Truckee-Tahoe Airport (KTRK)
There ‘Be’ Mountains Up Here
February 17, 2001
Had my high-altitude checkout, yesterday. Flew from RHV (Reid-Hillview, San Jose) to TRK (Truckee-Tahoe) airport.
This was my first flight into the Sierras. I made sure I took the advice of many of you guys and some local pilot friends and bought a book called "Mountain Flying" by Sparky Imerson (sp?). Helped a lot, during my briefing by my CFI (the same one I had gone through my PPL training with).
My CFI made sure he drilled in the message about density altitude and how it can turn a take-off into a ride off the end of the runway - if proper planning wasn't made.
We kind of 'lucked-out' when we flew yesterday, 'cause the temperature was lower than standard temperature (so actually the air was more dense than it might have been otherwise). I'm partly tempted to make another flight with my favorite CFI in the summer, so that I can REALLY experience the effects of density altitude on flight performance. It is one thing reading about it, but still another, actually experiencing it.
On the non-technical side, geez it was beautiful! Kind of like looking at a beautiful woman who may have a hidden dark-side if the wrong things are said and done - you admire all the beauty, but understand that there are strict rules that must be followed in order to have an enjoyable experience in the company of that beauty. By the time we reached Donner Pass we were at 10,500 and felt a little 'kiss' from the pass with a very brief touch of light-moderate, turbulence as we passed over - gave us a firm, but very brief little shake,,,, kind of like the mountains giving us a little taste of their power. Besides giving many more options, the extra altitude kept us out of the bulk of the occasional turbulence.
We flew from RHV (Reid-Hillview Airport) to Livermore to the Sacramento VOR, up to Auburn, over Blue Canyon airport. Basically, it was a case of a VFR pilot flying "IFR" (as in "I Follow Roads") :-). I have to admit, I had been somewhat apprehensive of landing FOR THE FIRST TIME at a 'mountain airport'
Interstate 80 winds through the Sierras below us
A view of Lake Tahoe on the way back
Thankfully, Truckee Airport wasn't anything like I imagined - I had imagined a thin runway 'glued' to the top of some mountain ridge. In reality it was more like a runway at the bottom of a 'bowl' and landing there was pretty straightforward. There was a small crosswind on landing which has made me decide to do lots more crosswind landing practice than I've done. Actually, the landing went well, in fact it was one of those wonderful and rare, textbook 'squeakers' - i.e., the stall horn went off a split-second before my mains touched the runway. Did it on the way back too! Was especially cool since I hadn't flown with my instructor since my checkout (after I got my ticket) in the 172, last year.
Only because I told him that I had a certain amount of reservation about landing at a high-altitude airport for the first time - just after having this beautiful 'textbook' landing my instructor grins and tells me "Yeah, go ahead and tell me again how you've never done this before",,, we both got a chuckle!
Stopped at the Truckee/Tahoe pilot lounge,,, very nice (wish I could have stayed a few minutes to check it out, but I had to get back to RHV by a certain time to meet a client appointment) attended to the PIC's 'physiological needs' at a well-maintained restroom and back to the plane. My instructor, suggested that we takeoff on a runway that would involve a cross-wind takeoff, since there was no one else in or anywhere near the airport pattern. The cross-wind take-off went without a hitch (I think my CFI had me do it as a confidence builder, since it was a 'new' airport to me). We flew over to a small frozen lake where I did some 360's to gain altitude to head back over the pass.
Truckee Airport Pilot Lounge
What a wonderful experience. I confess to feeling especially, smug, seeing the long line of cars, creeping up I-80; while I was flying at 119 knots ground speed (we had a 12-15kt tail wind) as reflected on the GPS.
Below graphic designed by: Jeff Bucchino,
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