by Charles Gulick
The Vegas Notion
McCarran Int'l, Las Vegas, NV to St. George, St. George, UT
Scenery Disk 3.
North: 15883. East: 7230. Altitude: 2175. Pitch: 0. Bank: 0.
Heading: 340. Airspeed: 0. Throttle: 0. Rudder: 32767.
Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0. Elevators: 32767.
Time: 7:00. Season: 3. Surface Wind: 5 kn., 20 deg.
So you'll know where you are now in relation to the Strip and the rest of the area, go into radar and zoom until you see Interstate 15 off to your left, all of Las Vegas in front of you, and the pointed tip of Lake Mead to the east. The smaller metropolitan area to the south is Boulder City, Nevada.
The Las Vegas Strip is along Las Vegas Boulevard, which is halfway between you and I-15 and parallels I-15 into the center of the city. The section called the Strip begins with the Hacienda Hotel, just about opposite where we're sitting, and stretches north for about four miles. After the Hacienda come the Tropicana, the Flamingo Hilton (which was opened as The Flamingo by gangster Bugsy Siegel in the forties and was a flop), the MGM Grand, The Dunes, Caesar's Palace, The Sands, the Desert Inn, and a slew of others, The Sahara being the northernmost.
Howard Hughes lived in Las Vegas from 1966 to 1970. Soon after he arrived, while he was staying at the Desert Inn, he was told that he'd have to leave to make room for some bigtime gamblers who were coming to town. In response Howard Hughes bought the hotel, from a Mafia-connected syndicate, and subsequently went on a casino-buying binge.
We're going to have a nice leisurely flight this morning while I show you some sights.
That's Runway 1 Left ahead. Go ahead with your takeoff, and climb straight out over the city, planning to level off at 3300.
When you're climbing 500 FPM, take a look out the left front window and you'll spot North Las Vegas Air Terminal on the edge of town. Looking out front again, the highway going north out of the city is the continuation of I-15.
When the metropolitan area disappears under you, turn right heading 95 degrees. Do whatever you have to do to hold your altitude at about 3300.
Giant Lake Mead, which is taking shape ahead of you, is the heart of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which reaches all the way over into Arizona. Lake Mead has 550 miles of shoreline and is nearly 600 feet deep.
The western tip of the lake, toward which we're pointed, is called Las Vegas Bay. If you look out the right front window you may spot an airport, Boulder City, with a section of lake pointing toward it. Switch to a forward view again and turn right heading about 120 degrees, with the idea of following the lakeshore ahead of you. Look on radar and you'll see that you're flying toward an irregular pentagon of water, with one side missing. Fly parallel to the lake, always keeping the shoreline visible to your right. Make radar checks on your progress, and stay as parallel to the shoreline as you can.
When you make the turn that puts you on a heading about 40 to 45 degrees, with further reaches of the lake visible, look straight down.
Approximately, my friend—just approximately—you're over the famous Hoover Dam, one of the world's largest. Wouldn't it be fantastic to see it down there? It's 660 feet thick at the base and nearly a quarter of a mile long, with its spillway elevation nearly a quarter of a mile high. Dam!
If the hands of your watch seem to have the jitters here, don't be alarmed. We're flying across the time boundary between Pacific and Mountain Standard time.
Head out over the lake again and track its narrowing course. After a bit, go into radar and adjust the display until you can see all of Lake Mead, shaped like a tree with two barren branches, and your airplane halfway up the trunk. Follow the branch that goes right and leads through Virgin Canyon.
Some clouds are just now crossing the sun, and a little overcast is on its way. Go into the Editor, set Cloud Layer 1 to Tops 6000, Bottoms 5000, and exit again to the flight.
Tracking the lake, you will eventually turn almost due north, and you'll see 1-15 ahead on the horizon. At this point, you'll be aiming right along the Nevada-Arizona border. Coming into Lake Mead from your right is the Colorado River, which continues on its southerly trek below Hoover Dam, eventually emptying into the Gulf of California.
This is high country around here, and you'll need some altitude. Start a climb now to 4500 feet, and while you're climbing tune St. George VOR on a frequency of 109.8; then get on its 008 radial inbound.
St. George is a community in the southwest corner of Utah, only a few miles from the Arizona border to the south, and about 30 miles east of the Nevada border. It's known for Utah's first Mormon temple, which took the settlers eight years to build (1869-77). Mormon leader Brigham Young selected a construction site which turned out to be a bog. So to assure a solid foundation, the faithful had to cut thousands of tons of rock from a quarry 80 miles away and haul it to St. George.
You can't miss St. George Airport. It's right at the edge of the highway on this side of town. If you like, get into position for a straight-in approach, or enter on the base leg.
But don't misinterpret your altimeter reading. St. George is way up there—elevation almost 3000 feet. You may need some extra power, and maybe extra trim, too, as you slowfly your approach.