Here’s Mike Koerner’s report on his latest cross-country triumph, once again into Utah.


I flew to Nephi on Saturday.

With the Cabin Fire licking at Crystal’s back door on Friday, satellite photos showing smoke pouring into the Antelope Valley and reports of 1 mile visibility at the airport, I had all but given up on flying. But Brian Neff’s observations that the smoke had cleared Friday evening and his timely report Saturday morning saved the day.

At pilot meetings years ago, Henry occasionally warned of a condition where the lapse rate and the dry adiabat are nearly coincident. Small variations in surface temperature generate large differences in thermal height and wide areas of lift and sink. On these days, you can top out a thermal only to find another, extending much higher, right next door. Or conversely, you can
experience epic glides that redefine your religious beliefs. It was the latter that brought me to 031 Dry Lake at about 1500 feet agl… only it wasn’t dry. It was filled to the gills with water. In fact, there was a curved black line breaking the surface near the eastern shore that looked suspiciously like an alligator. I promptly switched my alternate to a sandy creek bed to the north while making my way toward the Cronise Dry Lakes.

Though neither of these lakes had standing water, the variation in their surface color makes it impossible to divine whether they are in fact “dry” or not. I spend the next hour below 4000 feet msl contemplating this question while trying to get high enough to make it over the hills to Baker, never mind into cooler air. Then all of a sudden, around 1 pm, everything started to work and I was on my way.

Beyond Kingston Peak there were cu’s based around 14,000. I was high enough to overfly the Las Vegas class Bravo airspace but called Nellis Approach anyway and was graciously provided clearance and allowed to “maintain own navigation”.

The clouds looked congested further to the east with thunderstorms evident so I turned at Mormon Mesa, proceeding generally north along the Utah side of the Nevada border while looking for a break in the clouds to the east. I don’t have many alternate landing sites marked in this area (in fact I don’t think I’ve ever flown this particular route before) but the bottom of the valleys have dry lakes or farms and I was able to stay high while running along the western edge of the clouds anyway.

A break in clouds came west of Delta. From there I had a long glide to a landing just before sunset. My crew arrived half an hour later. On the way back home we hunted trilobites west of Delta and bagged one despite the fact that both the “U-Pick” fossil sites in the area were closed on Sunday. We also drove up Wheeler Peak and toured Lyman cavern.

Thanks for that, Mike!