Chicago to Scottsdale, mountain flying?

I would appreciate any comments about any special skills needed to fly from Chicago to Scottsdale. I have been told that this is not really mountain flying and shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Is this the case? I’m Instrument rated with 225 hrs 90 hrs in the SR22. I was looking at a map and saw some mtns about 10-12 thousand in New Mexico. Are there any special precautions I need to take? Do I really need special mountain training for this?

Hi Daniel,

No mountain flying is required!

From Chicago, head straight for the Anton Chico, New Mexico VOR (ACH). Then follow V234 ABQ V12 INW V95 PHX. The highest MEA is 11,000, and almost all of the terrain is high plains. Indeed, much of the flight from ACH westward is along Interstate 40, the same as Route 66. Have a great flight!


I’m not sure what the altitude of the airports are along your route, but I just finished a flight from Afton, Wy to Washington, DC, picking up a new Pitts. First takeoff and first landing were both around 6,800 feet altitude. Generally, you can follow your usual indicated airspeeds for takeoff and landing at higher altitudes, although your actual ground speeds will be noticably faster on touchdown. (Fortunately, western airports tend to have very long runways.) Notwithstanding that indicated airspeeds may be trusted for V1 and VSO purposes, the plane still dropped faster on final at thin altitudes, using the same IAS, than it does at low altitudes. Thus, you may need an extra five knots IAS on final. Enjoy the flight!

Great fuel stop at Holbrook AZ (P14). I was through there in June: gas was $1.85/gallon and the gentlemen who runs the small FBO was very helpful and friendly.

Ditto Roger’s comment. I fly a 20 back and forth between San Diego and Chicago 3-4 times a year. The only big differences between flying around Chicago and being in New Mexico and Arizona are the slowly rising terrain and the fact that airports get much further apart as you head west. Oh yeah, and you will rarely see any other traffic in the sky except around airports. This is a great time of year to fly out here with the cooler temps.

Just west of INW is a huge hole created by a meteor. Good photo op.


Great shot of the Meteor Crater!

The photo also shows that much of the “mountainous” west is as flat as Kansas.


I flew above the crater on the way back from California recently. I didn’t know what it was until I got home and looked it up, but I thoght it certainly deserved a picture.

If you look at the picture, you can see the most amazing thing – the meteor only missed the visitor’s center by a few hundred yards! What are the odds of that?


1 Like

I would argue for using the same IAS on final at a high-altitude airport as at sea level. You can correct for any sink with power. The runways aren’t that long.

I’m with Roger - I definitely do not add airspeed for high altitude landings. The higher groundspeed is enough of a difference to deal with; adding extra airspeed is asking for trouble. Use whatever power it takes.


Roger is absolutely correct. Use your usual IAS. It already will result in a higher TAS and by adding IAS you’re adding even more TAS and therefore groundspeed. This will materially increase your landing distance.
Use power to control your descent rate.

I stand corrected on the power and airspeed issue for high altitude airports…with one clarification: I was landing in a Pitts S2C, which of course is a taildragger and which requires a definite nose down, fast approach to maintain forward visibility (unless you use Bud Davis’ slip approach on final). To arrest rate of descent, I of course added power, but was very limited in how much I could raise the nose. The net result was a faster IAS approach (about 100 knots over the numbers compared to my usual 90-95 knots). Unlike most piston aircraft, chopping power on the S2C is like engaging reverse thrusters…it slows down fast. Never had a problem stopping in less than 2000 feet, all three point, stall landings.

In any event, none of this is relevant to a Cirrus or other trike gear plane. Pardon the digression…I do enjoy following the Cirrus posts on this board, even though I fly a slightly different machine.

St John (SJN) was even cheaper last time I was there. And they have a great crew car. It’s an old St. John police car. Still has the decal on the side. On the dash is a sticker that says “use overdrive when in pursuit”
Gotta love it


Thanks for giving us a glimpse of life on the wild side of aviation! No matter how gut-wrenching the aerobatics, the most pulse-pounding part of any Pitts flight has to be the landing…


Yea…landings are an experience. It’s occurred to me that once you master landing the thing on a narrow runway, it’s really not so different than landing in ground fog with about 7 feet of visibility in your extreme peripheral vision…but I don’t plan on testing the theory. I do have one thing in common with a Cirrus though…I’ve got a parachute!

Can I bump this thread again? I am planning on taking a similar flight path. Omaha to SDL in mid-July. Would like to know if anyone has taken that flight around that timeframe. I know I’m going to get some more bumps than in November. I would like to take off around 16:00 Omaha time, getting to Scottsdale around 21:00 their time. NA SR22 IFR rated.

Things tend to smooth out here in SDL a little bit prior to sunset, so that can help for your arrival time.

The bigger issue in mid-July are t-storms which you would have a good chance of encountering from the Rockies into AZ. They are pretty heavy that month particularly in Eastern AZ.

If it was me I would leave at sunrise the next morning.

1 Like

Me too. In July in a NA SR22 you are 100% certain to have constant bumps in afternoon heat as soon as you get close to the Rockies and, I’m just guessing here but it’s based on many midwest to west of the rockies flights, an 80% chance of encountering some type of afternoon thunderstorm activity. Leaving at sunrise in July usually avoids both these things and it won’t be until descent into KSDL where the bumps and heat become an issue.

I have a flight next week from Green Bay to Salt Lake City and even though it’s in the M600 which can fly at 30,000 above all the thermal turbulence and onboard radar to avoid convection, I’m trying to figure out how early I can leave just to have a safer and easier flight.

1 Like

Thanks Paul and Rob,
Glad I posted my question on here. I’ll rework my schedule and plan on taking off early the next morning. I am much more of an early riser than a night owl so probably better to fly then anyways.

I just flew Telluride to Scottsdale and had 50 kts in the nose half the way and the usual light to moderate tbx and mountain waves. I left at 6 am for a reason. Early is better in the west in the summer, particularly on a day like today when the winds aloft are high. Convection is another issue that we get when the monsoons come in the summer they build all day and are a stick of something you don’t want to be anywhere near.

And those mountains at night are no joke and there is terrain all over and no corn fields to land in. I am hangared at 18AZ and there is terrain surrounding the airport on all sides and it is in a black hole. I am IFR rated but much prefer daytime as single pilot.

Every now and then a flatlander will fly into a mountain. Watch density altitude.

Just the usual hot desert mountain environment stuff. It is awesome.

I love flying here though it is absolutely beautiful.