Lake Tahoe

18th August, 2001


I flew a C182 with a bunch of unsuspecting work colleagues up to Lake Tahoe airport in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Quite an interesting flight - the airport is at 6264 feet. Surface winds during landing were 14 gusting to 21 and we encountered considerable wind sheer on short final and during the flare. All (including me) were very glad to get out after that. The touchdown was ok, but the floating, sinking, ballooning and buffeting that went on from short final and throughout the flare was disconcerting - particularly given that recovering from a landing anomaly is hampered by poor climb performance at that altitude. Next time I think I'll come in with less flaps and more power.

Departure was also interesting. With the high temperatures, density altitude was about 8800 feet, and aircraft performance was sluggish (to say the least). I had four people on board, and a fairly full fuel load, but calculated that everything should be ok. As it turned out it was fine, though still very interesting. After takeoff I had to turn downwind and head over the lake to circle for altitude before crossing the surrounding mountains. I was about 200 feet AGL when I started the turn, and was still 200 feet AGL when I completed the turn despite a very shallow bank and full power at Vx + 10% (sorry to the non-flyers - getting a bit technical now). Given the 100ft pine trees and rising terrain in the area that was a little closer than I would normally consider comfortable. Thankfully I had recently reviewed high altitude operations with an instructor, including pre-takeoff leaning procedures, and kept airspeed right where I wanted it. We spent about 10-15 minutes over the lake sight-seeing on our climb up to 12,500. Heading back over the ridge at that altitude (about 4000 AGL) we didn't encounter any turbulence. Even so I approached the ridge at an angle to allow a shallow turn away should there have been any downdrafts (we were approaching from the leeward side). A good time was had by all, and this 3.5 hour round trip seems very favorable compared to the 5 hour drive each way that we suffer during the winter ski season.


This is the view northward from directly over the field. We are still in California, however Nevada is on the right. Note the standing lenticular clouds in the distance - something to watch for in mountainous terrain as a sign of strong winds.


After arriving in Tahoe, the crew and pilot take a break - and call in to close the flight plan.


Lunch was at the Hard Rock cafe inside Harvey's casino in Nevada. After a roller-coaster spree I even finished $5 up playing blackjack

 From left to right - Shane, Anthony, our waitress Marissa, Brook, and Peter.


This is the view below during the downwind leg of our departure. We had resumed climbing by this stage, however moments before we were only a hundred feet or so clear of these trees.


During our circling climb over the lake before departing over the mountains - this is the view to the south with the airfield on the right and the very edge of Heavenly ski area on the extreme left.


This is the view on final at our home base - Watsonville airport.