Saturday May 27, 2006
Do not attempt this at home. These are trained professionals on a closed course...
What a day. The weather forecast predicted the winds would start to pick up about 10, and be very strong by noon. By very strong I mean 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts higher. So if I was going to get out of Dodge (or Glendale in this case), I'd have to do it at first light. And so it was. Wheels up early and headed for the first way-point, Sky Ranch at Carefree (18AZ). By the time I flew over, a quartering tailwind from the south south west was evident, as my ground speed was increasing. Turning north I headed over the Tonto National Forest , following the Verde river . The valley is beautiful and wide. Completely breathtaking. On the flip side, let me tell you, what you see on a sectional from a topographic standpoint has very, very little to do with whats underneath you when you fly it. No matter how remote the areas I'd flown over previously, I could almost always spot a crude road winding around somewhere within a few miles. Here, nothing. There was no decent place to land, nor a way to drive in.
As I continued a gradual ascent the tailwind increased. Ground-speed was varying 45 to 55, at times choppy. Before I knew it I'd reached the point where I was supposed to turn east to Payson (PAN), which is where Michael and Rusty would be waiting. I'd taken off with both tanks full, there was plenty of fuel left. I decided to continue north toward Montazuma (19AZ). After checking the sectional again it was apparent I could make Sedona (SEZ). And so it was that about 3 hours after leaving Glendale, I put down at Sedona, which is a strip built on top of a butte. The winds didn't make it a pretty landing, but such is life. I sat there for a minute expecting someone to come up and ask me about Voyager, but it seems my arrival went unnoticed. So I packed the chute and called Michael, who was in Payson. Michael and Rusty were a bit worried (Michael, as is his nature, more so) that I'd gone down somewhere in the valley, but were relieved when I explained that a tailwind had allowed a slight deviation from the expected flight plan.
A front is moving through, and winds are expected to remain above 20 mph for the next two or three days.