another busy area to be aware of is the transition corridor to and from the southwest of Henderson. There are currently at least three flight training operators out of Henderson, and many of these single- engine airplanes utilize the Jean Airport (0L7) and surrounding areas to practice flight training maneuvers and traffic patterns. There is also a lot of traffic coming into and departing that corridor to and from Southern California, both VFR and IFR. Extra vigilance is definitely required in this transition area. For that reason, aircraft heading south/southwest away from Henderson are encouraged to stay on the west side of the I-15 freeway, while aircraft heading north/northeast toward Henderson typically stay to the east side of the I-15. This area is shown below, with suggested north and south bound routes in green and orange. Also be aware of skydiving operations south of Jean airport, with drops announced on Jean CTAF, 122.9. Parachutes are dropped on the west side of the field as well as to the south. It’s more common for them to drop on the field than to the south, and according to the jump operation, as long as pilots monitor their calls and make a standard pattern on the west runway, we will remain clear of their drop zone.

Besides Class Bravo shelves and the transition to the southwest from Henderson, there are a couple other issues that are helpful to be aware of when operating out of Henderson. Below is a map of the airport area.

Airport Operations

The Desert Flying Club aircraft are parked at Row 5. Please be especially aware of two published Hot Spots on the field. One is at Hotel and Alpha at the north end near 17R. The other is near Echo and Alpha. When taxiing from Row 5 to 17R or L, ground control usually clears pilots to taxi “via Hotel.” This means to taxi northbound on the ramp all the way up to, and onto taxiway Hotel, not via taxiway Alpha, unless cleared. You’ll notice a sign near the departure end of 17R warning aircraft not to depart from taxiway Alpha (because it has happened before!) Also be aware that the airport runs slightly downhill to the North, so keep those RPMs low and watch your groundspeed.

There is a runup area on the ramp just west of Hotel. When taxiing south for a departure from 35 L or R, there is no runup area, and runups must be completed on the ramp prior to taxi. This reminder will usually be broadcast on ATIS, but in case of taxiing for a northbound departure, be sure to do your runup at Row 5 at a safe distance from the other aircraft. Planes from Row 5 taxiing for takeoff on 35 L or R will usually be cleared to taxi simply via Delta and Alpha. 

After a full-stop landing on the east runway (35R or 17L), clear the runway, taxi up to and hold short of the parallel runway, and contact tower. They will typically contact you first with crossing and taxi instructions to the ramp, unless they are very busy. Taxi instructions after landing on either runway are to taxi straight ahead to the ramp. Use care not to use taxiway Alpha unless it’s been explicitly directed. Also after landing, we are requested to expedite our post landing operations after the hold short lines, so know your checklist and have it in mind as you complete your roll-out. Of course, keep safe operations in mind, and if you need to, take the time to do what you need to do as PIC. In most small aircraft, pilots are encouraged to memorize the after-landing checklist items (i.e., carb heat off, landing light, fuel pump off, flaps up, etc.) so they can be accomplished by memory, then when stopped on the ramp for parking, pull out the checklist to ensure all items have been completed.

Radio Communication

Another reminder that is true for all airports, is for pilots on radio calls to be sure to read back all pertinent instructions, including clearances (cleared for takeoff, cleared to taxi, cleared to land, etc.) as well as hold short directives (i.e. hold short, landing traffic, etc.), in addition to the tail number with each transmission (which may be shortened to 3 last characters if the controller first abbreviates it). The controllers here at Henderson do a great job safely separating traffic, and they have requested our help to keep radio congestion down by reading back instructions concisely. Remember: include our tail number with each transmission. As always, if you don’t understand the instructions given, ask for clarification. If you are unable to comply, such as because of terrain or other safety considerations, state “unable due to ____.” Their job is to help pilots by separating traffic safely, and they want and need to know if we cannot comply with their instructions in order to come up with an alternate plan. Also please remember to monitor the frequency for a few seconds before keying the mic, to make sure you are not interrupting another transmission or read-back. Finally, maintain situational awareness even on the ground; for example, diligently look out for other traffic before taxiing onto or across taxiways and runways (even if you have been cleared), and monitor the position of other traffic in the pattern before calling for takeoff.  

Flight Following

Henderson tower is great about coordinating flight following before departure when workload allows, and this is a rare perk at a class D. When calling for taxi on 127.8, request flight following and announce destination airport using its phonetic code, along with requested altitude. They’ll give you a squawk and a departure frequency. Keep in mind that there are some radar coverage gaps at low altitudes heading south, so if you’re flying on a low sight-seeing mission, you may get cancelled. That said, following is invaluable in the LAS Bravo, and can often make it easier to get Bravo clearance. See our article on the LAS Bravo transition for detailed information, and how you can fly straight down the strip like those expensive helicopter tours!

Useful Frequencies

HND Tower

HND Ground

HND ATIS

HND FBO

LAS SE, SW Approach

LAS West Approach

LAS E-NE Approach

Jean (0L7) CTAF

KBVU CTAF

LAS VOR

BLD VOR

125.1

127.8

120.775

122.95

118.4 or 125.9

125.9

125.6

122.9

122.7

116.9

116.7


Henderson is a fun and beautiful place to fly. Being mindful of these issues with airspace, transition areas and radio communication will help pilots to safely and competently operate out of the Henderson Executive Airport. 

See our other articles for more information on flying around Las Vegas!