Flying into Phoenix
Showtime was 08:00 in El Paso the morning of Nov. 13, and most of us met downstairs in the hotel in the atrium for a complimentary full breakfast. We then left for the airport, and the Pilots in Command began haggling over the best route of flight.
At the airport, we did our preflight inspections, turned in the rental vehicles and had our flight briefing. This time my aircraft would lead the first flight of four Black Hawks to a small airport in Demming, Ariz., on the way to Tucson, Ariz.
Our stop in Demming -- just 70 miles away -- was designed only to let us to on enough fuel to get through the mountains to Tucson. But as we completed our first fuel check, we noticed that we were burning significantly less fuel than we had planned and that, thanks to a tailwind, our ground speed was pretty high vs. our indicated airspeed. A quick calculation told us we could bypass Demming and fly straight through.
As we flew in to the Tucson airport, we could see the old military aircraft bone yards at Davis Monthan AFB on our right hand side. There were thousands of old military aircraft lined up row after row. I wish I'd had more time to ogle, but as the flying pilot, I had to concentrate on the runway less than two miles away.
Cutting out the first stop of our flight allowed for a long break in Tucson, and we took the time to go out and get lunch rather than eat a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) in a hurry. We were also able to catch some of the NFL games in the pilot's lounge and I took advantage of an Internet connection to update the blog.
We flew our next leg (to Phoenix) in one formation of eight Black Hawks -- practicing for our arrival into Yuma the following day. The whole route from El Paso to Phoenix was beautiful, taking us in and out of the mountains.
As we approached Phoenix, we flew across a parachute jump in progress, causing a bit of concern over the radios. I was in the lead aircraft, and we all were on the look out for parachuters. Our next nervous moment came as we entered the class Bravo airspace around Phoenix, where our flight of eight Black Hawks had to meander in and around several airliners before we landed.
After shutting down the aircraft, we tied them down, refueled and then loaded ourselves into a caravan of rental vehicles -- sort of like Ringling Brothers arriving in a new city, minus the clowns. We finished up before dark, giving us plenty of time to enjoy Phoenix, especially when the commander announced that we didn't have to report until 12:30 the next day.
Up to this point, none of the stops had provided much personal time, so most of us enjoyed a night on the town compliments of a resident friend of one of our crew chiefs. (Thanks for showing us around Jon!)
By Bert Stover |
December 9, 2005; 5:00 AM ET
Enroute to Yuma, AZ
Ft. Dix Mobilization
Preparation for Departure
Previous: Break for Thanksgiving | Next: Arrival at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma
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