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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leg 2 - Avoid the Mountain!

Leg 2, and the radio problems continued.

I filed SWW direct to ELP (El Paso), and calling for clearance delivery, what I got was "cleared as filed.  After take off, enter controlled airspace on a heading of 030, climb and maintain 3,000.   Expect 9,000 feet 10 minutes after departure, contact departure on 127.2".  You get a routing like this in case of radio failure in the clouds.  Should you loose radio contact with ATC, you follow the last instructions received, or your plan as cleared, at the last altitude assigned, or the lowest allowed altitude on your route, whichever is the highest.  So I told to climb out on a northeast heading to 3,000ft, and if contact was lost, to climb on course to 9,000 ft after 10 minutes.

After take off, we re-entered the clouds at 800 feet, turning to 030.  To climb 800 feet in the Bonanza takes about 30 seconds, so it all happens quite quickly.  Gear up and with a suitable climb setting on the engine (25 inches of power and 2500 RM), I called departure, and was asked to turn right to 180 (South), and climb to 5,000 feet.  Just when I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be turned back to the West, I was cleared on course direct ELP, and climb and maintain 9,000 feet, and contact Ft. Worth Center.

Just between Midland and the New Mexico state line, the clouds cleared away, and we had our first sight of the ground, and of the Guadeloupe mountains looming in the distance.  Oil fields and circular, irrigated crop fields passed under us at 163 kts (7 kts headwind).  Nearing the mountains, center had me climb to 11,000 feet, a new height record for me as a pilot.  Getting close to the mountains, I asked for a slight deviation to the left.  I knew I had enough height to go over the mountains with plenty of clearance to spare, but I didn't see any reason to do so, when a slight deviation kept us 5 miles clear of the southern end.  Nearing the Salt Flats VOR (SFL), I turned back on course.

Shortly before being switched over to El Paso approach, Albuquerque center cleared me down to 9,000, then El Paso brought me down to 7,000 and told me to expect a visual approach to runway 26 Right, which is exactly what El Paso tower cleared me to land on.  Taxiing across runway 26 Left to Cutter, I shut down the engine at around 2pm, asking the desk to fill up the left tank only (at 6.55 a gallon, I didn't want to buy more than I had to), and for a ride to Chili's for a late lunch.

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