M12: "funneling" into Henderson from the East (long ... very long)

Fellow pilots & M12 attendees,

Lately, there has been quite a bit of conversation regarding mountain flying. And, I’m concerned that those of us who are based east of the Rockies (i.e., the majority of our membership!) may have equated flying to M12 in Las Vegas, NV with mountain flying. It’s not. You don’t have to be a trained mountain pilot flying into grass strips maintained by the Forest Service or fly mountain passes/valleys surrounded by towering peaks. You won’t be flying up box canyons or flying at the “edge of the envelope” trying to wring out hitherto unknown performance from your aircraft. Admittedly, there are rock formations as opposed to flat farmlands. And, there is density altitude to be considered. But, it’s not an overly challenging flight. And, you don’t need to fly a “game changing”, turbo-charged SR-22 at 16K’ on an IFR flight plan with an O2D2 regulator pumping oxygen up your nose to safely fly in the western half of the U.S. In fact, a few years ago after passing their PPL checkride, I had two primary students of mine (brothers) fly their C-172 on a round-trip cross-country from KFFZ (Mesa, AZ) to KABQ (Albuquerque, NM) in the autumn. Although they had a strong headwind on the return leg (i.e., flying west making ~75 kts. across the ground), their old, carbureted C-172 easily handled the DA.

About the routing…

As a pilot (and instructor) who flies in the southwest (as well as Migration Chairman who would like to see lots of COPANs enjoy M12!), please allow me to offer some comments and recommendations for your consideration. I thought that it might be worthwhile to construct some simple VFR arrival routes into Henderson, NV (KHND). Since people will be coming from the east along a variety of routes, I plotted the “Eastern Funnel”, three VFR routes that all wind up at the same place … Migration!

  • Looking at the “zoomed out” graphic below, pilots from the NC Region could plan their routing to fly over CKW, a VOR just west of Rawlings, WY, denoting the eastern end of the northern route. Folks flying from the NE and eastern areas could funnel into the central route at the OTO VOR just west of Albuquerque, NM (KABQ). And, pilots from the SE and SC Regions could join the southern route at EWM, the Newman VOR just north of El Paso, TX.

  • From a flight planning point-of-view, these routes are intended to be VFR. Flying IFR along the northern route has MEAs in the teens and will require O2. And, in this case, IFR routing along airways is much less direct. Except for one stretch between KABQ and ZUN (ZUNI VOR), the central route has lower MEAs than the northern route (e.g., 10K’) making O2 legally unnecessary. IFR along the southern route has a few segments requiring 10K’, as well. IFR routing for the central and southern routes more closely follows the plotted VFR routing.

  • To get into the funnel, pilots could fly VFR or IFR - whatever works best depending upon their departure point. Of course, weather is a major consideration. That said, the southwest has the greatest number of VFR days than anywhere in the country. That’s why major flight schools have located here. So, from a strategic planning point-of-view, flying VFR into Vegas is a sound strategy that offers several advantages over an equivalent IFR flight: lower altitudes, O2 not required, shorter distance, better scenery, and no IFR arrival vectors from Las Vegas TRACON. (If you haven’t already done so, please read/download the M12 Fly-In Procedures posted here.)

Zooming into the plot and changing from landscape to portrait allows access to greater detail. So, let’s take a closer look at each of the three potential VFR routes:

Northern route

  • Beginning at CKW, you’d be flying SSW down toward Canyonlands (KCNY) in Moab, UT, just north of the ANIUM intersection. Even though there is higher terrain to the east, it’s 30-40 nm. away! And, the mountains tend to stay put. So, unless someone falls asleep, it’s really difficult to fly VFR and hit one! There is also high terrain to the west that parallels the course. However, at the closest point, it’s 60 nm. away - no worries. If you are wondering about mountain waves and/or turbulence, I’ll address that subject shortly…

  • This entire route could easily be flown at 10.5K’. Although I personally wouldn’t bother with O2 at that altitude for a daytime flight, I would bring it along in case my VFR plans were interrupted by some improbable IMC. In that case, depending upon the circumstances, I’d either get an IFR clearance while in the air and be prepared to climb/reroute, or I’d just land and rethink the plan.

  • Note that after Page, AZ (PGA), the routing skirts the northern edge of the Grand Canyon. Do not overfly the canyon without reviewing the Grand Canyon VFR Aeronautical Chart (available in paper only). There are specific altitudes and paths (i.e., corridors) for flying in this area. The corridor entry/exit points are denoted on the chart by lat/long designations. And, it’s much easier to enter those into your iPad, etc. while on the ground during your preflight planning. You won’t be able to recognize the corridors by geographic landmarks … or at least I can’t. And, some very zealous nature lovers (who abhor airplane noise and almost got these corridors closed a few years ago) carry binoculars and tend to record tail numbers from violating aircraft…

  • Coming into Henderson from the east, it’s quite easy to descend and remain below the Class B “umbrella”. If you’d like a little more room to maneuver, deviate slightly south of Boulder City (KBVU). That will keep you away from the Class B region that goes to the surface.

Central Route

  • Enter the central route at the OTO VOR which is ~34 nm. east of Albuquerque (KABQ). Albuquerque is a friendly Class C airspace. Even if you plan to overfly their airspace, you should give them a call after crossing the VOR. Of course, if you are already using Flight Following (Albuquerque Center), they will provide a hand-off.

  • I’ve flow this route numerous times at 10.5K’. After your leave the Albuquerque area westbound, be prepared for a long stretch of … not much! Although some of the geological formations are interesting, things are pretty bare. However, once you reach the Winslow VOR (INW), you might momentarily deviate WSW (~250 deg.) for 12 nm. That will take you over a very large meteor crater! It looks like the place was terraformed by a cosmic ice cream scoop.

  • Don’t be distressed by the MEF of 13K’ in the Flagstaff quadrant. That altitude is due to Humphreys Peak which is north of the route of flight. (On a mundane note, MEFs are determined by taking the highest obstacle in a particular quadrant, adding possible measurement error - 100’ or 1/2 the contour interval for intervals >200’, adding another 200’ for natural terrain features, and finally rounding up to the next 100’. Yes, I did have to look up the definition…)

  • If possible, I’d plan to fly this route in the morning. Afternoon winds can cause some turbulence east of Albuquerque due to the terrain between KABQ and OTO. Plus, if there is weather, it tends to form in the afternoon over KABQ due to the predominately western winds and the orographic lifting from the aforementioned terrain east of KABQ.

  • Coming into Henderson from the SE, it’s quite easy to descend and remain below the Class B “umbrella”. There’s nothing significant about the LYNSY intersection - just a convenient waypoint.

Southern Route

  • The southern route starts at the Newman VOR (EWM) just north of El Paso, TX (KELP) and the Ft. Bliss AFB. If you aren’t using Flight Following (Albuquerque Center), give El Paso Approach a call to traverse their area.

  • I’ve flow this route numerous times at 8.5K’. Note that the Restricted Areas to the north constitute the White Sands Missile Range - sometimes they are hot, sometimes they are not. You might be able to cut off a few miles by splitting the difference between the Central and Southern Routes. Personally, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort…

  • After you pass the Standfield VOR (TFD) south of Phoenix (KPHX), I’d descend to 6.5K’. The MOAs between the Buckeye (BXK) and Needles (EED) VORs are often active through the week. However, their floor is 7K’, and it’s easy to fly underneath them with plenty of terrain separation.

  • Coming into Henderson from the south, it’s quite easy to descend and remain below the Class B “umbrella”. There’s nothing significant about the LYNSY intersection - just a convenient waypoint.

About the flying…

In the past, we’ve had magnificent discussions (a.k.a. arguments) on the COPA forum about what constitutes safe flight. Some folks believe in always filing IFR and being in constant communication with ATC. Others prefer flying low and slow in VMC and don’t want to talk to anyone. My intent is not to start another debate but to simply state something we’d all probably agree on: to fly safely, we have to match both our procedures and the aircraft (i.e., things that we control) to the external conditions (i.e., things we cannot control). And, to that end, I’d like to offer some comments:

  • VFR vs. IFR For pilots living in the southwest (AZ, UT, NV, NM, CO, etc.), flying tends to be a VFR experience. It’s not that we don’t train for IFR flight; we just don’t have much IMC. And, when we do, it’s not usually safe to fly! (e.g., thunderstorms, dust storms, icing, etc.) Plus, we have some terrain issues. In AZ, we don’t have mountains like the Rockies. (We like to say we have mountains in AZ but they’re nothing compared to UT and CO.) But, we do have higher terrain and higher temperatures that yield density altitude issues. Because of both the terrain and DA as well as our general lack of clouds, most pilots fly VFR with many using Flight Following. For Class B airports like Las Vegas (and Phoenix where I’m based), commercial air traffic is *extremely *busy. Many times, jets are funneled into arrival procedures that begin in the adjoining state! Consequently, controllers at large airports sometimes view “little guys” like us as a disruption. And, depending upon the time of day, landing IFR at a nearby airport (like Henderson) could be an undesired distraction handled by vectors toward Outer Mongolia. Las Vegas TRACON actually suggested that COPA pilots enter the area from the south under VFR.

  • Density Altitude For those of us flying normally aspirated SR-20s and SR-22s, density altitude needs to be considered. (Of course, DA is a topic that all pilots must consider. But, let’s face it, our turbo-charged cousins have a definite advantage in this area.) Although this subject should have been covered in our PPL training, for many of us, that was a long time ago. And, if you’ve been flying back east where MEAs may be only 3K’ (!!), it’s pretty easy to forget how to use the “red knob” … except for flying LOP, of course. But, it’s really straightforward and has been discussed on the forum many times. Here’s a quick recap:

  • *Taxi *- lean brutally! If you’ve developed the habit of leaning to a particular mixture lever position while operating near sea level, that’s probably not lean enough. Lean it until the engine almost dies. At higher altitudes on a hot day, you may need your boost pump ON to avoid vapor lock while taxiing.

  • *Takeoff *- For NA SR-22s, lean to the fuel flow identified on the panel’s fuel flow placard. I usually do this on my takeoff roll. For NA SR-20s, the mixture should be “full rich” since you have an altitude compensating boost pump.

  • *Climb *- For NA SR-22s, lean to keep the EGTs at roughly the same temperatures they were at ~500’ AGL. (If you didn’t lean properly to begin with, use ~1275 deg. F as a target.) For NA SR-20s, the mixture should remain “full rich” since you have an altitude compensating boost pump.

  • *Cruise *- Do whatever you normally do. At anything below O2 levels, I fly LOP.

  • *Descent *- Do whatever you normally do.

  • *Landing *- When doing your Before Landing checklist in a NA SR-22, do not go “full rich” at a high DA airport! Basically, you want to anticipate your takeoff fuel flow (in case you go-around). Of course, since you are throttled back, the mixture position is a bit of a guesstimate. Glance at the panel’s fuel flow placard to determine the desired fuel flow in case of a go-around. In an SR-20, go “full rich” since you still have that altitude compensating boost pump.

  • Runway length They make 'em longer at high DA airports! As long as you are landing on a hard surface runway, it’s *probably *more than long enough for a Cirrus. Of course, I’m not saying that you should ignore the POH…

  • Winds and terrain Again, you don’t really need any more knowledge than was required for your PPL. You definitely don’t need to have taken a mountain flying course or have read Sparky Imeson’s book (Mountain Flying Bible) cover-to-cover to fly any of the aforementioned routes! However, since unused knowledge tends to vanish (particularly mine as I get older), here are a few general (and basic) comments:

    • Wind, like water in a stream, flows up over rising terrain (creating rising air) and down over descending terrain (creating sinking air). Since our planes fly in this stream of air, we go up and down with it. If we start out with enough altitude on the upwind side, we’ll generally have enough altitude on the downwind side. BUT, if you approach a ridge from the downwind side, you’re going to fly into sinking air. Make sure that you start with enough altitude and be prepared to turn back toward lower terrain if things look at all iffy. (To facilitate this “bailout” turn, the recommended procedure is to approach ridges at a 45 deg. angle so you only have to make a 90 deg. turn rather than a full 180 deg.) This procedure has much more to do with flying “in” the mountains than along any of the three routes suggested in this email.

    • Again like water in a stream, if air flows over a sharp peak or ridge, there can be turbulence on the downwind (leeward) side. A rule of thumb is to cross a peak or ridge with 1K’ AGL for each 10 kts. of wind to avoid the turbulence. Winds greater than 25 kts. will probably produce some turbulence; use caution for winds in the 30-40 kt. range. (I won’t be flying in the mountains with winds that strong!) Again, t**his procedure has more to do with flying over mountain ridges or in valleys between ridges than along the suggested routes for M12.

    • Mountain waves are “standing waves” formed by strong winds (greater than 20 kts.) that are almost perpendicular (within 30 deg. or so) to the mountain or ridge. But, winds alone aren’t enough. The stability of the air mass above the mountain also comes into play - not too stable and not too unstable. When conditions are just right, there will be crests and troughs (i.e., regions of rising and descending air) on the downwind (leeward) side of the ridge or mountain that remain fixed horizontally. (If there is enough moisture in the air, you may see lenticular clouds forming/dissipating at the crests and roll clouds near the ridges/mountains, themselves.) We fly horizontally through those standing waves. So, one minute, we’re climbing and the next minute, we’re descending. The waves can extend for 150-300 miles downrange, far enough that you might not even see the terrain causing the phenomena! The ride may be smooth or bumpy. If you’re flying with the autopilot, you’ll notice the AI pitching up and down with the IAS decreasing and increasing, respectively. So, what to do?

      • Provided the ride isn’t too bumpy, I’d just just keep truckin’.

      • If the turbulence appears dangerous, you can usually avoid the worst of it by flying 50% higher than the mountain’s height (i.e., altitude at mountain peak - altitude at mountain base). However, trying to climb above the entire wave probably won’t work since they can extend up into the stratosphere.

      • In VMC, ride the lift up (free altitude!) and “dive” through the sinking air (to traverse it quickly). This simple tactic results in less altitude loss.

Since it’s possible to experience mountain waves hundreds of miles away from the generating terrain, pilots flying to M12 could experience this phenomena. *That said, IMO the three routes proposed in this email shouldn’t expose anyone to unacceptable risks from mountain waves under “normal” wind conditions. *If the winds are much stronger than expected, I suggest checking PIREPS to see what other pilots are experiencing. Try to make an apples-to-apples comparison - similar GA aircraft at similar altitude.

Increasing the fun factor while adding to the safety…

  • If we adopted the “funnel routing” rather than everyone flying willy-nilly into Henderson from every conceivable direction, it might be fun to organize “gaggles” of loosely grouped aircraft from each COPA Region. With airplanes 5 -100 nm. apart, it would be easy to chat while en-route without being constantly concerned about “bumping into” a fellow COPAN. In addition, there really is safety in numbers. If someone has an in-flight problem, there will be other nearby aircraft to contact/coordinate with authorities and possibly provide a modicum of assistance. With the possible exception of aircraft advisories (for those who don’t have active traffic or ADS-B), flying in a gaggle of friends could prove more valuable than Flight Following.

  • One of the two top-rated reasons for attending Migration (identified in last year’s survey) was to “socialize with fellow Cirrus pilots”. So, why wait until arrival at Henderson before getting together? Organize gaggles on a regional basis and link up in the air. We could go crazy with the concept and coordinate between gaggles from different regions using a common frequency while en-route. (123.45 MHz or “fingers” is often used by other groups.)

  • Let’s face it, Las Vegas is a long way from the east coast. And, at my home 'drome, avgas is far from free. So, why not invite a another COPA member to join you, share the piloting duties, and share the expenses? It could be twice the fun at half the price. If you’d like to log some “hood time”, you’d have a built-in safety pilot. (Of course, hood time may be a concept reserved for AZ pilots who rarely see the inside of a cloud…) Plus, for me at least, the miles pass under the wings faster if I’m talking to someone.

In conclusion…

Since all of us love flying and climb into the cockpit nearly every chance we get, it’s a foregone conclusion that COPANs would like to attend Migration. So, what stands between us and having what we’d like? Time? Cost? Previous commitments? Concerns about flying into new areas? Weather? Let’s talk about it!

Blue skies,


I’ll take SWA MCI --> LAS, easy!

I always tell friends to program “Jean” k0L7 airport and navigate from there. It puts you out of the bravo and east of the 15 interstate . 10 miles from KHND.
Approach usually will toss you there anyway as it’s out of KLAS and jet route, & Bravo.
As you enter the area there’s 50/50 that you will get a bravo clearance (vfr). Plan on remembering the shelfs as KHND sits under one.
There is substantial jet traffic in the area compared to areas of delta airspace.
There is terrain within 5± on the extended line of r/w 35 and between Jean k0L7 and KHND. It’s about 2500’. Review your terminal/sectional.
This is also an airport of potential high winds overnight… Don’t get lazy on your tie down procedure and point into the wind on parking.

Craig, neither of your images show up on my iPad nor my desktop PC.

On my desktop PC with Chrome, “View Source” of the HTML shows these images come from a gmail account?

The image Bryan posted shows up fine, and in the HTML source for the page, it has something more expected, a reference to the image on the same HTTP server as the rest of the page:

How did you compose your message? Possibly offline in some other app and then copy/pasted it including the images into the editor window when creating the post rather than using the image tool?

Yikes! [:S] After spending quite awhile writing the email, the two pix are missing! I did a cut-and-paste from Gmail. And, apparently the photos didn’t get uploaded. When I visit the website using my laptop (running Chrome), it inserts them in the message “invisibly”. Drat… Anyway, I’ll go back and edit my original message.

Thanks, Mike!!


Please for ALL posters on this forum. DO NOT do CUT & PASTE. You must use the editor icons of INSERT PHOTO.

OK! Hopefully, that fixed things. Jeeze… Without the two graphics, the entire commentary didn’t make much sense. Thank’s for the mail. Now, I have to pack and head for the airport - we’re flying up to Mogollon Airpark (AZ82). And, I’ll be off-line until this afternoon.

Thanks again, Mike!


Photos are there now. Not as nice as Byran’s. [H]


FYI, the two shots showed up just fine on W7/Firefox 30.0

But more importantly, THANK YOU for “myth-busting” that this is all mountainous flying fraught with danger and mystery. Practical knowledge, good flight planning and forethought, what we’re always supposed to do anyway, will make any of these routes fun to fly.

Right now, I’ll be flying out with fellow COPA member (and brand-new CFI) Karl “Fish” Fischbach and we’ll plan both the North and Central routes, so we can make our pick the morning we depart for at least the first legs of the trip!

Be safe and have fun,

You taking her with you right?

I have flown all three of those routes into Las Vegas, which means,

  1. They are easy

  2. I’ve been to Las Vegas entirely too often

It is a great place to fly to. ATC is kind, the Grand Canyon is near, Tahoe is just a stone’s throw. If you haven’t flown out there before, this is a great chance to go.

October is a kind month for flying- summer weather is over, and winter weather hasn’t begun.

Craig, thanks for all the information.

See you there!

Andy, you are quite welcome! And, take good care of “Fish”; he’s one of our speakers! Tell him “congrats” on the new CFI. [Y]


If she’s taking Mike R’s PIC course, I think that I’ll sit in! [;)]


I was hoping to hear from someone who’d flown all three – thanks, Dick! I’ve done the central and southern routes - pieces of cake. And, you’re right, October is a great month for flying in the southwest! [Y][Y]

Amazing thread! Oh and your post was okay I guess Craig. Sorry but that pic just trumps all your content!

:-). I definitely will be taking your ABQ route. I’ll have some questions soon but for now what a great article! Thanks again! I say we make it a sticky as we get closer to Migration.

There is now a forum dedicated to North America Migrations. Members can go there to read all the info about M12.

Perfect. Didn’t see that until now. Thanks!

Given that most of our COPA pilots are male, it’s definitely no contest! [;)]


PS - This is the perfect place to ask any questions about flying to Migration. [H]

Would you believe some southwest pilots refused to fly this bird? Apparently it’s a tight leash at home!
I understand this wrap was only on for about a month after some passengers complained.

Now this is a very comprehensive piece of work…very helpful thank you…I wil use the Northern route