Rapid City / Mt.Rushmore / Crazy Horse

Discussion in 'Cool Places to Fly' started by Sinistar, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Definitely TLDR for some so a summary first and you can eject :) The details will follow.

    Summary:
    December trip from Minneapolis area (KGYL) to Rapid City (KRAP). Did a tour of the faces on the second leg into KRAP. That was especially fun for this flatlander who has never flown with big, rocky things above me on 2 or 3 sides at any time. Used WestJet - their line guys rocked (and were tipped!). The plane was inside the heated hangar before I finished walking inside. By heated I mean like t-shirt temperature inside!!! Stayed downtown, walked main street and had dinner downtown. Wx back home was getting weird so I opted for early return vs chance of getting stuck over the weekend. The return flight home was fast (tailwinds) and a bit stressful (MVFR and dodging IFR areas for ~80 miles). Of course today was CAVU all day...argghhh!

    A Few Pictures:
    22643.jpg 22649.jpg 22652.jpg

    The Video


    Lessons Learned:
    It was fun! I learned so much on this flight. I will add some pictures once Steve gets them to me. I also have some go pro video but it doesn't do the monuments flight much justice. Here are some quick thoughts:

    1. $$$ - Being stuck in winter could run up to $250/day with a hotel, heated hangar, food, etc.
    2. Special Airspaces - Have a concrete understanding before operating around them
    3. GPS - Its gonna leave you hanging
    4. ATIS - Not all towered airports have letter coded wx.
    5. ADSB - The wx updates will be slowest when you need them the most
    6. FSS - Its easy to forget about them, but sure nice to chat with when wx gets iffy
    7. Towers - Not all of them will launch "No Delay's" between arriving traffic
    8. Chop - Sometimes its a good thing (a tail wind push)
    9. Fuel - Ask for a specific amount to avoid overfills.
    10. Big Airports - Not always easy to find, especially near a bigger airport
    The Numbers: (Speeds & Distances In Statute Miles - Thank 1970's Cessna For That):
    Outbound: KGYL...KPIR (2.6hrs), KPIR...Faces...KRAP (1.6hrs) ==> 505sm
    Return: KRAP...KGYL (3.1hrs, includes a 15min divert for wx) ==> 478sm
    Totals: 983sm flown, 7.3hrs
    Averages: Out=125mph @ 12.5gph, Return=158mph @ 10.8gph
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
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  2. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Who Went
    I invited my easy going scuba diving buddy (Steve). He was great. Not a pilot and hadn't been in a small plane in 20yrs. I think he flew 5hrs of the 7.3hrs. Was especially helpful during the return flight in MVFR (more on that later).

    The First Leg Out (Flying Over Overcast & Headwinds!)
    We departed 2hrs late due to (un-forecast) snow at our airport. I had a good chat with the briefer and the last of the snow and clouds extended about 30 miles in our path and about 8 miles to the right. So I climbed above an overcast layer for the first time ever :eek: With the exception of about 1 minute, I could just barely see straight down thru them at all times and I could always see the open side to my far right. Then, right on cue, they were behind us. Temps were +4F at altitude. And a nasty 18mph headwind. So I ran the 182 a little harder to trade some fuel for less time bucking wind. Partway into SD our ground speed came up to 135mph! We landed in Pierre.

    Pierre / Mustang Aviation
    A very nice FBO. I asked the line guy specifically to not overfill it. He did. No tip. I always wonder if the owners just tell them to blast it full for the $$$. We opted to skip going into town for lunch even though they offered a car. I am glad we declined as it gave us more daylight for the next flight. However, Pierre sits in a very interesting section of the Missouri River. I left wanting to go back there again in the summer.

    The Second Leg (Rapid City)
    With less headwind the second leg went fast. Along the way we were handed off to Denver Center and then to Ellsworth Approach. With enough daylight, full fuel, empty bladders and recharged I asked Ellsworth for a tour of the faces. He was very helpful but there was a point of confusion. He instructed 7700msl "OR" 1/2 mile. I read back "AND". He corrected me on the "OR" and I repeated back the instruction with "OR". So this meant I could fly beside them much closer. As we neared he gave a callout to the direction of the visitor center and had me switch off to their Unicom but keep my xpdr code. I switched over, announced arrival and departure at each monument.

    The Faces / Crazy Horse / First Mountain Flying (Lite Version)
    Well this was new to me. Flying where big rocky tree covered things are above me on 1,2 or 3 sides at a time!!! It was a blast. Steve was taking pics while I flew. I didn't spend much time looking at the monuments. My favorite was Crazy Horse. The afternoon light was much better on it than Rushmore. I did laps around the back of the mountain it was carved in and then back in front. Damn, that was fun flying!!!! I know these are nothing like mountains in Rockies sense but it was amazing. Also, seeing them above the haze layer about 45miles out was an eye opener. Back home, the only things higher than the plane are the mega radio/TV towers.

    Oops??? A NASA/ASRS Report Just In Case
    Okay with that instruction from Ellsworth I thought I could fly lower but stay 1/2 mile away. So I flew them at 7200-7300msl and tried for just a bit less than a mile. Today I was thinking about it and wondered if I had that wrong and will be receiving something from the FAA if someone from the visitor center called me in. Also, its easy to think 1/2 mile from the actual monument but there is also the visitor's center. So I filed the NASA report today just in case. That's my second.

    I Can See How People Confuse Ellsworth AFB from KRAP
    On the way to the faces I immediately spotted a big runway from like 15+ miles out. My first thought was: This is KRAP so I started looking even farther north for Ellsworth. No Joy. Still Looking. Okay, now this is weird. Then a few minutes later I say "Maybe that's the AFB". So I start looking south. But KRAP is not exactly easy to find. Its east of the city quite a ways, nothing around it and the runways are not as contrasty as that AFB runway. Then "Dang, there it is and we're almost right over it!". Now we're okay as we were being vectored thru the Delta on to the monuments. But I can see how someone would lock onto the AFB and get it in their head that it is KRAP (yes that sounds funny, but I am a Navy guy).

    Landing At KRAP And Staying Off The AFB Airspace.
    With southerly winds we were instructed to make right traffic for R14. Now I could see someone easily dodging into the AFB airspace, especially if you fly your pattern a bit wide. The KRAP airspace is not full distance on the north end. Oh yeah, KRAP has one minute weather (no codified ATIS so that was another first).

    WestJet / Heated Hangars / Line Guys That Rock
    We landed at KRAP and pulled up to WestJet. He asked two things: "Do you need fuel and are you staying the night?" Yes and Yes. This time I sticked the tanks and asked for specific amounts. They did exactly what I asked, no overflow, tanks full enough. We got bags and the gadgets out of the plane and before we made it inside the FBO he had it in the heated hangar. He got a nice tip!! That hangar was heated to t-shirt temps. It was $100/night though. It was so nice pre-flighting from the hangar when we left.

    Staying Downtown
    The gal at the desk got us a room at the Holiday Inn downtown. Actually, very, very nice hotel. I would recommend it to anyone. 7 or 8 stories, huge inside atrium, glass elevators, nice pool and highly recommended restaurant. Their shuttle picked us up and brought us to the hotel. That was handy. Keep this in mind if you are in a hurry, the shuttle ride is 20 minutes from downtown. And that's if the shuttle is ready to go. We walked down to main street, perused a few cool shops and then a meal and beers at Murphy's. I left wanting to go back to that area in the summer or early fall. It was nice.

    Weather Decisions / No Fun
    The wx in Rapid City was clear and windy! Back home it was starting to indicate MVFR and IFR in a few places. The weather for the next day looked better but with none of the homebase TAF's matching the actual conditions I was worried the next day might be the same. So I decided we should leave and get as close to home as possible. Then we could take a short window the next day if needed. But I also needed to delay leaving to time the arrival for what I thought would be the best conditions (mid afternoon at home). So we left at 11am Rapid City time (noon back home time). I knew we would have a good tailwind so was not worried about flying at night.

    Departing Rapid City / Tower Overly Careful?
    KRAP is kinda busy. And I could tell there were several training flights. However, we sat ready to go for almost 10 minutes. Back at KFCM they would have "no delay'd" a plane between each arrival. It was windy (20G28) when we departed so the Archers doing training just seemed to hang forever on final. And one was waved off final in favor of a regional Delta jet arrival. That same waved off plane ended up landing before we were cleared for takeoff!!! I am not faulting the KRAP tower guys, they're just being careful I suppose. I think I should have requested a no delay right after the regional landed. I think the pending weather back home made that 10min idle feel like half and hour.

    GPS Signal Lost
    This is one of those "And wait, there's even more". So with concern of MVFR and now IFR at the destination we also have no GPS about halfway over SD. I already had the Huron VOR dialed in so now its the old way. There was no GPS signal for about 7 minutes. Weird. Perhaps a theory for the experts: When flying with @WannFly over Iowa we both lost GPS and we were quite near a ADSB GBT. I was near a pair of GBT's when we lost this GPS. Coincidence???
     
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  3. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Nearing the MVFR / IFR Area, Using FSS!
    So now we are nearing the MVFR area. I've got about 80 miles to go and all airports along the path are MVFR and some IFR. It was so nice having Steve flying. Here is a case where ADSB is great, but just not fast enough. I can't pick up local AWOS at 80 miles. So, for the first time since training I got on with FSS. A good 5 minute chat resulted in me going with my planned diversion. I was going to go south and try for my mechanic's airport which was VFR. We also overflew Marshall (MML) which has a 2 runways and nice FBO for overnight. Right as we past our first safe airport flying with visibility of 4sm, I noticed (ADSB) two airports and my home airport go back to VFR. So I aborted the divert and got back on track. We could see these waves of low clouds to our right but not on our path. Those low clouds were over my nearest TAF hence all the yuck I was seeing. I told Steve to watch for any ice on the windshield, tires or strut. I was also watching the MP for carb ice. But it all worked out and I had two alternates including one right behind me. Good wx experience for me!
     
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  4. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    Just something I learned the hard way. Once I make the decision to divert that's what I do. I won't change my mind and head back to the destination if the weather report gets a little better.

    Sounds like a fun trip. Thanks for sharing.
     
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  5. wayne

    wayne Cleared for Takeoff

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    Sounds like a fun trip.

    I'm hoping to fly up there and see the sights sometime.
     
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  6. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    I appreciate you comment on this topic. I will not forget your suggestion!!!

    This was my first real wx abort/divert situation.
     
  7. Ryanb

    Ryanb Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Good write-up, but it's lacking one important thing...PICTURES!

    :)
     
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  8. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    I will add them as soon as my friend gets them to me! I have some video too but I had the damn GOPRO on the wrong side and with that terrain around me I didn't want to mess with it while flying. I wish I would have known more about how I would be approaching the monuments, I would have mounted cameras much differently.
     
  9. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Okay, these are not the fun trip pictures yet (still waiting on Steve). However I did have some MVFR pics I quickly took with my phone so I would have a reference later on.

    This was looking to my right towards the TAF location which was reporting IFR all day. You can just see the low overcast layer thru the haze.
    MVFRTowardsKRWF.jpg

    This was at the same time looking back towards my original track, right before I turned towards back towards it. Basically visibility of about 4..5sm due to haze or mist but not freezing rain or snow or freezing fog.
    MVFROnMyTrack.jpg

    @WannFly...you wondered what it looked like vs what you saw on the computer that day...that is what I was seeing.
     
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  10. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    ok that was lot less scary than what METAR & TAFs were telling me at 0 knots!!
     
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  11. champ driver

    champ driver Line Up and Wait

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    Interesting flight, sounds like a lot of fun learning new things.
     
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  12. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Now just imagine, I was seeing those same TAF's and METAR's for about 3hrs and flying towards it :eek: But given the inconsistency of the TAF vs conditions and MVFR in various locations I needed to actually get some eyeballs on this to see what was happening. Also this was a good MVFR experience for me. I am pretty used to visibility of 10sm or greater or probably not flying. That day was like 4sm over here, 5sm over there, 7sm at that one, etc.

    I actually thought you would take me to task on going over that overcast layer to start off the trip.
     
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  13. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    KRAP is a fun trip. I'd like to go back for a couple of days, just had a quick overnight on the way to Yellowstone. The winds were 20G28 when I was there too, landing away from Ellsworth. It was 40° left of the runway, and the strongest winds I'd flown in at the time. Hated turning my tail into the wind to taxi to parking! Guys at the FBO said I should come back on a day the wind blew hard . . . .
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2018
  14. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Some frame grabs from the go pro:
    VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h42m58s163.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h45m31s711.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h47m43s829.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h48m58s316.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h49m43s446.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h52m43s511.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-21h58m42s076.jpg VideoSnapShot2018-12-10-22h00m22s524.jpg
     
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  15. Cici

    Cici Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for the write up. I enjoyed the read. I headed there this summer. I didn’t get to do the fly by, but we did drive to the monument. Got to see some f16s takeoff from krap on the way out. Anyone who comes from any direction but the south gets the “confirm you have krap and not Ellsworth” treatment. A pilatus was coming in as we were leaving and they called field in sight. Controller asked to confirm they saw krap and not Ellsworth. Turns out they were flying to Ellsworth.
     
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  16. GMascelli

    GMascelli En-Route

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    Great write up, thanks for sharing your trip. Besides all the fun, it's a fantastic experience builder for flight decisions and weather assessment.
     
  17. Martin Pauly

    Martin Pauly Pre-Flight

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    Nice write-up, and yes, Rapid City and Ellsworth are wickedly close together, and have similar layouts (other than runway orientation). One really has to be careful to identify the correct one.

    - Martin
    KRAP and Ellsworth.jpg
     
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  18. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Thanks for that photo!!!

    Now imagine our scenario arriving from KPIR. So we were coming in from the east and slightly north. So Ellsworth was a it bit closer during the arrival. And....everything was covered with snow!!! Now, using your photo, look at the two different runways but imagine everything else being white.

    That Ellsworth runway is like 100% contrast, "Black Hole" black and against all that white snow. You could see it for miles. But never having been there, especially without GPS, I could see how a pilot might think they have spotted KRAP first and then start looking for the AFB next and now be all mixed up.

    Meanwhile the lighter pavement colored runways of KRAP were quite hard to spot against the snow until much closer.
     
  19. aftCG

    aftCG Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I can vouch for being well treated by WestJet at KRAP. Early October of last year was my return flight after having tanks resealed in Willmar.
    IMG_20171009_102832-01.jpeg
    We also stopped in Pierre for gas. I did not intend to land at KRAP but the weather was tanking. Diverted to KRAP, got my girlfriend warmed up and then decided to stay overnight.

    Front desk help at WestJet was similar to yours. She got us a rental car and a room. I paid less than you for a hangar and had to have three line guys help push the beast. I bought lots of fuel.

    Next day dawned cold but severe clear.
    IMG_20171009_112621-01.jpeg
    Taken over Custer somewhere. And no those are not real mountains

    We did pass Rushmore at a conservative distance and also devil's tower. It is a beautiful area.
     
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  20. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Envy...sweet plane and such a cool place to fly it!!! I bet the line guys loved taking care of ya. I think it cool it took 3 to push it out.
     
  21. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Bumping Thread: Added a few pictures to the original post.
     
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