Planning AZ visit after Christmas

Discussion in 'Cool Places to Fly' started by Jim_R, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    I'll have a ~10-day window to do something between 12/26 and returning to work on 1/7, and am planning a visit to Arizona. My traveling companion has a broad itinerary established: Base in Tucson for a few days and explore the environs, move up north a bit and explore the Painted Desert and maybe Canyon de Chelly, then take a day to fly over the Grand Canyon and start heading home. I figure that makes for 5-7 days in AZ, with 2-3 days of travel to/from Houston, plus a couple of days for weather margin.

    We'll be two people plus a week's luggage in a Cherokee 180. I'm used to flying from sea level (and over flat terrain), so I know it'll be a bit different at these altitudes (and around the mountains). I flew to Santa Fe in March a few years back, so I've had some small experience here before. Probably won't be flying with full tanks!

    We'll be traveling from Houston, and will essentially follow I-10 west to Tucson. Current thought is to return home via a route crossing the mountains just south of Albuquerque (ONM VOR).

    I've read messages here and elsewhere about "how to fly the Grand Canyon", and watched some YouTube videos, and of course have reviewed the Grand Canyon VFR chart, so I feel like I generally understand that situation.

    Some questions for anyone familiar with the area:
    1. Recommendations for best airport/FBO in Tucson area? Based on about 10 min of poking around on Airnav, I'm leaning toward Tucson Jet Center at KTUS. (Any reason to prefer Velocity at KRYN?)
    2. Any good ideas for best way to get to the Painted Desert? Looks like Winslow and Taylor are the closest options with rental cars. If we include Canyon de Chelly, though, maybe Gallup would be a better choice?
    3. Any words of wisdom on flying in this area in December?
      1. I'm conscious of the density altitude (a big reason we're going in December).
      2. I'm conscious of my inexperience with mountains, but think I can plot a route that avoids typical "mountain flying" concerns (won't be flying narrow passes or close ridgelines). What should I be thinking about to avoid complacency/surprises?
      3. Am I wrong to think that icing concerns are relatively low due to the arid climate?
      4. Any additional advice re: Grand Canyon aside from "stay in the VFR corridors and don't fly too low" and "expect big up/downdrafts near the rims"? (Are there any specific areas aside from the corridors we should make sure to fly over while we're in the neighborhood?)
    Thanks,
    Jim
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  2. Scrabo

    Scrabo Pattern Altitude

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    65751FD5-5F5A-479D-A9A5-73F928A0CB0C.jpeg You should include Monument Valley
     
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  3. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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  4. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Give a shout when you're in the area. Several of us in the PHX and TUS areas get together from time to time.

    Last year I did a round-robin in my C-172 from Goodyear, over the Canyon throught the Zuni Point Corridor, to Page for fuel. From there I flew the length of Lake Powell then down to Monument Valley, and back to Grand Canyon, where I met up for lunch with my wife and a couple of her friends who were on a motorcoach tour.

    Videos (part 1 and part 2) from that trip:



     
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  5. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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  6. Walboy

    Walboy Line Up and Wait

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    Also check out KAVQ which is north of Tucson. @Timbeck2 can provide you plenty of information about KTUS.

    Density altitude is not likely to be as much of an issue as summer. Still, you should consult your performance charts. Based on all Cherokee performance charts I've seen and lengths of runways at airports with services, you'll likely have no issues even at full max gross weight.

    Any mountain issues would likely be known in advance by paying attention to Airmets. Winds are likely to be the biggest concern followed by mountain obscuration if a weather system is moving through. Icing likely won't be a concern if you stay out of clouds. However, you should anticipate heavy frost if tied down outside. If you plan to fly IFR, just note that MEAs are pretty high in the mountain areas.

    Enjoy your trip!
     
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  7. Scrabo

    Scrabo Pattern Altitude

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  8. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Thanks for all your info, but this in particular--this is the kind of thing i'm unfamiliar with. In practical terms, what does this mean? Should I expect not to be able to fly early in the morning until temps warm up a bit? Should I pack a big towel and expect to be able to brush off the frost as part of my pre-flight?
     
  9. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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  10. Walboy

    Walboy Line Up and Wait

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    In southern AZ, putting your airplane in the sun (if the sun is out) would likely do the trick pretty fast. In northern AZ however, other measures might have to be taken. I'm not sure it would be different than any other cold weather location, but my point is that is does get very cold and sometimes wet in AZ during the time of year you plan to visit and should plan accordingly.
     
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  11. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Tell me about it. I just took the photo below. We're in Pinetop-Lakeside AZ, about 12 nm south of Show Low (KSOW), 7,000' elevation.

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Hah. OK...so maybe few worries about ice or snow in Tucson, but for the Flagstaff/Gallop, portion...yeah. Guess I probably need to make some FBO phone calls, but wondering if there's any transient hangar availability in Gallop or Flagstaff, or at least a spot to warm up after an evening that looks like the above....
     
  13. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Flagstaff has a ski area. North part of AZ is 5000msl and higher. Grand Canyon is snow and cold and miserable in the winter.
    Also consider Prescott as an alternate airport.
     
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  14. retpd2001

    retpd2001 Line Up and Wait

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    I am based at Ryan and it is a nice airport with a touch and go cafe on the field, depending on who is cooking. I believe the tie down fee is $5 a night to the airport authority, not Velocity. They just run a rip off fuel operation, currently $5.19. I would check on overnight parking costs at Jet Center. Good people there also, my kid was a line guy there before he became a pilot. Call and ask for Amanda for info. Hope that helps.
     
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  15. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    What's the traffic like there with ERAU? I'm familiar with their operations at Daytona Beach, and it's like bees buzzing around a hive. Waiting in line to take off is no fun, either. I was assuming Prescott was similar, so had kind of written it off.
     
  16. Jim_R

    Jim_R Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, prices didn't seem to be too different. TUS Premier says $15 overnight (first night waived with fuel), and FS fuel price at $5.30 is only a few cents higher than SS RYN Velocity ($5.19). RYN just didn't seem to be slam-dunk better. Same with AVQ. Just figured it might be easier to go to the "main" airport...but I might still be missing something.
     
  17. retpd2001

    retpd2001 Line Up and Wait

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    You may be right, much easier to get transportation at KTUS, no rental cars or courtesy cars at AVQ or RYN, just a smaller atmosphere and both have cafe's. Good luck!
     
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