A Quick Trip to Utah for Family

Only in the Mooney Time Machine. In about 36 hours I got to meet up with my wife in Utah, see our newest grandson, celebrate an engagement, a birthday, and be back home….
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
13 Mar 2024

SoCal to Salt Lake Fighting Headwinds

It’s been a busy few weeks around the Brown house in March. I finished up the annual on the plane and took a post maintenance flight. The very next evening I went up with a friend to shoot some approaches for my IFR Currency. My father-in-law is celebrating his 82nd birthday, and we welcomed a new grandson to the family, that makes 7 grandkids. That last highlight meant my wife was out of town for a couple weeks up in Utah.

Oh, and at the end of February my wife’s youngest daughter got engaged to a great young man!

It’s a good thing we have a Mooney. Why you ask? Because we live in Southern California, I work during the week, and the celebrations were going to be occurring in Utah on a Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

The first event was a dinner to celebrate the engagement on Friday evening in the Salt Lake area. I checked with my boss to see if it was okay for me to work a half day on Friday. I spent the morning at the dealership right next to the airport to maximize time at work and minimize drive time to the airport.

I had done the math backwards, allowing for the headwinds I would face on the entire flight, and left in time to grab a breakfast burrito (for lunch) on the way to the airport. I stopped by my mechanic’s hangar to pick up my logbooks from the annual and called up the fuel truck on my way over to my hangar.

“They have a couple of fuelings and then will be right over” I was told. Not a problem I thought, I will quickly eat my lunch, pre-flight the plane, load it up, and by that time they should be there to fill it.

I was going to need every drop they could put in to make the 600+ mile trip with a headwind and still land with 10 gallons on board. I pulled the plane out of my hangar and went through pre-flight so it would be ready when they arrived to fuel it, then sat down in the hangar to eat lunch.

As I ate, and waited, I kept glancing at my watch. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, then twenty minutes went by and I decided I had to call again.

The nice lady answered the phone and I said, “I’m still waiting for fuel, do you know how long it will be?”

“I’m not sure, it looks like they are working on the truck” she replied.

“I’m just trying to make a 12:30 departure” I said.

“Oh, I’ll tell them, they should be right over.”

I needed to be in the air not much later than 12:30pm or I would be late to the dinner. Sure enough, within a few minutes the fuel truck came driving around the corner.

“Where are you headed,” my friend who had flown with me a few days before asked as they hooked up the ground line to my plane and pulled the hose out.

“To Salt Lake,” I said. “Top off both sides, as much as you can get in, there’s headwinds the whole way.”

Despite the delay I was airborne at 12:32pm and climbing to the northeast. Typically if I am flying VFR to Salt Lake I cruise at 9,500′, but the winds were even stronger up there so I stopped at 7,500′ and just bounced along. It was like a 4+ hour drive down a dirt road.

At the lower altitude I had to shift my route a little to the east to pass between Flat Top Mountain South and Atchinson Mountain near Enterprise. Here the winds were the strongest, 40+ mph almost right on my nose. After a rough spot where I hit my head on the top of the cabin, I pulled the throttle back and slowed down until I got through there and into the long valley that stretches from Enterprise to Delta.

Still working at the lower altitude I cut through the lower terrain near Lemington into the valley where the town of Nephi sits and turned north across Utah Lake and into the Slat Lake Valley.

South Valley Regional Airport (U42) also known as Airport #2 was busy. There were two Apache’s from the National Guard coming in from the south, one plane working the pattern, and another inbound from the northwest. I made my calls that I was southeast and would cross over midfield to enter the left downwind for runway 34.

The Apache off my left wing said he wouldn’t be a factor and I let him know I had him in sight. I fit into the traffic pattern and landed behind the two Apache helicopters, one setting down on a helipad to the left of the runway and the other out in the field to the right of the runway.

Four hours and thirteen minutes of flying and I was on the ground with 9 gallons (just a hair under one hour of fuel) left in the plane. If I had tried to make the flight at 9,500′ I would have had to make a fuel stop along the way.

Proud Grandpa 🙂

The dinner party was great. It was hosted by her fiancée’s grandparents and we got to meet his family and both sets of grandparents. After meeting them we knew how he turned out to be such an exceptional young man, they are a wonderful family.

Salt Lake to St George

Saturday morning we got up, had breakfast, and headed to the airport for the return trip via St George. What a difference 16 hours makes. The rough air from the day before was replaced by smooth air. The winds had shifted enough that we still had a headwind component, but at least they had lost most of their strength so it only added about 10 minutes to the flight time compared to a no wind situation.

One hour and forty-seven minutes later we landed at St George among busy traffic. The last time we had been there they still had the requirement for a PPR (Prior Permission Request). That limited the amount of traffic, but the requirement had been removed and KSGU was back to its busy self.

Behind us on final to runway 19 was a Cirrus, and quite a way behind him but making up ground quick was a SkyWest Regional Jet, in addition to a couple planes approaching from the south east.

I easily exited at the first taxiway, which is a distance almost as long as the full runway at Fullerton, and stopped once clear of the runway. In front of me was a small single, I think maybe a Beech Musketeer, who was blocking the entrance to the FBO ramp from that taxiway.

I waited for him to taxi either right or left on Alpha. He didn’t, instead he started coming toward us and angling to work around our right side. Not one to play chicken with airplanes I added a little power and moved to the left and onto the ramp.

“I have no idea what he’s doing” I said to my wife. “Maybe he’s going to do an intersection take off.”

From that intersection there is still over 6,200′ of runway remaining, but that wasn’t what he was doing. Fortunately the Cirrus on final was on his game of it could have been very bad.

Over the radio I heard, “Cirrus xxx is going around, there’s some guy back taxiing on the runway not on the radio.” A few moments later he repeated it for the Regional Airliner behind him, “Hey, be aware there’ s a plane back taxiing on the runway not talking on the radio.”

We stopped at transient parking and I pushed the plane back into a tie down as the Regional Jet landed followed by the Cirrus who had gone around. I’m not sure what the other guy did. Maybe he thought he was on taxiway Alpha and trying to get to the west side of the airport? Who knows, but if he’s that lost he shouldn’t be flying, that could have been very bad.

The CTAF frequency was changed January 31st, so it is possible that he was on the old frequency if he didn’t have an updated chart, but there is no excuse for that. You are required to have current charts and if you don’t want to by them there are free apps that have current charts, not to mention it is in the NOTAMS for KSGU.

Anyway, back to the trip. We grabbed the rental car and headed to my wife’s dad’s home and visited before leaving for the restaurant. It was a great time with family at lunch. Even my youngest son who is there at college had time in his schedule between work to join us. After lunch we went back to their house to sing happy birthday and have cake and pie.

Last Leg - KSGU to KFUL

We visited a bit longer and then drove back to the airport for the final leg of the trip home. The air was smooth, it was a mix of headwinds and tailwinds, with the headwinds winning out and increasing the flight time by about ten minutes. I see that as a win.

The sun was just dipping toward the western horizon as we passed east of Mt Baldy over Lake Arrowhead. There was a FedEx 737 silhouetted against the evening sky to our right descending to land at Ontario.

We touched down just as the last rays of light were peeking above the Pacific and taxied back to the hangar. It was an amazing weekend made possible by the Mooney. How else could I work a half day, still make it to a dinner in Salt Lake, sleep in a little on Saturday, have lunch and visit in St George, and be home in California before dinner time? 

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