Tag Archives: KLXV

Aspen, CO

dg808sWhat better way to “celebrate” an one-way-in, one-way-out approach than with an only-one-approach aircraft: DG–808S Competition Sailplane – a.k.a. glider. Half of the reason I wanted to fly the glider here is to see if the AI tow-aircraft  (a Maule) could get off the ground at Leadville, Lake County (KLXV). The other reason is what better place to catch thermals than in the mountains. In this adventure I’m flying from Leadville to Aspen, Colorado (KASE), a 26nm “glide.”

For this flight there was no charts; no navigation radio. I used the GPS to find KASE, and I turned on schematic thermals so I could see them.

Flying thermals is hard. Flying thermals in the Rockies at 12-15,000 feet is nearly impossible. I admit I had to cheat and use slew a couple times – the thermals just weren’t cutting it. I read afterwords that the trick to thermals is to fly inside the “donut.” I tried that, but it didn’t seem to help much. I tried flaps, trim, turning-clockwise, turning-counterclockwise, but nothing seemed to get me lift inside the thermal. I also tried riding the “ribbon” of the schematic – that’s where the turbulent air is – that only made things worse. So, I didn’t earn my thermal-riding badge today.

Once I got near KASE there was one more thermal I could shoot on the south side of the valley. That was enough to carry me up a couple hundred feet. Then, I turned toward the airport and made my way down the valley to the north.

When I was about 10 miles away (GPS) I turned back toward KASE and started my descent.  If you think climbing in a glider takes a long time, descending takes twice as long. I think my speed was 40 knots and my descent rate was probably about 500 feet per minute. Needless to say it takes patience. So down I went slowly like a kite.

Within about 1 mile I lowered the gear, set the flaps to full, and kept an ear on the variometer; porpoising a little.

Leadville, CO

mauleIf you’ve ever been to Leadville, CO, you know it’s a small town, with a small airport, surrounded by Pike National Forest in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. What you may not know, however, is that the airport is North America’s highest (public) airport.  We’re starting at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, KBJC, at 5,673 feet, and flying 70 nm southwest to Leadville’s Lake County Airport (KLXV) at 9,927 ft., in a Maule Orion.

The question isn’t can the Maule  power us up almost 5,000 feet in 70 miles. The real question is can it climb over (or around) the 12,000 foot mountains in those 70 miles? This is our next adventure.

I used SkyVector for my chart. This was a simple flight on paper – a straight shot – but navigating around mountains is tricky. I set NAV1 for an outbound course on the 222 radial of the JEFFCO (BJC) VOR. The weather was good so Metro tower gave us 29R for departure.

I wanted to do a power-takeoff, near-zero-length takeoff, but the takeoff roll was longer than I thought – that’s a bad sign. As I rolled on to the 222 radial and headed for the mountains it become clear that this Maule wasn’t going to top the 12,000 foot peaks in front of me. It struggled to climb to 10,000 feet.

I had to make some tough decisions – which mountain passes do I take. The VFR sectional isn’t crystal clear where the box canyons are or how the passes are shaped. Throw in Flight Simulator’s variable terrain generator and it becomes a guessing game.

There were a couple times I got boxed in and had to turn around. Luckily it’s only 70 miles. I drifted from one valley to another until I was almost on top of Leadville. I made a gliding decent while calling position to local traffic. Soon enough I was on the ground in Leadville wondering what’s next and how am I getting out of here.