Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cedar Lake - Lamesa - 11,000 MSL

On Sunday I went out flying in my Cessna 150.  It was a relatively cool afternoon.  After preflighting I took off from runway 16 and headed northeast toward Lamesa, TX, which is 55 nautical miles from KODO and therefore counts as a cross-country flight for log purposes.  I decided to climb.  The plane was running well and seemed extra powerful.  Just me in the plane and a cool day with low density altitude (3,600' at KODO).  Climbing toward Lamesa, keeping an indicated airspeed of around 70 mph.  About 10 nm from Lamesa airport I decided to turn NW toward Cedar Lake, which is a normally dry lakebed near Lamesa.  Legend has it that Quanah Parker was born on the shores of this lake.  At this point I was at about 10,000 MSL.  My previous record in the Cessna 150 was about 9500' MSL, so I decided to go for a new record, a nice round 11,000' MSL.

Cedar Lake from around 11,000' (8,000' above the ground)

Cedar Lake.  Note the islands and the drill pads for wells.

Drainage into Cedar Lake

Photographic "proof" of my altitude

After enjoying being "up high" for a while, I swooped toward Lamesa airport in a series of roller-coaster type dives.  Always fun.  A few split seconds of zero gravity at the "top" of each sequence.  I topped out at 145 mph indicated airspeed.  I landed in Lamesa and topped off my fuel tanks at the self-serve for $5.00/gallon.

On the way back to Odessa, I decided to stay low.  Low is fun because you can see more.  Low is also a little scary, because if there is a problem (engine failure), there is less time to think through what to do and to act.  Altitude gives you some measure of safety because (in theory) you have time to think about what to do, and some range to make a nearby airport or landing strip if one is available.  In reality, out here in west Texas, there are lots of places to land.  An engine problem at 700' AGL would be very scary, no doubt, but all you have time to do is get your airspeed set to best glide (Airspeed), look for a place to land straight ahead or with a slight turn into the wind (Best place to land), and then pull out the Checklist to see if you can restart the engine.  Probably no time for Checklist when you're at 700' AGL.

Flying at 700' is much more intimate than up high.  The higher you go, the more you can see -- but it's like using a wide-angle lens.  Sure, you can capture more of the landscape, but your film frame is still the same size.  So everything gets kind of... diluted.  When you're flying down low, you look more closely at individual things or places.  Also it makes you feel like you're going faster, which is important in a plane that cruises at 90 mph.

Frac pond north of Odessa, TX

Back near KODO, I loitered around in the air for a while, just enjoying flying.  Cross country can be a bit stressful, but when you're within easy range of your home airport, that melts away and it's fun just to hang around at 700 or 800' above the ground, doing lazy gentle circles.  The sun began to sink below the horizon and suddenly I had a thought -- why not climb to a few thousand feet and see if I could spot the silhouette of the Guadalupe Mountains far off to the west?  Ben and I had gone hiking there the day before, climbing to Hunter Peak.  Sure enough, when the sun sank to the right position and I got up to 2,000' AGL, there they were, in perfect silhouette.  The photo I snapped through the windshield with my phone was not that great, but it was awesome to see in person.  I could even pick out Hunter Peak.

The sun sank a little lower and I turned toward Odessa, calling my position 10 miles out on the KODO CTAF, 123.0.  A Beech twin passed by somewhere in the dusk, far above me, but I never saw him.  In a few minutes I was passing over houses north of Odessa on a straight-in approach to runway 16.  Taxied to my hanger, shut down the plane, got out, and backed it into the hanger with the tow bar.


Plants Amaze Me said...

Sounds scary fun. No just scary. Too bad we didn't have time to go flying when we visited last month.
Neat that you went up and looked for the peak you climbed the day before, and you saw it.
Congrats on the 11,000 MSL!

Glen said...

You might wish to fly the early air route from Big Springs west. The old marker arrows ( ) were still visible 5 years ago, when I drove the route and looked for the remains of the airfields and arrows. Interesting bit of West Texas history.