Navy pilots will tell you that landing on a carrier is one of the most challenging maneuvers in aviation but also, as often is the case, one of the most rewarding. In Arizona there are no bodies of water that can float a carrier, but we have our own surrogate called Sedona!
No, it is not a ship, but a small village at the foot of the Coconino plateau where the Sonora desert makes a last step up (from 4000ft.) to reach for the elevations of Flagstaff (6000 ft) and the rock formations exposed are of a bright red color.
Sedona has become real famous in recent years as a new age Mecca, filled with believers in the healing powers of crystals and invisible energy vortexes (!?), crowded at times with tourists looking for a jeep tour or an helicopter tour of the area. To the Arizona pilots community though the main attractions of Sedona are two:
- a nice airport on top of a mesa right in the middle of the valley, with a nice cafe’ (if you can stand the new age musing constantly playing in the background)
- a medium elevation (5000 ft) which makes the location an appealing target in the hot summer mornings
So this past Sunday, returning back from a long business trip in Europe, I needed to get back on the plane and, as the temperature in Phoenix was already above 90F (30C) at 6am, Sedona looked like a real promising mission for me and Steve.
After about a 40 minutes flight (from Chandler Municipal), we got in sight of the red rock formations, overflew bell rock and crossed over the top of the airfield turning into a left downwind for runway 3.
On the turn from base to final , we got a picture with a new perspective of Sedona:
While the picture is far from perfect, I am sure you will get an idea why this is compared to a carrier landing… the runway uses ALL the length of the little flat top mesa.
We tied the plane down and walked shortly to the cafe’ to have a trendy new age croissant breakfast while overlooking the runway and in the distance … Cathedral rock.