The trip that almost was

Recently my wife and I decided to take a trip to Las Vegas. She has not been on a long cross country in the Archer since we got it. I made the reservations at the MGM Grand and got tickets for Ka (a Cirque du Soleil show). I planned the flight and calculated roughly two hour segments. We would fly to KAMA refuel and have lunch, then to KABQ more fuel then KFLG and onto KHND.
We approached our first stop right on schedule. I was handed off from ABQ Center to Amarillo Approach we were lined up for a straight in to Rwy 22. I was told to hold 5500. There were several other aircraft in the area but there location was not clear from the radio. I got called again from App and told there was a T-38 on approach behind me and that he would pass under me and I would duck in behind him. I acknowledged the transmission. I could hear App. tell him to keep his speed up. As I approached the rwy, it was starting to not look like this was going to work as advertised. I was called for a climbing left turn. Now on a downwind the T-38 was called at my 11 and then 9 o'clock position, I never saw him. I was then turned inbound for the approach. We landed and taxied down to TAC Air. Their ramp had six T-38s sitting there. Got fuel and went to lunch. While in the restaurant it became clear these were all Italian Air Force trainees.
Back in the plane talking to clearance delivery for the KABQ leg. Six weeks later we reach the end of the long taxi to Rwy 22. Cleared for take-off we are once again up up and away. Climb out was normal and handed off to ABQ Center once again. I reported level 8.5. Motoring along looking at the West Texas Panhandle.
ABQ CTR: 35M Off Route Altitude is 6,500.
Me: Affirmative.
ABQ CTR: 35M what are your intentions?
Me: I am going to 10-5 once I get a little closer to the mountains.
ABQ CTR: 35M you are crossing the line on the MORA.
Me: Ok, I will start my climb now. (I was still a long way from the mountains but the tone was becoming insistent)
Some minutes later.
ABQ CTR: 35M say altitude.
Me: Passing through 10 thousand.
ABQ CTR: 35M I am showing you at 4900 feet.
We did some discussion and recycled the transponder, as I climbed Center reported a descent to about 3500.
I was now thinking about the Class B at Las Vegas and the Mode C veil. I made some recommendations to my wife which she disappointedly accepted. I called ABQ Center and told them I was doing a 180, descending to 9-5 and returning to KOUN. I was concerned about getting into the Mode C with a malfunctioning transponder, which I had turned off the C by request.
I don't know if Las Vegas would have let me in, but I do know that I was not reg compliant. I did not want to risk getting there and having no where to land and then having to turn back.
The return flight was non-eventful until almost home when the puffies started blossoming around and below me. I advised FTW Center and got below the bases.
Once Mike was back in the hangar, I went and talked to my avionics shop. We discussed possible causes and he pulled up Fightaware and found my flight and return. It showed exactly what I had seen in the airplane on the altimeter. The next day he had it in his shop and ran individual tests on each component. Everything checked fine. He ran them together, still fine. He put them back in the plane, again fine.
Was able to cancel the hotel and show without charge, whew, those weren't cheap. But I still have no idea what the problem was.


  • "Six weeks later..." :D

    Interesting story. Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted on whether you ever figure out the transponder problem.
  • Perhaps it was the controller from D.C. in the tower? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
  • As of a few years ago there was a noise abatement at Reagan, which meant that you could only run at idle power during the hours of 12 midnight to about 6 (I think). Now it looks like there will be two people on duty when there is no activity during that time.
  • Finally got a break from the office long enough to go test the equipment yesterday. OKC Dep could not have been more helpful. We verified the Mode C encoder every 500 feet all the way to 8500. It appeared I got my own dedicated controller. He called my altitudes and I watched the altimeter. Got the same service on the way down. The only surprise I got was the distance flown. I went from 1180 elevation to 8500 feet in about 12 miles. Once I had finished testing the Mode C, I told OKC I was returning to Westheimer. I did a 180 and realized I was virtually on top of the airport. Throttled back and nosed over, keeping AS in the green arc. Wound up having to 360 spiral to loose necessary altitude. Good to know Mike is good to go.
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