This story starts in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was there on business around a year ago when my client and friend, Aurelio, came into the conference room with some questions about an approach plate for Chicago. It turns out he used to be an ultra-light pilot and still flies MS flight simulator on a regular basis. We talked quite a bit about airplanes and I made a note to be sure to get him up in the plane when the opportunity presented itself.
Last week the opportunity presented itself. I was in San Francisco with Aurelio and two of his associates and they needed to go to Las Vegas after we were done with our meetings. I offered to fly them to Vegas, but thought perhaps we should go see the Grand Canyon along the way – even though its not quite on the way. Winter weather turned out to be a non-issue thanks to the drought we are having, and winter also enabled us to get reservations at the otherwise unobtainable El Tovar Lodge on the rim of the canyon. We were set.
We took off from Oakland airport and headed straight to Yosemite. Great views! We then did a dog-led south over high terrain to hit Mammoth Pass before heading directly over Las Vegas and on to the Grand Canyon. I have done some canyon flights before and still had the waypoints programmed into the GPS so the routing through the special corridors was easy.
I have to say the flight was a little long (about 3.5 hours), but they really got to see some great views of two national parks. Aurelio flew almost the entire way and except for an 180 knot approach to landing that scared the bejesus out of the passengers, he did a great job of handling the airplane. I think Gallo and Alexandre in the back enjoyed it, except Alexandre asked a few times how much a jet costs. He likes fast cars and I think he’d like a faster airplane!
We stayed on the rim and enjoyed a fine meal (thanks Aurelio), took a nice walk on the rim in the morning, then got a cab back to the airport and on to Vegas. The main Las Vegas airport is too expensive to park my plane there ($80 a night), but by buying fuel I was able to drop off the passengers there at no charge, which was great because flying the approach into McCarran is a lot of fun with the Casinos right there next to the airport.