Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Squeezing It In

Saturday saw the IFR Pilot taking advantage of the CAVU weather to knock off the VFR cross-country flight required for the commerical ticket. One of the points of landing was Elkins, WV.

As you can see from the sectional, Elkins lies in a valley between two ranges of mountains/hills/whatever you want to call them:

The sectional, however, just doesn't do this area justice in educating you about how tight the approach is going to be. Although it still doesn't convey all of the detail, the Google Earth view sheds a bit more light on what's going to be going on as you fly into Elkins:

The valley into which this airport is sandwiched is only perhaps 3.5 to 4 miles wide.

Coming in from the northwest, the IFR Pilot was at 5000 feet, in order to ensure sufficient clearance over the western ridge. Having cleared the ridge, however, there was no way to drop the 3300 or so feet to pattern altitude for runway 23, which was in use. Even after giving it the old college try, Mike Hotel was 1000 feet above pattern altitude while on short final. Two words:

Go. Around.

Which is just what your faithful narrator did, and then set up for a left downwind to runway 32. Even then, things were a bit dicey.

I suppose that much of this is attributable to the fact that the vast, vast majority of the time in my logbook is in the flatlands of the Midwest. Even the Great Alaska Adventure involved flying into airports that were in well-defined valleys. Bush Pilot, I am not.

So, for the record, Elkins is definitely OFF the list of "Places That The IFR Pilot Will Fly Into During Actual IFR Conditions (tm)."

Night y'all.

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