A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a business trip down to Bountiful, UT – just north of Salt Lake City. Ever on the lookout for opportunities to fly, I found a small airfield close to the office I was visiting and called up the local FBO. As with most small airports this one had an old beat up truck that they were willing to loan me a quick local trip. A quick check of the weather revealed gusty conditions, but more than manageable in the C182 I was planning to rent for the trip.
I filed a VFR flight plan the evening before planning to fly V21 between IDA and OGD, then direct or vectors into KBTF, but once I got to the airport the morning of the trip and saw the severe clear conditions I opted to fly direct and pick up VFR flight following once I was at altitude. It was early October and still 50f on the ground, with no visible moisture and no airmets anywhere close I wasn’t worried about icing. Typical of fall in the inter-mountain west, the winds were pretty gnarly: 24 gusting to 32 on the ground and we’d be fighting a good stiff headwind all the way down.
I’d flown in the busy Bravo airspace before, but a recent experience had me a bit jittery so I wanted to be SURE I was in compliance the whole time. The “layer cake” above KSLC is a bit odd because of the mountainous terrain to either side; throw in a few class delta airports (including an air force base) just off the approach or departure path of the major runways and you’ve got quite an intricate net of possible deviations to weave as a VFR pilot.
The flight in was actually pretty uneventful until the approach itself. I had aimed straight for Brigham City (BMC), knowing that I could stay at 11,500 and be within radar coverage until crossing Brigham, and would be handed off to Salt Lake Approach shortly after. It also is still miles from the edge of the Mode C veil and the outer limits of the Bravo airspace, so if for some reason I had lost coverage I could use that as a turnaround or touch down point. None of that came to pass, so after crossing some lovely mountains full of birch trees turning shades of red, yellow and orange, I was passed from Center to Approach and given clearance into the SLC airspace.
VFR into class Bravo
The VFR corridor I am familiar with is actually quite fun to fly; named the “Mountain Road” arrival, the idea is to be at or above 8,500’ MSL and stay east of a large mountain highway all the way from north Ogden until you are cleared to your final destination, or eventually cleared right over downtown Salt Lake on approach to KSLC itself (one of my all-time favorite VFR approaches). The interesting thing about this is that the mountain road is sometimes right at the base of the rather large Wasatch Mountains, so to keep it in view and remain east (while southbound) even with my right wingtip on the road I’m still buzzing along with my left wing not far from the mountains (in reality it’s a mile or more most of the time, but the steep cliffs and occasional outcrops make that feel MUCH closer). It’s great AFTER you’ve flown it once and realize that taking advantage of those updrafts can actually get you to your destination pretty quickly.
Cleared past my visual checkpoint (the Lagoon Amusement park), I switched to the KBTF Unicom and radioed in my intentions (I had discovered on my phone call to the FBO that the calm winds runway was 34 and that there was no pattern on the west side of the airport due to class Bravo); “Skypark Traffic, Skylane 20801 inbound from Lagoon at 7,500 descending; plan to make right downwind entry for Runway 34, Skypark”
“Skypark Traffic, experimental 1234 on close right downwind for 34; are you familiar with the area Skylane?”
“Skypark Traffic, Skylane 20801 it’s our first time in the area”
“Skypark Traffic, experimental 1234, roger – are you comfortable following me in? The pattern is tight here if you want to stay out of bravo, might be best if you watch me”
“Skypark Traffic, roger, Skylane 801 will make right traffic and follow close behind the experimental, we have you in sight, Skypark”
I was a bit puzzled but more than happy to have some local help. I watched him make what looked more like a power off landing than a full pattern – a really short base to final. He radioed clear and as I was turning very short final. I was thankful for the huge flaps and big wings on that 182, I was still pretty high and the narrow runway looked awfully short from that high. I dropped those big wide flaps all the way and got myself down pretty quickly and neatly, then taxied in and parked it. A look at the Sectional or the SLC TAC revealed why we made that quick turn.
In the image you can see the close boundaries to the approach end of 34. All those times my instructor got after me about keeping the pattern tight and precise suddenly began to make sense.
VFR out of Class Bravo
I was a more nervous about the flight out – leaving a Class Echo airport through some rather narrow corridors made me nervous. I managed to track down an instructor at the FBO while I was fueling up before departure, he told me to stay below the Bravo shelf
(between 2,500 AGL and 3,000 AGL depending on where you were) and skirt out without bothering clearances; here’s what that route looks like (left).
Highlighted in green you can see the possible deviations, blue is the route.
So I elected instead to use my cell phone to pick up KSLC ATIS prior to taking off; immediately after getting airborne I called Salt Lake Approach and requested VFR clearance through Bravo back toward KIDA. They asked me to book it to 8,500’ or above and handed me off to the next controller who then cleared me back via the mountain road. Other than some nerves as I raced toward the wall of Bravo while waiting on that final clearance, this worked quite well. The ride home was a breeze – actually it was faster than a breeze since those wicked headwinds became some incredibly helpful tail winds (we made well over 135gt average groundspeed heading home).
Looking for some help from YOU!
Here’s the cool part; load up your favorite singe engine piston or smaller twin (I still love the Duke!) and make the flight yourself. The native FSX GPS should show you all the airspace shelves, although the Realty XP is even better if you happen to have it. The guys that man the Vatsim ZLC station are great about keeping you honest too if you happen to be online.
It’s a great flight with or without addons, doesn’t take very long, and makes for a fun approach into KBTF. Send me some screenshots, I’d love to see your short final into Skypark. I’ll post the top 2 or 3 in my next article!
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