Page 41 - Nov 19 TNT
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 pressurized piston twins pretty much have it to themselves. Even when passing directly over major hub airports like KLAS, the Class B airspace rarely goes higher than 10,000 feet seeing as most traffic is either on the surface or away from the space before getting much higher than that. When I get to fly like this, the freedom of airborne movement we have in the U.S. never ceases to amaze me. Our first stop was the Bay Area of California with Concord (KCCR) as our destination. The weather leaving Seattle was marginal VFR with a lingering cold front creating a visibility of 3 to 4 miles, cloud base of about 2,000 feet and tops of around 16,000. Just an hour before our planned 10:00 IFR departure time, I realized we were running early, so I took out my phone and amended our time to 09:15. Within a minute, I got a text back saying the revised time was approved with the routing BVS, SEA, HIO, direct REJOY (the initial approach fix at KCML). On departure, we called the radar controllers at Whidbey Naval Air Station (the airspace we were under) and were greeted with a courteous “good morning” and promptly given our IFR clearance in the air; no question as to why we did not request it before taking off. Twenty minutes after departure, we were above the tops headed for FL180 and right over the SEA VOR, which is located in the center of SeaTac (KSEA). Only in America could you change your f light plan at the last moment, deal with a military controller on short notice, then fly over a major hub airport – and it all be considered quite routine. Proceeding southbound, we cleared most of the weather by the time we reached Redding, California, so I canceled IFR but stayed with radar advisories and descended down to 6,500 feet to see more of the Napa Valley. Fifty miles north of KCML, we were switched to the approach controller at Travis Airforce Base northeast of the Bay Area, and right under our direct routing. As we descended VFR down to 3,000 feet, we could see the Air Force traffic underneath us practicing touch and goes in the pattern. The controller regarded our passing as a routine item and shortly switched us to the tower frequency at Concord. Only in America can a small, private piston aircraft fly directly over an active military base and be regarded as routine traffic and sent to another frequency. A day later, we completed our business in San Francisco and returned to Concord. The weather for the entire southwest cor- ner of the country was CAVU with winds aloft from the west. When I called the ground controller at KCMR and he asked for the direction of flight, my reply was, “Eastbound, VFR.” With no further questions asked, he cleared us to Runway 01L via Alpha and Golf. When we switched to the tower controller, he already seemed to know the direction we wanted to go and cleared us for takeoff with a right crosswind departure. Five minutes later, when I notified him we were clear of his airspace to the east, he cheerily responded, “Have a nice trip,” without having a clue as to where we were actually going (Williams, Arizona KCMR). Only in America would that happen. Twenty minutes later, we were over Yosemite National Park climbing through 10,000 feet, and down between the left engine nacelle and tip tank, the rock wall of El Capitan was clearly visible. We proceeded to make a couple of 360-degree turns to take photos of this national landmark. As the camera clicked away, I thought where else can a small private aircraft suddenly decide to make turns over a national landmark without requiring all kinds of authorization. Only in America do we have this freedom. Once past Yosemite, a direct line from there to KCMR takes you over the corner of the BISHOP Military Operations Area (MOA), outlined in magenta on the chart. Now, crossing through a magenta MOA in America without talking to anyone is quite legal but not often wise. So, in keeping with my desire to stay away from the microphone, I put a slight dog leg in the routing to have us pass over the BISHOP VOR which kept us clear of the MOA. Another reason for my doing this was there was a large forest fire near Taboose Pass about 40 miles south of BIH with a surrounding TFR. Although we were above the TFR’s limits at 15,500 feet, there was a lot of smoke I wanted to avoid. Listening to the frequency posted for the area, we could hear no end of fire spotting and bombing traffic working the site. Again, even though we were close enough to easily see the smoke and fire, absolutely no communication from us was required. Only in American does that happen. The next area we crossed was directly over the city of Las Vegas at 15,500 feet, with the airport under the left wing. No communication from us was required, expected or even desired. The controllers down there were busy enough without getting involved with a small, piston-powered aircraft flying VFR in mostly empty airspace above the airport. Working our way east, we then passed directly over the Boulder Dam that backs up water for a critical amount of the southwestern U.S. In other parts of the world, you could not fly anywhere near an item of such national importance. And yet, at 15,500 feet, or about two miles above the terrain, we peacefully flew along with our Dolby headset microphones over our heads as we each ate an apple. Further east, about a half-hour outside of Williams, we passed over the western side of the Grand Canyon National Park. The airspace below 12,000 feet is closed to most air traffic, but the terrain is nearly 5,000 feet high. So, we flew over one of the most spectacular geographic features of the entire world at just 5,000 to 6,000 feet above the terrain. Again, only in America could you do this without any special permission or advance notice. Williams, Arizona is a small town of about 3,000 people some 30 miles west of Flagstaff. However, the airport (KCMR) has a newly paved 6,000-foot runway and new terminal build- ing specific for general aviation, with parking and chain tie downs supplied (all for $8 per night). After landing, my wife and I needed to get into town a couple of miles away, so the airport manager offered to rent us a brand-new Enterprise car he had already parked on the ramp. Or given we were the only airplane there, he also happily offered to drive us into town himself and give us a free tour in the process. We chose the free ride and tour. Only in America can you find runways and hospitality of that size in a small town. The next day we took the train from Williams to the Grand Canyon National Park site. We were accompanied by mostly Europeans who couldn’t believe all the open space along the way, plus that we ordinary citizens had flown our own airplane into the place without much ado at all. The following morning we took off for Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I was scheduled to speak to a group of pilots. Upon November 2019 / TWIN & TURBINE • 39 

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