DFC held our online March safety seminar. Alan Zwift for the DFC safety committee presented about Weather or not to fly. Understanding weather and making good decisions about it is essential for safe GA flying.
DFC held our online March safety seminar. Alan Zwift for the DFC safety committee presented about Weather or not to fly. Understanding weather and making good decisions about it is essential for safe GA flying.
NOTE: In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some states and attractions have limited hours of operation. Please call ahead before visiting.
One of the greatest benefits of flying general aviation planes out of Henderson Executive Airport is the variety of exciting destinations that can be reached in just a few hours (or less!). Our location in the Las Vegas Valley puts us in close proximity to world-famous national parks, national recreation areas, beaches, deserts, ski slopes, canyons, and mountains. Whether you enjoy the outdoors, dining, or upscale resorts, when you fly out of Henderson there are plenty of locations from which to choose. Read on for more information on some of the nearby airports club members enjoy flying into. As always, please consult the chart supplement and other FAA-approved publications for the most current flight planning information.
Distance from Henderson: 57 nm
Bullhead City is on the east side of the Colorado River, 57 nautical miles southeast of Henderson. A sister city to Laughlin, Nevada directly across the river, Bullhead and Laughlin are known for their water sports, fishing, and small community of casinos in Laughlin. The weather is similar to Las Vegas, and the proximity to the water makes this a popular destination for pilots. There are many dining options in the towns of Bullhead and Laughlin. The surrounding scenery on approach and departure from IFP is breathtaking. Check out www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/bullhead-city/ for more information.
Good to Know
While KIFP is a class D airport with daytime tower operations and generally low traffic volume, they do have scheduled commercial flights into the airport in large passenger jets like B737s. It’s also a popular destination for student pilot operations from other locations. The wind can pick up unexpectedly due to nearby terrain and the river and become quite gusty. Small piston aircraft can expect a $29 handling fee, which can be reduced to $5 with a purchase of at least 10 gallons of fuel. There is also a courtesy car for pilots to use for up to 2 hours on a first-come, first serve basis. Please see www.flyifp.com for more airport details.
Distance from KHND: 64 nm
Grand Canyon West airport is located 64 nm east of Henderson. Owned and operated by the Hualapai tribe and located on their reservation, the airport is home to many helicopter, airplane, and bus tours. The famous Skywalk is located just ½ mile from the airport, but please note that purchased tour tickets are required for anyone leaving airport property. Even if not leaving the airport, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking flying into and out of Canyon West. Being so close to Henderson, it really is a must-see airport for the scenery. If you are going to do a lot of flying over the rest of the Grand Canyon, it is a good stopping point to stretch your legs and use the restroom before continuing your flight.
Good to Know
Depending on the season, Canyon West can be VERY busy with tour traffic, so monitor the radio carefully and make recommended radio reports for this class G airport. There are nice restrooms, a snack bar, and a large gift shop available, with no landing fees. Tie-downs may not be available, so bring some straps with you if you plan to stay for a while. Please see www.grandcanyonwest.com for more airport and amenity details.
Distance from KHND: 72 nm
Kingman, Arizona started as an old railroad town located 72 nm to the southeast of Henderson, just north of the I-40. History buffs will appreciate a visit to this field which was developed in WWII as one of the largest aerial gunnery training bases in the U.S. Following the war, it became one of the largest reclamation sites for obsolete military aircraft. Today, there are still hundreds of aircraft in storage at the airport due to a surplus of market demands. Many are maintained in an airworthy condition, awaiting a return to service. A popular time to fly in is in October, when the airport holds the Kingman AirFest, a fly-in and airshow hosted by EAA chapter 765. All year, pilots can also enjoy a delicious hamburger at the Kingman Airport Cafe located right on the property. www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/kingman/ is a great resource.
Good to Know
Kingman is located within a fairly quiet class G area. According to pilots, the crew car may or not be available, and FBO service hours can be limited, so call ahead if you plan to need either one. Look out for the steep rising mountains to the west. The biggest draws for this airport are the restaurant and the surplus aircraft. Please see www.kingmanairport.com for more airport details.
Distance from KHND: 73 nm
Mesquite Municipal Airport is 73 nm northeast of Henderson near the borders with Arizona and Utah. Mesquite is right along the I-15, a growing town of about 17,000 residents. It is known for its handful of casinos, and seven golf courses. Some of the casinos offer reasonably-priced spa or golf and stay packages. The airport is beautiful, located on a mesa above the town. Please see www.visitmesquite.com for more details on nearby activities.
Good to Know
Most of the time, the Mesquite airport is a quiet class G airport, but they do have parachuting operations right on the field, as well as hosting occasional fly-ins and auto shows at the airport, so be prepared before you visit. There is a good restaurant at the golf course adjacent to the airport. A short ride on a golf cart will deliver you right to the doorstep, and there may also be a courtesy car. Be familiar with the calm-wind operations; runway 02 is on quite an upslope with steep terrain at the departure end, so it’s definitely best to follow the recommended procedures. The airport has more information on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mesquiteairport67l/
Distance from KHND: 90 nm
Furnace Creek is located 90 nm northwest of Henderson. The Furnace Creek airport is within Death Valley National Park, and is maintained by the National Park Service. The original airfield was built in 1929, served as an emergency landing site for military aircraft during WWII, and brought tourists in to see the park. The current airport was built in 1954, and has the distinction of being the airport at the lowest elevation in North America, at 210’ below sea level. The landscapes of Death Valley are truly magnificent, and because of the great expanse of the park, seeing it by air is a great option. There is a golf course adjacent to the airport, and the visitor center is ¾ mile walk away. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation, nor any rental cars available. There are campgrounds and a visitor center within walking distance, and a shuttle service is provided for guests of the nearby Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resorts. If you visit Death Valley, it’s also worthwhile to fly over to the Stovepipe Wells airstrip just 15 nm to the northwest. There are a gift shop, restrooms, campground, and lodge just a 1/2 mile walk from the tie down area. Beautiful areas to fly over are the Panamint Valley (look for the sea level sign part-way up the mountain near Badwater Basin, where the lowest point is 282 feet below seal level), the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells, and the Racetrack Playa, just 20 miles west of Stovepipe Wells.
Good to Know
To clear the Spring Mountains directly to the west of the Las Vegas Valley, and to remain clear of the overhead Bravo airspace, it’s recommended to fly west or southwest of Henderson and cross the mountain range at one of the passes such as Columbia or Potosi. Continue west to fly over Shoshone L61 to the Amargosa River, then northbound up through Panamint Valley, which includes the lowest elevation Badwater Basin at nearly 282’ below sea level. Be aware that the park and its airports underlie MOAs, which begin at 200′ or 3000’ AGL, and stay above the recommended 2000′ AGL over a national park. There are no fuel services available at either Furnace Creek nor nearby Stovepipe Wells, so plan alternate fuel stops accordingly. The airports are for daytime use only. The runway at Furnace Creek is marginally maintained, so it is very rough and has some foliage growing up through the pavement. There has been recent talk of closing the airports, so be sure to visit soon if it is on your aviation bucket list. Beware of the usual hazards associated with mountain flying, including gusty conditions, wind shear, and mountain obscuration. Please see www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/airports.htm for more information.
Distance from Henderson: 92 nm
Lake Havasu Airport is 92 nm southeast of Henderson on the beautiful, Colorado River-fed Lake Havasu. Like Bullhead City, Havasu is well-known for its water sports, fishing, and outdoor recreation. The weather tends to be a few degrees warmer than Henderson, and the scenery all around is gorgeous. Please visit www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/lake-havasu-city/ for more details.
Good to Know
Havasu can be a fairly busy class G airport, with plenty of fair-weather, charter, and student training flights operating at any given time. It also underlies the busy Turtle MOA, and military jets and helicopters can often be seen landing and taking off. There are a variety of restaurants available in the surrounding area, including a popular one called Hangar 24 right on the field. The FBO, Desert Skies, providing self- or full-service fuel, is known for their slushy machine and popcorn available in the lobby. They also have a pool and hot tub on property for pilots to use; just ask at the front desk. There is no daytime landing or parking fee for small planes. There are 3 courtesy cars available at no charge with fuel purchase, but consider calling in advance to reserve one. For more details on the airport, please see www.lhcaz.gov/public-works/airport.
Distance from KHND: 146 nm
With adequate preparation, this is a must-see area for GA pilots out of Henderson. You could spend a few hours visiting some park highlights, or take a whole day or two to visit each and every corridor and canyon, but any way you choose to fly, it will not disappoint. The Grand Canyon is indeed an attraction not to miss, and there is no better way to take in its beauty than by flying overhead. There are FAA special VFR flight rules (SVFR) surrounding the canyon, so be sure to do the research to fly it properly, and consider sitting down with a CFI beforehand to go over your planned route of flight. The Grand Canyon airport itself is set among a forest of pines not far from the South Rim in Tusayan. Restaurants and lodging are plentiful in Tusayan as well as in the park itself. A park entrance fee will be required to enter the park, or possession of a national parks pass. Please visit www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm for more about visiting the park.
Good to Know
Seasonally, the Grand Canyon airport can be a very busy class D airport, with plenty of helicopter, airplane, and GA tours occurring daily. Be very familiar with altitude restrictions, and monitor and broadcast your location on the appropriate frequency in the SVFR area, or consider picking up VFR flight following for traffic advisories. There is no landing fee at GCN, but be prepared to pay a premium for fuel. In case you must choose just one corridor to transition, Zuni and Dragon are very popular. If you call the FBO ahead of time, you may ask permission to park at the north end of the ramp instead of at transient parking, which is a long walk to the FBO. There is a paid shuttle service that can drive passengers into the park, then a free shuttle within the park to different overlooks. As it’s so close to the canyon, be aware that the weather patterns can shift suddenly and become very windy and turbulent. Density altitude considerations are especially important at KGCN, where the field elevation is 6609’. Check out www.azdot.gov/about/grand-canyon-airport for more information about the airport.
Distance from KHND: 135 nm
Big Bear City is a beautiful lake-side mountain town surrounded by the rugged San Bernardino National Forest, and a popular destination for residents from Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. It boasts a variety of seasonal activities, from snowshoeing and skiing in the winter at two ski resorts, to waterskiing, boating, hiking, and mountain biking in the warmer months. There are many resorts and cabins, and plentiful private rental properties available for lodging, along with various choices for dining. Additional fun activities especially for families include an alpine slide in the summer, and an animal rescue called the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. See www.bigbear.com for more details on activities.
Good to Know
Self-serve Jet A and 100LL are available on the ramp at Big Bear. A restaurant is located in the airport terminal, but please call ahead to verify the hours before visiting. No courtesy cars are available, but there is a shuttle into the village for $5 per person each way, or free transit to the ski slopes. Like any mountainous, high elevation airport, advance flight and performance planning is important to conducting a safe flight. Please be aware that the field elevation at Big Bear is 6752’ MSL; even under standard conditions, airplane performance will be adversely affected by the high density altitude. Since the airport is in a mountainous basin, use care with arrival and departure procedures, which tend to be best made from the northeast or the west. A noise abatement program is in effect, so be sure to follow the procedures for a quiet arrival and departure. There is a lot more helpful information at www.bigbearcityairport.com, including a very helpful animation on VFR arrivals and departures. The mountains can also create strong gusts and wind shear, so try to plan your visit on a calmer day with stable air. Even if instrument rated, it is highly recommended to fly to Big Bear in the daytime before flying in at night to be familiar with both the arrival and departure procedures.
Distance from KHND: 145 nm
Palm Springs International Airport is in the popular resort city in southern California, located 145 nm southwest of Henderson in the Coachella Valley. It is a famous retirement and winter snowbird destination, known for its resorts, arts and cultural scene, and outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, golfing, and horseback riding. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (www.pstramway.com) provides a 10-minute rotating tram car ride up to the San Jacinto Park and Wilderness Area, where there is a snack bar, lounge, and two restaurants (one of which has incredible views of the valley below). If you’re sticking closer to the airport, check out the Palm Springs Air Museum, ranked #14 among the world’s best aviation museums by CNN Travel. In addition to rotating through airplane exhibits, there are flight rides available for purchase in planes such as a PT-Stearman and P-51 Mustang. Please see www.palmspringsairmuseum.org for more details. The FBO, Atlantic Aviation, is top-notch, and is rumored to have the world’s best scones and cookies!
Good to Know
Palm Springs is underlying one of the few remaining TRSAs in the U.S. Terminal Radar Service Areas provide radar separation to IFR and participating VFR aircraft. It is not required, but certainly encouraged to contact TRSA on the appropriate frequency as you would contact approach at a Class C airport, and expect radar vectors until they hand you off to the tower controllers. Expect to approach from the north and use the shorter parallel runway, as larger jets may be using the longer one. On departure, contact clearance delivery for a squawk code and departure frequency before calling for taxi. Look out for gusty afternoon winds and turbulence, especially to the west-northwest through Banning Pass. There are overnight fees, but they may be waived with a fuel purchase. Courtesy cars may also be available.
Distance from KHND: 176 nm
Marble Canyon is another stunning airport, located 176 nm northeast of Henderson within the Grand Canyon SVFR boundaries. The surrounding landscape is marked by the twisting Colorado River, rugged vermillion cliffs, and deep ravines. There is a small parking area on the north end, a restaurant, gift shop and lodge for overnight stays across the road, and the airport is within walking distance of the beautiful Lee’s Ferry and the Navajo Bridge. Kayaking and rafting tours may also be available seasonally. For more details on the Marble Canyon Lodge and activities, please see www.marblecanyoncompany.com.
Good to Know
Call ahead if you plan to eat at the restaurant, as their hours may be reduced seasonally. There is a $5 parking fee for single-engine aircraft. Like Grand Canyon Airport, its proximity to the special VFR area takes some familiarization and planning. While most low altitude flights for GA are prohibited within the canyon, flights below 3000’ AGL are allowed when flying into and out of the canyon airports including Marble Canyon. There is one narrow runway; it is fairly smooth, but curves and has an uphill slope to the north, and it is at the bottom of a canyon surrounded by very steep terrain. For a helpful first-hand account of flying into Marble Canyon, please visit www.azpilots.org/news/50039-az-airports/50466-arizona-airport-focus-marble-canyon
Distance from Henderson: 177 nm
The Flagstaff airport is located 177 nm southeast of Henderson, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in Arizona, which includes Humphrey’s Peak at 12,633’. This unique area is surrounded by desert, mountains, and Ponderosa pine forests. Flagstaff’s towered, class D airport can be busy, used by general and corporate aviation, and seasonal commercial flights. Home to Northern Arizona University, there are numerous restaurants, lodging, and outdoor activities in the beautiful mountain city of 75,000. Popular activities include biking, hiking, skiing at Snowbowl, and sightseeing at the Walnut Canyon National Monument with its Native American cliff dwellings. Nearby Mormon Lake and Lake Mary are used for fishing and water sports. The enormous Meteor Crater, 32 nm to the east, is 3900’ wide and 560’ deep. If you love the outdoors, Flagstaff is a great destination to visit. There may be courtesy cars available at the FBO, and car rental companies and ride sharing services are plentiful in the area. Say hello to the FBO cat while you’re there! Visit www.flagstaffarizona.org for more information.
Good to Know
The field elevation at Flagstaff is 7014’, so be very familiar with the high density altitude performance capabilities of your aircraft, and consider a calm winter, spring or fall visit rather than the hot summer. There is a top-notch FBO on the field with all kinds of services provided, including overnight parking, maintenance services, and 24-hour full-service fueling. For noise abatement, avoid overflying the congested areas. As with all mountain-flying locations, beware of gusty winds, wind shear, and mountain obscuration. More details can be found at www.flagstaff.az.gov/1541/Flagstaff-Airport.
Distance from KHND: 177 nm
Sedona is another must-see for pilots in the southwest, 177 nm southeast of Henderson. The unique desert landscape is filled with stunning red rocks, steep cliffs, and mesas; the 5100’ runway itself is built upon a mesa at 4831’ elevation. Sedona is known for its temperate climate, festive arts community, and outdoor activities like hiking and biking. There are numerous lodging options, from small budget lodges to five-star upscale resorts. There is a delicious restaurant, The Mesa Grill, right next door to the terminal with a dog-friendly outdoor patio and fire pit overlooking the runway. The Sky Ranch Lodge, just a short stroll from the terminal, has rooms and cottages available for overnight stays. There are no courtesy vehicles, however there are rental cars available by the day or for $10/hour. Www.visitsedona.com has more information.
Good to Know
Sedona is an uncontrolled field, but can be very busy with helicopter, GA, and corporate aviation. Its unique location on top of a mesa can create challenging arrivals and departures, so please read the chart supplement carefully for preferred runway use, noise abatement, and wind patterns. Have an assistant ready to take pictures and videos during approach and departure, as it is incredibly scenic! Please plan carefully under high density altitude and gusty conditions, and note that touch and goes are not authorized. Be prepared to be amazed by this breath-taking destination! Please see www.sedonaairport.org for more airport details.
Distance from KHND: 224 nm
Catalina Island, 224 nm southwest of Henderson, is one of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. It is known for its ocean diving, beaches, zip-lining, wildlife, camping, jeep tours, and a resort town called Two Harbors. The town includes a movie theater, dining, and a museum. Transportation to Catalina is normally by ferry, but in a plane, it’s a quick 20 nm hop over from the coast. Interestingly, most of the island was purchased by entrepreneur William Wrigley Jr. of chewing gum fame, and he would bring his Chicago Cub baseball team to Catalina each year for spring training. He also built the airport known as Airport in the Sky. More details can be found at www.lovecatalinaisland.com
Good to Know
The airport is at 1602’ above the Pacific Ocean, about 10 miles from Avalon. It is paved and 3250’ long, maintained by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which charges a landing fee to use the facility, and provides overnight tie-downs. To make the trip without a floatplane, it’s necessary to select a high enough altitude to glide back to the coast, or to the island, safely in case of an engine failure. Make sure to study the recommended airport arrival and departure procedures, and make sure you are proficient with short field takeoffs and landings. Please see this helpful article on flying into Catalina at www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2020/march/pilot/destination-catalina-island
The AOPA Safety Foundation has also published a video on flying into Catalina at www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKxe3C5-15A
These are just some of the many exciting locations easily accessible by small plane from Henderson. There are many more hidden gems waiting to be discovered by pilots. Desert Flying Club has several planes available for rental which are perfect for exploring our area, and knowlegable instructors ready to help if you need assistance planning your next adventure. Please make sure to share your photos, videos and thoughts with us on these airports or others you visit!
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!)
2. 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.
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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
LAS SE, SW Approach
LAS West Approach
LAS E-NE Approach
Jean (0L7) CTAF
118.4 or 125.9
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!
So you’re a pilot. You can successfully takeoff & land an airplane. BUT – just how good are you? How precise are you? Can you land your airplane like a bush pilot, on an actual soft field AND over an obstacle? Can you land within 25 feet of where you intended to touch down? Can you handle cross-winds with ease & max out the performance of your airplane on takeoff? Do you know the proper techniques for landing on a wet runway?
Learning to land like a pro means precision, safety, and consistency. Whatever skill level you’re at now, mastering takeoffs and landings to a higher proficiency & skill level will make you a safer pilot, and you’ll have more fun! Most accidents happen on takeoff & landing, after all.
After completing this course, you will be more proficient, more precise, and have more fun doing takeoffs & landings than you every had as a pilot. For finishing you’ll get your name on the DFC website T/O & Landings course page (this page), plus a certificate of completion. Rest assured, this is an excellent way to level up your piloting skill. Plus, who doesn’t just want a reason to go fly?! See the detailed syllabus below, and contact DFC to get started on your path to mastery with one of our skilled instructors!
Pre-Requisites – You must meet these requirements to take this course:
Many of our members attended a FAAST seminar about aircraft performance recently. It’s a very important subject, especially to those of us flying in mountainous terrain, in single-engine normally aspirated airplanes! Mr. Stephen Ruks did an excellent job, and agreed to share the powerpoint slides & notes with us to post here. Enjoy reading – and be safe!
The Nine Deadly Sins POWERPOINT:
Slide 2 – References
Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Ch. 7 & 10
Your AFM or POH
AC 00-6A Aviation Wx
AC 61-84B Role of Preflight Preparation
FAA-P-8740-2 Density Altitude Brochure
Slide 3 – Wings Program – What is one of the best things you can do to stay safe?
Chances are 97% greater that you won’t have an accident if enrolled in Wings
Slide 4 – Introduction – Misunderstandings or lack of knowledge about our atmosphere and how it affects aircraft performance is one of the leading causes of fatal aviation accidents. This seminar will remind you of some of the things you already know and maybe show you a few things you didn’t know.
Slide 5 – Altitude types – How many altitude definitions are there?
Read on your altimeter
Height above MSL
Height above ground level
Indicated altitude set at 29.92
PA corrected for non-standard temperature
Slide 6 – Pressure – How do we describe atmospheric pressure, what is it, and how does it affect us? ^ More importantly, how does it affect our airplanes?
Slide 7 – Pressure – What causes pressure variations?
^ Altitude – Pressure decreases approximately one inch of mercury per 1000 feet increase in altitude.
^ Temperature – The rate of decrease of pressure with altitude in warmer air is less than in colder air. You will have to climb higher in warm air to reach the same pressure altitude as in cold air. Temperature id the biggest factor affecting density altitude
Slide 8 – Pressure Gradient – Given the same change in pressure, the rate of change of pressure is greater in cold air than in warm air.
Slide 9 – Effect of non-standard temperature – Notice that True Altitude varies with variations in temperature along the same pressure line or gradient.
Slide 10 – Typical GA Pitot System – Explain disadvantage of having static port on only one side of aircraft. Briefly discuss effects of icing on pitot-static system. If both ram and drain holes freeze up with ice, airspeed indicator acts as an altimeter – the higher you go the higher the airspeed reads. If static port freezes up, altimeter and VSI remain constant and airspeed is not accurate.
Slide 11 – Altimeter – Give brief description of how an altimeter works.
Slide 12 – Altimeter Setting – Standard Atmosphere:
29.92 inHg or
1013.25 hPa (or mb)
at sea level @ 59º F (or 15º C)
One inch of mercury = 1000 feet
One hectoPascal = 100 millibars
1 inHg = 33.8653 hPa — Use this for conversion between inHg and hPa
Slide 13 – High Density Altitude
Three important factors contribute to high density altitude:
Reduced air density equates to decreased performance
Explain chart below:
Slide 14 – High Density Altitude
Warmer air will hold more water vapor than cooler air which affects engine performance more than aerodynamic performance.
With high humidity, expect longer take-off rolls and lower climb rates. Add 10% to take-off distance.
Slide 15 – The Nine Deadly Sins (and their unforgiveness)
Kurt Anderson, an NTSB Investigator, who has investigated more than 400 accidents, gave a seminar on the results of interviews with many of the pilots who survived accidents and discovered nine things that pilots learned and then forgot, never learned at all, or learned wrong. Those nine things have been dubbed “The Nine Deadly Sins.” Scott Gardiner of Seattle FSDO published, in FAA Aviation News, May-June 2004, the article discussing those nine deadly sins. Now I’m going to present them to you.
“Practical Density Altitude” by Scott Gardiner, FAA Aviation News, May-June 2004
Slide 16 – Sin #1 – Using Sea Level VSPEEDS
Slide 17 – Sin #1 – Using Sea Level VSPEEDS
If you mistakenly attempt to climb at your sea level indicated best angle of climb speed, you are probably four to seven knots too slow. You have taken an airplane whose climb performance may be poor at best and made it downright lousy! There is a really good chance the airplane will not climb at all and will simply mush into the obstacle as you will see later on in this presentation. You will also see later that combining techniques can prove to be hazardous. Use best rate of climb for the density altitude you are flying and never best angle of climb except for nearby obstacles.
There are some serious drawbacks to using best angle. A full power climb results in a high pitch angle (so much for see and avoid), poor engine cooling, close to stall speed, and may be uncomfortable for passengers. Avoid best angle of climb.
Slide 18 – Sin #2 – Using Gross Weight VSPEEDS
Vy decreases with decrease in gross weight
If you attempt to climb out of a high density altitude airport at a reduced gross weight while using your sea-level, maximum gross weight best rate of climb speed (indicated), you combine Sin#1 with Sin #2. The result can easily be that you are attempting to climb at a speed that could be 15 knots too fast! Such a mistake can turn minimal climb performance into negative climb performance! This deadly combination is precisely what is leading to our most common density altitude accidents!
Explain the effect of DA on TAS using above chart. See next page . . . .
Slide 19 – Sin #3 – Ignoring effect on TAS
Turn radius increases by the square of the TAS. The formula is TAS2/11.26 tan Θ. Assuming IAS of 150 @ sea level, standard temperature, the turn radius would be ≈ 2000’, or one-third of a mile, But at 8000’ with a temp of 95º your TAS is now 180 and the turn radius increases to ≈ 3000’. But remember! That’s turn radius – you have to double that for a 180º turn! You now need a full mile to turn around and that’s using a 45 bank angle for the maneuver. How much more power do you think you’ll need at 60 degrees of bank – remember the drag goes up 300%!
So you tell yourself, “Just slow down, turn radius will decrease.” But now with this increased AOA how much more drag are you adding. Remember, the slower you fly, the higher the induced drag, and it’s multiplied by 300%. Does your engine have enough power reserve? Very doubtful, that’s why we have the accidents.
IAS = 150
PA = 8000
Temp = 95ºF
TAS = 180
DA = 12,000
Looking at this Lift-Drag Chart, I want to throw an additional factor into it. Consider an airplane in a 30 degree bank. Induced drag increases by 33%. At 45 degrees, it increases by 100%, and at 60 degrees it increases by 300%. This is not shown on a normal L-D chart but imagine how much power your engine must now develop to maintain altitude in a 60 degree bank at a high DA (12,000’) where your engine is struggling to maintain power and altitude.
Slide 20-21 – Sin #4 – Ignoring the effects in mountainous terrain.
Considering all the information I’ve just presented to you, let’s look at the three airplanes flying straight out of the screen. Consider the effects of wind as depicted by the arrows Strong downdrafts for airplane #1 requiring additional power to maintain altitude. Airplane 2 is scooting along normally, and airplane 3 is enjoying the advantage of the updraft.
“Flying in the vicinity of a ridge results in downdrafts for the pilot of Airplane 1. Airplane 2 might escape the downdrafts, but a course reversal either to the right or to the left would leave little maneuvering room between the airplane and the ridge. Airplane 3 takes advantage of free lift from the up slope airflow and retains the advantage of an into-the-wind escape route.” The official explanation is technically correct, but it does not go far enough. Since it is questionable whether or not Airplane 2 can complete a 180-degree turn, we can assume this valley is not very wide. Most pilots choose to fly up the correct side of the valley (Airplane 3 in this case), but push on too far before deciding to reverse direction. As long as things are going well for Airplane 3, the pilot continues bravely on course. It’s only when things get tight that the pilot of Airplane 3 decides to make the 180 but turning around at this point results in a radius of turn that places the airplane somewhere between Airplanes 1 and 2. This is precisely the valley location described in the official explanation as an area of downdrafts! The trap has been sprung. Another aircraft smacks the terrain and often with fatal results.
Slide 22 – Sin #5 – Ignoring Effects on Landing Speed and Distance
Often times the discussion of density altitude is limited to takeoff distance and maybe even climb performance. But you have to think of what the airplane is doing when approaching to land as well. Remember the TAS is higher than IAS at density altitudes above sea level so that has to be considered. Imagine a worse case scenario of a runway at 8000’ elevation that downslopes to the edge of a cliff and is only 2500’ long and you have a 10 knot tailwind. So down you go to the landing. You get about halfway down the runway where you finally touch down and you realize that you may not be able to stop so smart pilot that you are you add power for a go-around forgetting that you placed the mixture in full rich for the landing. Are you going to have enough power for the go-around and be able to clear all obstacles in the process? Do you see how these hazards add up and why it is so important to plan ahead? Consider all the variables before operating in high density airports.
Slide 23 – Sin #6 – Ignoring Climb Gradient
When departing airports, be aware of your climb gradient. We are all familiar with aircraft rate of climb — it’s figured in terms of feet per minute. Climb gradient is figured in terms of feet per mile. Consider two airplanes, each climbing at 500 feet per minute. But one is climbing at 60 knots, and the other is climbing at 90 knots. Each will climb 500 feet in one minute. But the first will cover one mile during that minute, and the second will cover a mile and a half during the same minute. The first airplane is climbing 500 feet per mile, and the second is climbing only 333 feet per mile.
Remember that climb gradients are calculated in feet/nm not feet/min. And be sure to use TAS (or GS) for calculations not IAS.
Consider the ILS approach to Ketchikan, Alaska. Minimums are 288’ but the required climb gradient for the missed approach requires 335’/NM to miss a 4000’ mountain directly in front of you! Localizer circling minimums are 2440’.
Slide 24 – Sin #7 – Ignoring Runway Environment
Watch the video clip of the A36 takeoff and think about what might have gone wrong.
OAT = 97F, Field Elev =1293’ Altimeter 29.89”
Density Altitude = 4125’, Rwy 31 4000’ paved
1996 A36, Turbonormalized IO-550,
GTOW = 4095, CG = 86.15”
Different piloting techniques may have resulted in a much nicer outcome.
Now think of departing at our 8000’ elevation runway with the temperature at 95 degrees (DA 12,000’). How well is that going to go?
Slide 25 – Sin #8 – Using Incorrect Flap Settings
In the A36 incident, use of flaps may have made the situation even worse!
Use of the recommended flap setting works just fine when operating at near sea level altitudes but with non-turbocharged engines, there is a density altitude above which the use of takeoff flaps actually increases ground roll. Be sure to check the POH to ascertain if the use if flaps is recommended at high DA.
Page 26 of the A36’s POH Supplement stated, “However, when operating at the increased weights authorized when operations are conducted in the NORMAL CATEGORY expect the following:
Soft field techniques should be saved for soft fields. Just because the runway is of dirt or grass, it is not necessarily soft! Mud in which you leave 3” tracks, beach sand, 6” of snow, or 3” of sleet is a soft field.
Slide 26 – Sin #9 – Combining Soft-Field & Obstacle Techniques
Normally flaps are only used on soft field takeoffs but when used for obstacle clearance, the increase in drag drastically hinders climb performance.
There are numerous instructors out there who routinely combine obstacle takeoff techniques with soft-field takeoff techniques to save time during training. But in actual density altitude situations, a pilot should not combine the two in a normally aspirated, piston-engine airplane.
If we are trying to clear a 100’ tree, we are talking about obstacle clearance takeoffs
not minimum ground-run takeoffs.
For obstacle clearance takeoffs, follow the advice of your airplane manufacturer, which for the vast majority of non-turbocharged airplanes means flaps up and climb at best angle of climb speed for the density altitude.
Always follow manufacturer’s recommendation.
Slide 27 – Summary
Beware, better yet, be knowledgeable, of the Nine Deadly Sins of Density Altitude
Remember the effect of DA on TAS and the TAS effect on airplane performance and humidity on engine performance.
Engine performance degrades with altitude