Cross Country In Cessna 150
Cessna 150 airplanes are not noted as cross country airplanes. In fact, some say they are not cross country airplanes. But sure enough, they'll do it. Given careful consideration to leg distance and weight limits I feel Cessna 150s can be adequate for cross country flying. In June of 2000 I flew N0146 from Northern Arizona to North Eastern Colorado and back with my wife in just a little over a week and had a great time. Below are my comments and concerns for the flight.
The annual for146 was completed in the previous month as was my biennial flight review. I bought a noise canceling headset ( a Pilot 17-79 DNC XL) and a new GPS (a Garmin 92). I wanted the seats redone but settled for a temporary job as scheduling was not possible. I purchased new sectionals and new facilities directories in May but even at that the facilities directories were out of date on the day I left on the trip. I filled out flight plan forms except for the winds, speed, leg times, and fuel usage for no less than 9 flight plans. This made the completing the flight plans a 5 minute affair. I also determined waypoints, put them in the GPS and set up 9 routes that coincided with the flight plans. I put a new battery in the portable intercom and a spare in the glove box. I also put new batteries in the flight calculator. I had new batteries in the GPS but used the plane lighter socket for power the entire trip. I went over everything in my two flight bags and left behind everything I felt wasn't needed. The flight bags weight totaled 20 lbs. which allowed for 40 lbs for our clothing etc. My wife did an excellent job selecting light weight clothing and necessities. The plane was washed and waxed and ready to go. Everything was neatly organized and packed and ready.
We were up early and off at 6am from Prescott AZ to Gallup NM. I wanted to leave earlier but it just wasn't to be. I activated my flight plan just after leaving the class D surface space and started to climb as the mountains just south of Flagstaff are pretty high. By the time we were over Sedona we were at 7500 ft. with spectacular views. The weather was good with a slight tail wind getting us there in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Landing on runway 24 was fine as there was a nice westerly breeze. I asked the fueler to top it off while I went in for a weather briefing and to file my flight plan for the second leg to Las Vegas New Mexico. The fueler gave me some static saying that this was a high altitude airport (6472 ft.) and density altitude was a problem. Well, this scared the heck out of my wife but I told him to top it off anyway.
The temp was 77 degrees with the nice breeze would be a piece of cake as far as I was concerned. Needless to say my wife was quite a mess on takeoff but, as I figured it was no problem. I did a couple of circles just south of the airfield with the smell of av fuel that was topped off to the max for a climb over the hills to the East and off we took for Las Vegas. We got to Las Vegas in 2 hrs and 15 minutes to find the wind was 19 knots but right down runway 20. My landing again was fine, better than I expected at any rate. We had motel reservations and after having the plane topped off called for a ride to town.
We liked Las Vegas. After getting some lunch we walked to the old part of town, further than we thought, and enjoyed the nice warm temperature, for the most part. That evening we had a very nice dinner at the motel (The Black Jack Grill) at the motel on their patio under an elm tree. What a nice day, this trip was going to be a snap.
By this time my wife was concerned about the elevation of the airports and Las Vegas is even higher (6877 ft.). I arranged for a cab the previous night for as early as I could get it which was about 6am. The plane was topped from the night before so a quick preflight and we were off at 6:45 am on runway 32 which slopes down hill and is 8000 ft long on our way to La Junta CO. Again no problem, but again the wife was really stressed. Guess she really didn't believe I knew what I was doing. Maybe she thought if she asked the right question I would rethink something and do it differently saving our necks. I thought about saving some weight by putting her on the bus. Like the entire trip I activated my flight plan in the air just after takeoff. Rarely did I have a difficult time getting flight service.
But alas, we we're on our way to La Junta CO where we found a very nice FBO, a courtesy car and breakfast in town. The flight time to La Junta was 2 hrs and 15 minutes. Again I made a good landing but it wasn't as good as I'd have like it to be. The flight up around Raton Pass was not the big deal I'd have supposed. The area to the west of the 9500 ft. peak was much lower and quite easy to fly in. I just have to say something about the flyer available at the La Junta airport. I guess because they are there 24 hours a day and it's not all that busy sometimes, they have produced a great flyer to aid pilots driving into town for the night or just for a meal. I'll bet there isn't a better one anywhere. In all the airports I've been to none can compare. And they are such nice people. I will make it a point to stop there anytime I have a chance.
Another weather briefing and flight plan set us up for a nice flight to Wray CO where my sister was waiting. The time to Wray was 2 hours. A call to Unicom on 122.8 got no answer. As we approached the airport we could see why. The guy there was out mowing the grass at the approach end of runway 32. It was a little windy but the windsock gave us the information we needed so in we came. My landing at Wray was the pits. Probably because I landed long because of the mower. It must have looked ok as my sister didn't say anything. I tied down the airplane and covered it up for the weekend. I was pretty content with the way things were going by that time. The GPS was on my wife's yoke for her to keep track of things and allowed me verify our position as well. Communications were going pretty with with the airports and flight service. I was little tired flying into Wray but otherwise everything was going fine. I was ready for a weekend with my sister and her family.
The Facility Directory indicates the FBO at Wray opens at 9 am but I got everybody out there at 8 and sure enough they were open so I could get some avgas (10.2 gallons). The weather briefing indicated winds later in Denver's Jeffco airport but I'd be in there easy by 11 so I wasn't too worried. Also the elevation at the Wray airport was 3667 ft so that wasn't a problem. This was anticipated to be a piece of cake as I was only flying one leg and I was used to flying in the Phoenix Class B surface space and Denver's didn't look much different. The flight was smooth as could be until I started nearing Denver where it really started getting bumpy. But, no biggie as I've flown in bumpy winds. Problem was they were getting worse! I tuned in Jeffco ATIS ( airport information) and the winds were 20 gusting to 30 knots at 250 degrees. Yikes! that's a 40 degree crosswind. for runway 29. I always draw a diagram of the airport on my flight plan. So I was a little concerned.... :-| North of Denver I all but forgot about the GPS and turned south at what I thought was the freeway. A call to Jeffco convinced them I didn't know exactly where I was so they had me call approach control for a vector. Oh man! It worked and they gave me a vector to Jeffco. The closer we got the better the wind direction became but the speed was the same. Would you believe it, someone was doing touch and goes in that wind. By the time I lined up on the runway the wind was 290 degrees, right down the runway and I made a really nice landing. Off the runway I was given a choice of parking and chose Stevens Aviation not knowing the difference. It sure was a good choice as they are really nice folks. I tied down 146 while my wife called our friends to come get us. The next day a storm came in with winds of 65 miles per hour. A check later showed 146 was securely tied down and fortunately facing into the wind. It was cocked a little in it's parking space so I imagine it tried to fly some. I'm glad I wasn't out there when the wind was blowing like that. We had a very nice time with good friends in Denver which included a hike in the Rockies in the snow and a trip to Ocean Discovery where they had a new shark exhibit.
From Jeffco we flew south out of the Denver Class B surface, east to Limon for a direct flight into south to La Junta. We were off by about 8 am with no problem at the 5670 elevation but once airborne my radio acted up. The voice was garbled. I think now the signal at the airport was too strong. I turned the radio off and on a couple of times and it seemed to help for short periods of time but once we got away from the airport it cleared up and we had no further problems. The flight down the eastern Rockies was great and the entire leg went well taking 2 hours and 25 minutes to go just over 200 miles. The weather briefing at La Junta for the flight to Las Vegas was not very good. I felt it wouldn't be too bad so decided to give it a try as we could always turn around and return to La Junta. It was really bumpy and by the time we got to the north of of Trinidad it was a real mess so turn around we did and spent the night in La Junta. I was listening to Flight Watch on 122.0 and it seemed others were having quite a time. The airport lent us a courtesy car so we were able to see the town a little and go out for a really nice steak before turning in early so we could get up very early for the flight to Las Vegas and it's high altitude airport. I can't say enough about the steak I had at Chiaramonte's on Santa Fe Street there. It was a great steak.
My wife had no problem getting up at 4 am as I was already up and had gotten a weather briefing and filed our flight plan. As the sun peaked over the horizon we were lifting off and heading for Las Vegas. The flight was great but a little slower as it took 2 hrs and 25 minutes to go 190 miles. The early morning weather was calm and really had a nice flight. We got to Las Vegas early, 7:35 am, so a quick fill up , a weather briefing and flight plan and we were off for Gallup.
Problem was, we were flying directly into the wind. The ground speed on the GPS often read in the sixties, the lower sixties some of the way. It took us just over 3 hours to go 233 miles. But we were there by 11:30 am and I felt like going on so topped her off for the flight to Prescott. I wasn't back in familiar territory but was more comfortable with my situation. The weather indicated thunderstorms around Prescott and north to Flagstaff but the southern part looked fine so I decided to go for it.
I figured if the thunderstorms got bad, we could go in to Payson and either wait out the storm or spend the night there. Not long after I called Flight service to activate my flight plan I suggested we spend the night in Gallup. I didn't have to say it twice. My wife was ready to turn around. There was a wall of clouds ahead that was solid as could be. After a few minutes in the Jacuzzi it hit me that I was more tired than I thought. Before dinner that night at the Best Western where we were staying we browsed the gift shop there. The Indian goods were quite inexpensive particularly the Kachina dolls. The next morning the weather briefing indicated clear flying to we topped off the tanks and headed out after a nice breakfast at the motel. The takeoff from Gallup wasn't all that great even though it was cool, the lack of surface winds like the day before made for a long rollout. And wouldn't you know it, they put a mobile home park right at the end of the runway. Some people just have no sense. I was up enough to go around but was prepared to fly right over the thing. I climbed right up to 8,500 ft as I knew I'd need the altitude once I got south of Flagstaff. At cruise the winds were right on our nose so it took 3 hrs to get to Prescott. Over Sedona the portable intercom went out so we had to replace the battery. I read where it should have lasted longer but no big deal as I had a spare 9 volt battery in the glove box. Prescott was as usual very busy. Nearly a dozen war planes were getting ready to take off to make some low passes over a parade. But we were home and that is what counted.
It was a great trip! I didn't tire as nearly as I thought. I think the noise canceling headset helped a lot and the GPS was a real asset. Over 22 hours of flying. Traveled probably 2000 miles. So, are Cessna 150s cross country airplanes? They sure are. N60146 will take me anyplace it is safe to go, with my wife and 40 lbs, of luggage.
For comments, suggestions, or questions please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.