29R - Nothing but blue skies...

Alamosa, CO

Weather: KBJC 131349Z 23004KT 60SM SKC 15/03 A3002

The airport in Alamosa, CO possessed two rewards for me, that lifted it from a small town airport no different from any other, to something I actually wanted. The first reward was nothing different from any other airport, but just so happened manifest itself at Alamosa: completing my first long cross-country flight after getting my pilots license. In that case Alamosa just got lucky, but for me it was still special. The second reward was was held by Alamosa purely due to it's location. Sitting in the center of the San Luis Valley, surrounded by mountains. Flying in, over, and through mountains can be a dangerous undertaking due to unique weather conditions very different from the flat lands. Flying to Alamosa requires crossing the mountains at some point. Fortunately Alamosa has access via a relatively easy to fly mountain pass, La Veta. La Veta pass is a great introduction to the mountains, and yet doesn't require a mountain flying course to transit it. Passing between the Spanish Peaks to the south, and Blanca Peak to the north (both 14ers), is a beautiful sight. It was a nice introduction to the mountains without getting too technical.

I was flying with my friend Javier in a Diamond DA-20 I've just been checked out to fly. The fun of flying the 20 is something I could take an entire post to tell you about. The combination of the low wing, size/weight, control stick instead of a yoke and responsiveness all add up to a really good time. That is not to say flying the 172 isn't fun, we'll just call it different. They really are two different planes, and now knowing how to fly two different planes, it is nice to know I'm learning new things. Not that I don't learn something new every time I fly, but to feel like I'm making some additional progress, even if it's just for fun.

There really isn't much to note about Alamosa (or the airport at least). It was little different from any other small town airport, and with no restaurant close to the field, it was a quick stop to stretch our legs and get some gas, and then back in the plane. One more thing about Alamosa that I didn't realize before the flight, is that it is also very close to Great Sand Dunes National Park. I've been there before on the ground, and it is an amazing place, but to see it from the air was also very interesting. From the ground, the park slowly comes into view and although seeing these giant sand dunes is still very impressive, since it comes more slowly, it is almost easier to process. But from the air, not only are you traveling much quicker, so the dunes appear more suddenly, but you can also see the bigger picture, and realize how strange it is to see a giant swath of sand dunes nestled up against the mountains, in a completely foreign place.

The flight back was pretty uneventful, and about 40 minutes longer due to a decent headwind. The best part about flying back was using flight following. Since Javier flew down to Alamosa, and I flew back this was my first oportunity to try it out. It was nice to have constant radar contact and to get to hear other traffic in the area. Another set of eyes watching what's going on, gives some additional piece of mind. Another observation from the flight: when I was training all my flight planning was with a pen, paper, chart, plotter, etc., and things took a while while I planned every checkpoint, and calculated all the data. While this was great practice and probably the best way to learn about flight planning, I was ignorant of the amazing tools available that could greatly reduce the amount of time spent taking all this information down. Flight planning with duats, using flight following and having a GPS in the cockpit felt like I was cheating. The time it took planning the flight was cut by almost 10 times. The extra time that was freed up in the plane I could use to actually fly the plane, and check the acuracy of these tools, and it was very nice.


  1. For The Love of Flying said...

    Pete - I used to be a CFI out of the old Jeffco Airport (now Rocky Mountain) in Broomfield. When I was teaching mountain flying I would fly over to Alamosa all the time. YOU ARE RIGHT - it is beautiful to fly between those awesome peaks.

    Personally I have no problem with uneventful flights.

    Pete have you ever thought about becoming a Sport Pilot flight instructor? It is a great way to make some part-time cash, build hours, AND YOU GET TO FLY!

    Thanks for your blog. It brought back a lot of old memories.


  2. Flying Alaska said...

    As an Alaskan pilot of 40 years, I still get goose bumps of joy every time I'm in the air. I welcome you to the aviator ranks, and I'm with the other Dave - an uneventful flight is a successful flight! Be careful, and have fun.

    Dave in Alaska  

  3. Craig said...

    Pete, I'm curious as to what has happened in your flying over the last few years. How about an update?

    Stratos Aviation  

  4. JavalĂ­ Rubio said...

    What a fantastic blog for people who love aviation!!! Congratulations!!!
    Please visit a portuguese blog which shows air pictures from Portugal taken during my flights:
    Third Dimension - Air Pictures from Portugal


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