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By Skyhawk to Colorado - Day 4 - Wichita, KS, to Albuquerque, NM

October 11, 2018 10:38 PM | Michael Brown (Administrator)

I'm in Albuquerque, as planned - although how I got here is nothing like what I'd planned. When I got up this morning it was nice and sunny in Wichita, and Albuquerque was showing clear skies and forecast to remain VFR all day. Great! But, today was a good lesson in why you can't just rely on the end points of a trip being VFR - you need to look at the whole route.

Although Albuquerque was VFR, most of the section of my direct route from western Kansas through Texas into New Mexico was IFR or Low IFR - ceilings in the range of 500 feet down to 100 feet. Worse, they were all predicted to remain IFR all day and into Friday. There was an Airmet issued which lay right across the route:

I didn't want to give up entirely - it was nice in WIchita, after all, and if I could get out of there and fly somewhere in the right direction under decent flying conditions, it beat sitting around in Kansas in a motel room. There was an airmet, but it did end if you went far enough south. As I zoomed out and looked at more of the map on Garmin Pilot, it appeared that there would be at worst marginal VFR conditions heading southward into Texas, and most of New Mexico south of Albuquerque was showing clear skies or good VFR. So, I took off from WIchita and headed southward as high as I could go and still stay under the clouds.

One thing you notice as you fly is that all Midwestern towns, nearly without exception, have a railroad line and grain silos. Norwich, Kansas, follows the rule:

They're not just farming grain these days - they're farming wind, too...

I suppose we have to have a Rorschach Test Pond for the day, too...

I'm not at all sure what this shows - the white lines could be salt, leaching from the earth, maybe?

Circular irrigators are a fixture in the northern Midwest - I was actually surprised that I had not seen any yet in this trip. These are the first, as I flew into Oklahoma:

I usually make it a point to set a waypoint every 50-60 miles along my route, preferably an airport. That not only gives me something to look for every half an hour or so, but it also means that if I need one, I'm never more than 25-30 miles from the nearest airport. As I flew over Elk City, OK, Airport (KELK), I saw this Stearman taxiing out for takeoff.

An intersection in Texas:

The Red River, on the Oklahoma/Texas border, is very well named:

Roads snake around for purposes known only to the makers in this Texas oilfield:

When I flew by it, I couldn't figure out what this mysterious structure was. Looking at the picture more closely, I wonder if it's a collection of oil pipelines being excavated?

When I landed in Midland, Texas (KMAF), I wasn't sure if I'd be taking off again that day or spending the night. There was a solid overcast at 1900 feet, and there was a strong wind from the southeast. While 493 was being topped off, and I was enjoying a great Chile Relleno plate at the cafe in the FBO, I checked the weather further along. My original re-route from Midland had become IFR while I was flying, but not far south Pecos, TX, KPEQ was reporting 4,000 foot ceilings, and the route from there into New Mexico and up to Albuquerque from the south had ceilings of 7,000 feet or more. I rerouted the reroute to go even further south, hopped back into 493 and launched Pecos-ward.

As I went along the clouds lifted more and more, and I climbed to stay under them. By the time I reached the Texas/New Mexico border it was bright and sunny, and the clouds were well over 10,000 feet and scattered as we passed from dry flat country into the high desert.

The ramparts overlooking Capitan, NM, marked the point where the route turned almost due north - finally, I was flying toward ABQ...

Willard, Texas, supplied a view of all of the circular irrigators I'd missed earlier in the trip.

Who thought it was a good idea to put a housing development out in the middle of featureless desert? They have big lots, at least...

There was a little light rain just before I reached Albuquerque. Typical of desert conditions, the shafts of rain were widely scattered and easy to avoid - but created beautiful rainbows.

Finally, we were on final for Runway 21 at KABQ.

I left N46493 in the hands of Atlantic Aviation, picked up my rental car and drove downtown to my motel. 

In the end, my four and a half hour direct flight became a 7.8 hour flying day, with two legs - Wichita to Midland,TX, and Midland to Albuquerque via Pecos, TX.

Still, I made it. Now, if the weather will hold off, tomorrow morning, early, I plan to be at the Balloon Festival for the 6:00AM Dawn Patrol launch.

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