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

By Lauren Scott, CFI

Marble Canyon, Arizona L41

Flying near mountainous terrain offers incredible rewards: breathtaking scenery, beautiful destinations, and arriving more quickly to desirable locations. However, mountain flying presents many unique challenges for pilots. A skilled Pilot in Command will take into account the risks, and do his or her best to mitigate and prepare for them. Consider the following ten areas carefully before embarking on a flight in mountainous terrain.

1. Pilot Experience and Proficiency

A Pilot Logbook

This is really important! Some flight schools will not even accept students for mountain flying training if they have less than 250 hours of PIC. This may seem extreme, but the mountain environment can leave little room for error, and the ability to maintain aircraft control is vital. Mountain Flying LLC ( emphasizes the importance of knowledge of stalls, aircraft control (including airspeed control +/-3 knots), and proficiency at accuracy landings. Every pilot is different, but honestly evaluate whether your skills and proficiency are up to the challenge. If not, consider doing some training with a CFI to become familiar with operating in the mountains before you venture off alone or with passengers.

2. Aircraft Performance

Sample Rate of Climb Chart

Another big one! If your aircraft has a mediocre climb rate on a winter day near sea level, please consider renting an aircraft with better performance for a mountain trip. It is recommended to use a plane with at least 160 hp. As all student pilots learn, increased pressure and density altitudes have a significant impact on the performance of the plane; for every increase of 1000’ in density altitude, normally-aspirated engine performance decreases by about 3% AND the true airspeed increases by about 2%. In addition. On summer days in mountainous terrain, the temperature and density altitude can remain high well after sunset. Please be very familiar with and use your plane’s performance charts before flying in the mountains. Some suggest reducing the maximum gross takeoff weight by 10% to help compensate for the reduced performance.

3. Takeoff and Landing Factors

Sample Takeoff Performance Chart

Related to aircraft performance, keep in mind that your plane will take off and land differently at high density altitude. Expect a longer takeoff run and pay close attention to maintain the proper indicated airspeed. At higher, less dense altitudes, the true airspeed will be higher, which has led some pilots to feel that they’re going faster, and they mistakenly rotate or approach at too low an airspeed, close to the stall. Also verify the POH for the appropriate Vx and Vy speed in case they change at altitude. Make sure the approach to landing is stable, and do not hesitate to go around if necessary. Some experienced mountain pilots make it a habit to fly a wider than normal pattern because of the increase in true airspeed, to allow for a wider turn radius. Know and follow your engine manufacturer’s recommendations for leaning the engine for best power on takeoff at high density altitude.

4. Airspace

Class E/G Depiction in Mountainous Terrain

Be familiar with airspace symbols, weather minimums, and entry requirements for the airspace you will be flying through. While in lower terrain a pilot may be able to fly below MOAs and Restricted or Prohibited Airspace, it may not be possible in the mountains (and there are often a lot of these special use airspace areas over the mountains in the western United States. Be aware that Class E airspace may begin at higher elevations than the usual 700 or 1200 AGL, indicated by a blue shaded line, with Class G underlying it. Above 10,000 MSL, Class E weather minimums increase to 5 sm visibility, 1,000’ below, 1,000’ above, and 1 mile horizontally from clouds. Class G also has higher minimums above 10,000’ MSL.

5. Weather

Many aspects of the weather are influenced by mountainous terrain. Let’s look at some major factors.

a. Winds Aloft

Winds Aloft Forecast

Unless there is a very stable, high-pressure air mass on a calm, cool day, mountain flying will usually mean dealing with some sort of wind: strong winds, gusts, turbulence, wind shear, up and down drafts, and even mountain waves. Be familiar with weather patterns in the area where you will be flying, and expect windy conditions. It is best to fly when winds aloft at the ridge line are no more than 20-25 knots; otherwise you can expect turbulence and possibly wind shear. Cross ridge lines at least 1000’ AGL when calm, and if winds are in excess of 20 knots, cross them at least 2000’ AGL. If needed to gain altitude, consider circling above the airport after takeoff to climb up to a safe altitude. Approach ridge lines at a 45-degree angle, to give yourself an easier out if you encounter strong turbulence and need to turn back away from the ridge. If there is an Airmet issued for moderate or stronger turbulence, consider postponing your flight.

If you happen to encounter an up- or downdraft, well-known pilot and writer Barry Schiff writes: “Maintaining altitude while flying through up- and downdrafts is counterproductive. Raising the nose to hold altitude in a downdraft results in losing airspeed, which prolongs the time spent in the downdraft. Instead, maintain attitude, accept the altitude loss, and pass through the downdraft as quickly as possible to minimize its effect.” (

b. Surface Winds

Wind Sock at Marble Canyon, L41

Whenever possible at uncontrolled fields, listen to the ASOS/AWOS report several miles out to determine the best runway for landing, and/or observe the wind sock by flying over the field at 500’ above traffic pattern altitude. Winds in mountainous areas may shift quite suddenly, so pay attention to the wind sock. Ensure a stabilized approach, use proper crosswind correction, and go-around when necessary. Apply the proper crosswind correction all the way through touchdown, slowing down, and during taxi operations. Tie the airplane down securely for parking, as winds can pick up unexpectedly.

c. Visibility

Showers and Low Visibility in Death Valley

Some seasoned mountain flying pilots recommend having a minimum visibility of 10 sm during mountain flying operations. With the rising terrain, morning fog and temperature inversions are common, causing reduced visibility in some areas. There is a network of FAA webcams available in remote locations like Alaska, Canada, and Colorado to help pilots get a picture of what is happening with the weather in real-time. See for details.

d. Thunderstorms

Safely on the Ground in Texas with Thunderstorms in the Distance

Pilots are familiar with the various hazards associated with thunderstorms: heavy rain, turbulence, wind shear, hail, and strong winds, and reduced visibility, to name a few. Remember that to form, thunderstorms must have sufficient moisture, a lifting force, and unstable air. Mountains naturally provide the lifting force, so just add some unstable air and moisture, and you have the perfect combination for thunderstorm development. This is particularly the case during summer afternoons, so watch out and make sure to fly at least 20 nm away from any thunderstorm cells, and try to fly earlier in the day, before thunderstorm development is more likely to occur. Also steer clear of virga; while beautiful, the rain that falls from clouds and evaporates before reaching the ground can be full of strong up and down drafts and be hazardous to small aircraft.

6. Night Flying

Sunset near Boulder City, Nevada

Even when not operating in the mountains, flying at night presents its own set of unique risks and considerations. In the mountains, those same considerations are only magnified. Besides the minimum 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop to meet recency of experience requirements for carrying passengers, pilots must evaluate whether they are proficient for night flying, especially in mountainous areas. One of the greatest risks is flying into terrain. Use all available resources to make sure the flight path clears terrain, including sectionals and/or electronic charts. Have a clear, well thought-out plan for arrivals and departures. Consider investing in an electronic app that displays virtual terrain information, such as this one by ForeFlight: 

Another hazard is losing an engine at night, and not being able to see to select a suitable emergency landing site. When possible, follow roads at night. The headlights make cars easy to see for navigation, and roads make an excellent emergency landing location. Another hazard at night is hypoxia susceptibility at lower altitudes. During day-time flights, hypoxia may be noticed around 10,000’, but at night, as our eyes depend more upon the oxygen-sensitive rods than cones, hypoxia effects may be noticed as low as 5000’. Know your hypoxia symptoms, and select a cruising altitude high enough to clear terrain without flying higher than necessary. Make extra sure you have a flashlight/headlamp, extra batteries, and an organized cockpit so you can locate things as you need them. Review the optical illusions that can occur at night: black hole illusion, bright or dim lights leading to a high or low approach, false horizon, etc., and be ready to rely on your instruments to help maintain situational awareness and aircraft control. Use the utmost caution flying at night in mountainous terrain, and choose to fly during the day instead if possible.

7. Cross-Country Flight Planning

A Cross-Country Flight over the Grand Canyon

Remember that suitable visual checkpoints may be sparse in the mountains. Look for prominent peaks, towns, lakes, roads, and mines. When possible, follow highways or roads (or at least rivers, and valleys), as they are easy to follow and provide suitable emergency landing sites. It may take a little longer than going direct, but if you lose your engine or have some other emergency, you’ll have a place to land, and emergency vehicles can much more easily provide assistance. File a flight plan and if possible, use VFR flight following services (oftentimes in mountainous terrain, radar coverage may begin around 6000’ MSL.)  LEAN the mixture according to the POH for operating at higher density altitudes. For takeoff, carefully identify and brief a plan for a loss of power on takeoff or climbout, and consider holding the brakes to check for full power and engine instruments in the green before commencing the takeoff roll. During the winter, make sure to check the NOTAMS carefully for ice, runway closures, and engine pre-heat and deicing services at destination airports.

8. Human Factors

A Pulse-Oximeter Can Help Detect Hypoxia

Since flying in mountainous terrain requires higher cruising altitudes than flying near lower ground, pilots can find themselves suffering from hypoxia more easily. Know the symptoms of oxygen deprivation, and participate in a high-altitude training course if you ever have the chance, so you can identify your own typical symptoms. Fly just high enough to clear the terrain safely, and consider carrying a couple of extra items in your bag to help identify or treat hypoxia: a fingertip pulse-oximeter, and a can of Boost portable oxygen. Remember the regulations for using supplemental oxygen if your flight will require altitudes above 12,500’. If hypoxia is suspected, descend to a lower altitude as soon as possible, and consider landing at an alternate airport to wait a few minutes to make sure you’re feeling well before continuing on.

9. In Case of Emergency

Declare an Emergency if Needed

Do not hesitate to declare an emergency if the need arises!  Be proficient with engine-out procedures and have at least the first few checklist items memorized. If you lose an engine, aviate first: pitch for best glide speed and turn toward lower terrain to increase your glide distance and find a warmer and lower place to land, preferably near habitation or a road. If in a forested area, try to aim for lighter weight trees like aspens, which will bend, rather than pine, which could trap the aircraft up high. If a crash landing occurs, evacuate all occupants until determining there is not chance of fire. Turn on the ELT, try to reach assistance with the radio or cell phone, stay warm and dry, and stay with the aircraft until help arrives.

10. Survival Gear

Be Prepared with Survival Gear

When flying in mountainous areas, be prepared for an off-airport landing. Consider carrying enough food and water to last 1-2 days. Bring winter clothes in case of an emergency, a first aid kit, signaling device, personal GPS unit, and handheld radio. Emergency blankets or sleeping bags take up very little room but can literally save your life if you are stranded in a remote area overnight. Some Alaskan bush pilots wear a survival vest while flying loaded up with survival gear, so that if they do have to make an emergency landing, whatever they might need is right there on their person, instead of being impossible to access after a crash.

Mountain flying can provide some of the most rewarding flying experiences for us as pilots. Be safe, be prepared, pack a good camera, and enjoy the ride!

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.

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.

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 ( 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.

Las Vegas VFR Sectional

Box indicates Skydive Operations over dry lakebed.

Box indicates Skydive Operations over dry lakebed.

Las Vegas Airspace Transition: GA Pilot’s Guide

For many GA pilots, the allure of trips with friends for fun and adventure is a big reason to fly. For flyboys in the southwest, sunny Las Vegas can be the next step beyond that classic $100 hamburger! Only a few hours from the bustling airspace of Southern California, the Las Vegas terminal area offers impressive views from the air, including the Hoover Dam, astounding Red Rock Canyon, and of course the iconic Strip. Read on to learn the nuances of a trouble free day navigating our busy Bravo airspace, and how to set yourself up for a successful red carpet ride down the Strip! With a little luck and some pre-planning, you can fly abeam Las Vegas Boulevard, with a view to rival those spendy Heli-tours. Just remember to observe your clearance minimums as the Stratosphere looms in your windscreen before the entrance to the KVGT pattern!

Arrival into Las Vegas

For our exercise, we will be approaching Las Vegas from the south with a destination of KVGT North Las Vegas. Be sure you take a moment to look at the Las Vegas TAC and FLY charts to familiarize yourself with the local landmarks. You’ll want to be aware of The Ridge, Bank of America Bldg, and the Stratosphere (referred to as Monument on the chart, but as its namesake on the radios). Also, take note that there are heavy skydiving operations just south of Jean airport, east of Interstate 15. They will announce on Jean’s CTAF (122.9) during active jumps.

Las Vegas TAC   Las Vegas FLY


Set your course towards Jean airport (0L7) as you near Las Vegas. Your best bet is to have been using flight following on your trip in, but if not, contact Las Vegas Approach on 125.9 sometime before the mode-C veil. “Las Vegas approach, Piper 123XH, 30 miles South at 5,500, request bravo transition to North Las Vegas.” Depending on your altitude, this is also a good time to start listening for KVGT ATIS if you have a second radio, otherwise you end up with a high workload as you transition the bravo and get handed off to VGT tower. For the pilots who don’t often operate in Class B airspace, remember that ATC must explicitly clear you into the airspace; a vector and a transponder assignment wont be sufficient to keep you out of hot water if they didn’t say the magic words.

Once you have set your transponder and been cleared into the Bravo, expect to be vectored just west of KHND, and then directly over the numbers for RWY 25 at KLAS. This is where it gets fun! Shortly after you have flown abeam the end of RWY 19 and confirmed visual of the Stratosphere, expect to be granted own-nav, direct to KVGT, and instructed to remain above 3,500 until cleared below by North Las Vegas tower. This is a good time to slow the plane down, adjust your heading to get a bit closer to the scenery, and take in the view.


Soon after you fly abeam Wynn Resort (two striking bronze colored ellipse towers), you will be handed off to North Las Vegas tower. Mention the current ATIS identifier on initial contact, and expect to be given a turn instruction and your runway assignment. Depending on winds and traffic at VGT, you will be instructed to turn in before the Strat with a direct-in approach to RWY 30L/downwind for 12R, or turn after the Strat to fly a left base/cross into 25/7. Just remember that the tip of the Stratosphere is at 3,187’ (that’s above VGT TPA!), so maintain that lateral clearance; there’s a good chance that you will descend below it as you make your final turn into KVGT.

If approaching from the southeast, expect vectors to the Henderson (KHND) airport and from there a northerly heading as previously stated. There is skydiving activity at the Boulder City Airport (KBVU) so you will want to use caution when transitioning overhead. Also use caution for multiple helicopter tour operators operating between the ridge (south of KHND) and the Boulder City Airport (KBVU). They all will be on KBVU CTAF until the Boulder City substation (depicted on TAC southeast of KBVU) where they will switch to 120.650. It is recommended that you get flight following from Las Vegas approach when you approach from the southeast. Do note that if you are at an altitude of 8,500 ft or lower in the vicinity of KBVU, you may not be able to communicate with Las Vegas approach as there are many dead spots which are blocked by mountains and the Approach control transmitter site. You may also request the Cortez Arrival into KVGT with Las Vegas approach which starts at Lava Butte(depicted on TAC chart south east of Nellis(KLSV)). You will need a Bravo clearance to fly this arrival. The instructions for this arrival can be found on the inset of the TAC chart. Expect numerous helicopter arrivals to operate underneath you at 3000 to KLAS and KVGT. Their route will take them from Lava Butte to the Stratosphere tower, almost directly under the same path you will take. Also note multiple arrivals to 19L/R to KLAS if the winds are from the south or southeast. Expect to maintain 3,500 until entering the KVGT class D airspace.

If You Don’t Get Cleared into Bravo

If for some reason KLAS isn’t able to accommodate your flight through their airspace, there is a VFR Flyway, which is illustrated on the TAC chart. Follow the 15 Freeway while descending below 4,000, and turn west before you enter KHND airspace. The SFC Bravo is 6 NM from the LAS VORTAC, so use your DME to remain clear of the airspace, following this route to the north. Contact KVGT tower before you reach the Bank of America building.


Once you’re on the ground, you will find transient parking just north of taxiway B at H, with self-serve fuel a bit further north nearby. Do look ahead at the hotspots indicated on the VGT diagram, as this airport is well known for runway incursions. You’ll typically find Ground Control to be accommodating, and it is recommend to request a taxicab over UNICOM (122.95) if you’re planning to use one; the wait can be at least 30 minutes. The fare will average $30-$35 plus tip to get to the Strip. KVGT does have a restaurant on the airport. There are also a number of restaurants at the nearby Hotel/Casino. A second option is to head back to Henderson Executive where there is a great diner with fantastic second floor views of the runway, and a full bar for your passengers!

Heading South

So you’ve won the jackpots, seen the sights, and eaten at the buffet, but now it’s time to think about your trip back out of the valley. Luckily, the transition south is almost identical to the flight in, so go ahead and request the Bravo transition south when you contact KVGT Ground for taxi instructions. KVGT may or MAY NOT coordinate for you, but if not they will give a departure heading, and frequency to contact LAS TRACON to make your request once in the air. Dial this into your second radio if you have one, because you’ll need it soon after rotation.

If you are interested in seeing the Hoover Dam and the tallest concrete span arch bridge in the world request an east departure with KVGT tower. You will also want to make this request if you are headed back to the state of Arizona or towards the Blythe (BLH) VOR. You’ll be handed off to Nellis approach upon departure. You can expect to maintain 5000 and expect vectors to pass right over the center of Nellis AFB (KLSV). Inform them that you will cancel over the Gypsum Mine which is just east of KLSV and depicted on the TAC (on the sectional it is depicted as plant and strip mine). Pilots are requested to monitor 120.65 and it is highly suggested. Be alert for high volume tour traffic in the area. Also observe FAA advisory circular (AC) 91-36, which requests 2,000 AGL clearance in noise sensitive areas. Most of the tour companies over the Hoover Dam will approach the dam from the northwest or will approach from the Boulder City substation which is depicted on the TAC chart just southeast of Boulder City Airport (KBVU). They will be helicopters and will be operating at 3500 on the tour. Be alert for fixed wing tour traffic as well departing from KBVU heading east as well as those returning from the Grand Canyon landing at both Boulder City and Henderson Airports. If you want to skip the dam, inform Nellis approach that you’d like flight following. Expect the vectors out of KVGT as stated above. As you get towards the Gypsum Mine, expect to be handed off to Las Vegas Approach and expect Higher with them.
If the dam doesn’t interest you, you’ve requested a departure to the south-southwest from KVGT tower. Expect a heading assignment on departure with a frequency to contact Las Vegas Approach. You can expect vectors to the west of McCarren airport. You will most likely receive a Bravo clearance unless McCarren is landing runway 7R (usually in the summer months). Out to the west you can expect stunning views of Red Rock National Conservation area off the right side of your airplane. Use caution however getting too close to the mountains out west when the wind is high as downdrafts and turbulence will be present.

Flying around Las Vegas Airspace

Arrows indicate Lava Butte and Hoover Dam

If you’d rather get right out of town without traffic advisories, depart heading 220, remaining north of the Bank of America Building. Once you’ve passed Bank of America, skirt the SFC section of LAS Bravo, remaining 6 NM from the LAS VORTAC and below 4,000’. Follow this around until you have visual of the 15 Freeway, and turn south once you are abeam KHND. There will be varied terrain to the Starboard side of the aircraft, so beware of CFIT and keep a close eye on your altitudes as you climb out; You’ll be flying beneath a major approach corridor for McCarran. It is also recommended to be on frequency with Vegas approach, which KVGT should provide as you exit their airspace(expect 125.9). Be sure not to cross into KHND airspace as you round the bend unless you have radio contact with Tower.

Arrows indicate(North to South): Bank of America, 15 FWY, Turn point

Arrows indicate(North to South): Bank of America, 15 FWY, Turn point

A well-prepared pilot will find the trip into Las Vegas to be straightforward and rewarding! Check back with us soon, and consider attending our free safety meetings!

Master Takeoffs & Landings – Land Like a Professional

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:

  • Be a licensed pilot.
  • Minimum 60 hours of flight time.
  • Minimum 5 hours flight time in the last 90 days.

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Past Graduates of The Course:

  • Pilot Name, 5/19/2016