We wanted to get an early start for Utah but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. We had arrived at the airport at 7am knowing we couldn’t leave that early but giving me time to load up the plane and then just putter around a little. I did a thorough pre-flight and also cleaned it up with the wash n’ wax. Although the forecast was showing it should be clear enough to take off around 8am or so, at 9am we were still looking at low overcast and less than 2 miles visibility. By about 9:15am I could start to see the sun through the thin clouds and soon there were patches of blue. That was the que to pull the plane out, park the car, close up the hangar, and climb in.
As we taxied down and performed the run-up the skies were blue, but the AWOS (Automated Weather Observing System) was still reporting 2 miles visibility from the haze. However, that didn’t stop an experimental from departing followed about 5 minutes later by two more. The haze was slowly clearing and soon I was just able to make out the hills to the west that are just a little more than three miles away so I announced that we were taking runway 25 for a left downwind departure. By the time we were turning downwind we were above the haze with better than 50 miles visibility.
We picked up flight following and other than the expected bouncing around above the mountains north of San Bernardino it smoothed out across the desert at 9,500′. A little north of Barstow I was asked our intentions.
ATC: “November 78878, will you be going through the Vegas Bravo?” (IT goes up to 10,000′)
Me: “Yes, if we can.”
A short time later we were handed off to Vegas Approach and I checked in with them. We passed the solar farm at the border and the airport at Jean where a text from my wife let me know where she had wanted to fly to Thursday evening so that we wouldn’t be stuck by a low overcast…
Approach called us up to find out our route.
Vegas Approach: “November 78878, will you be going Vegas to Delta?”
Me: “Yes, Vegas, Mormon Mesa, then Milford.”
Vegas Approach: “Roger”
We were moving along at better than 170 mph ground speed and still had not been cleared into the Bravo. I wasn’t too worried as sometimes it is last minute when they will clear you through. About 3 miles from the Bravo and still approaching at better than 170 mph I called them back up.
Me: “Vegas Approach, Mooney 78878.”
Waiting with no response…. 2 miles out… Close to just making a turn to keep from busting the Bravo
Me: “Vegas Approach, Mooney 78878.”
Vegas Approach: “November 78878, go ahead.”
Me: “Are we cleared through the Bravo at 9,500′?”
Vegas Approach: “November 78878, cleared through the Bravo, advise prior to any altitude or heading changes.”
Me: “Cleared through the Bravo, will advise prior to any changes, 878.”
I think that he had forgotten about us and that we hadn’t been cleared through after he had asked our route, but he hadn’t actually cleared us and I wanted it on tape that we were cleared through.
Just north of Vegas we were seeing steady ground speeds above 170mph, which is great for the way there, but would mean a slow return flight.
The rest of the flight to our fuel stop in Delta was nice with the exception of bouncing around a little over the mountains to the northwest of St George. The winds were coming from the southwest so once we were north of the mountains we got some mechanical turbulence. No matter how many times I fly over 7-8,000′ mountains it always seems a little odd to be looking at 9,500′ or more on the altimeter and still only be about 2,000′ above the ground.
We landed in Delta and although it is the cheapest fuel around it may be the last time we stop there. The runway has always been a little rough but as we were rolling out I saw large tumbleweeds growing up through the cracks along the sides of the runway. We turned onto the taxiway and there were more, enough that I pulled out my phone and stuck it out the window to record them as we taxied along.
After fueling up we took off and headed north again climbing enough to clear the mountains through the pass. Once over Utah lake we picked up flight following from Salt Lake Approach so that we could also get Bravo clearance along the VFR Transition route over I-15 on our way to Skypark (KBTF). As expected we were assigned 6,000′ and told to remain over I-15. It was really neat to fly along there, I tried looking for Flat Iron Mesa Park to see if I could pick out our old house but making sure I maintained the assigned altitude and course I couldn’t pick it out from all the other parks. I was able to spot my Hillcrest High School where I graduated from (a long time ago) and we saw The Salt Lake Temple, Conference Center, and the State Capital.
We were handed off the Salt Lake Tower as we passed through their surface airspace and were given a frequency change as we passed the refineries northeast of Salt Lake International Airport.
Tower: “November 78878, you will be leaving my airspace in about two miles, I show two planes in the pattern at Skypark and one leaving the area. Squawk VFR, frequency change approved.” (Given the proximity to KSLC and flat terrain between them the radar at KSLC can see everything flying around Skypark).
Me: “Squawk VFR, frequency change, thanks for the help, 878.”
We made a turn to the east to put a little space between us and the airport, we were already on a downwind for runway 17 but I needed to lose some altitude and I also wanted to make a traditional entry into what was a busy pattern. As soon as I was given the frequency change I announced our position and intentions on the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). Sure enough, there was one plane departing the pattern to the north, two more in the pattern, and another that was just taking off and staying in the pattern. We worked into the traffic and as we were on final there were three more planes holding short to take off, talk about a busy little airport.
There was a line guy directing us to parking and he greeted us as I shut down the engine and asked “You have a rental car right?” When I made the reservation I gave our tail number so he was expecting us. “Yes” I said. “Do you have a lot of luggage?” I responded “Yes…” (In addition to our regular stuff there were cakes and baking supplies for my wife to make the cake for my niece’s wedding.) “No problem, let me go get the car for you” he replied.
As we got out of the plane he pulled the rental right up to the end of the wing so we could load everything in and then told us to just meet him inside the terminal when we were done. After tying it down, putting in the shades, and locking up we drove over to the terminal. I signed the rental agreement, gave him directions on how much fuel to put in the plane, let him know when we would be back, and then we were on our way. A great flight that ended with exceptional customer service from the FBO.