Weekend Getaway Flights:
Carlsbad Caverns National Park (in Carlsbad, NM)
by Craig Albright, Cirrus N857CD @ KCHD, CFI/II
Our next Weekend Getaway: Carlsbad Caverns National Park on Nov. 24-25
Yes, this is really a 2-day trip… time to stretch our legs a bit! And, it really is on the weekend following Thanksgiving. So, if you have out-oftown guests, invite them along! We’re going to tour world-famous Carlsbad Caverns, located underground in the Guadalupe Mountains, a small mountain range running from west Texas into southeastern New Mexico.
Arrive: Saturday, 11/24 by 10:00 AM (1700Z). Flying from Chandler (my home 'drome) and assuming that the Restricted Areas are “hot”, one possible route would be KCHD-E77-SSO-EWM-WHOLEKCNM for 402 nm. Admittedly, we may be able to fly through the Restricted Areas on the weekend, but going “direct” only cuts off about 15 nm.
FBO @ destination: Chandler Aviation (575-887-1500). Avgas is readily available.
Ground transportation: TBD at this point. Although the FBO has a courtesy car, this aspect needs further research. Of course, what we need depends upon the size of our group…
Lunch: Any of several places within a few miles of the airport.
Activities: Tour the caverns! After an early lunch, I anticipate that we’ll do the self-guided tour of the Big Room. (There are also guided “adventure tours” that have to be arranged in advance.) Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The cavern consists of multiple underground chambers with the major structure 750 ft. below ground. (Don’t worry about claustrophobia; the chamber is huge!) It’s accessible to the public via an elevator or a series of paved switchbacks from the surface. And, it really is BIG -- the 3rd largest underground formation in North America and the 7th largest in the world!
Depart: Mid afternoon. Rather than fly all the way back to the Valley, I propose to stop at Las Cruces, NM (KLRU) and spend the night. That way, we can enjoy some great Mexican food and a margarita (or two). That flight (KCRN-WHOLE-EWM-MOLLY-KLRU) is only 146 nm., easily made before sunset with a midafternoon departure from the caverns. (The airport is about 9 nm. west of town; I’ll arrange ground transportation between then and now.) Of course, folks don’t have to spend the night in Las Cruces. It’s 261 nm. back to Chandler AZ – a nice evening flight after dinner! But, they’ll miss out on the margaritas!
Small caveat… As is the case on all of our Weekend Getaway Flights, you are PIC and responsible for all aspects of flight planning, including (but not limited to) weather, routing, and aircraft performance. The go/no-go decision is entirely yours! As volunteer trip leader, I’ve selected a destination and will arrange a few details like transportation and possible restaurant (or lodging) reservations that do not involve collecting money.
An aside… Remember that APA events like this are tax-deductible! And, membership is only $25/year! So, if you have a pilot friend who would also like to join us, have him/her become a member prior to the trip. They will save more than their membership fee on the very first flight!
Blue skies & tailwinds,