16 January 2004

Eagle's Back Door

This is for the instrument pilots. Our destination was Eagle, Colorado on a Saturday afternoon in the ski season. There were clouds obscuring the 14,000-foot front-range just west of Denver with 30 knot winds.The only option was to fly IFR at least 21,000 feet to avoid turbulence and icing. What I didn't know was that Eagle was on an IFR reservation system and all the slots were filled until 9 PM - after dark. We discovered this in the late afternoon. Liz was quick to figure out that we could file IFR to a nearby airport then fly a short distance VFR to Eagle. The ceiling was 10,000 agl (above ground level) with twenty-mile visibility. We filed to Rifle, thirty miles to the west. Once under the ceiling I could fly back to eagle VFR in a wide valley. At least three times the controllers asked me, "What is your destination?" I told them Rifle. We intended to go there first then fly to Eagle. They did not have to know about the VFR plan.

Just as we descended below 18,000 feet a hole opened up and Eagle airport appeared ten miles to the south and 11,000 feet below. I quickly cancelled IFR and told the controller I was going to Eagle VFR. He grudgingly said, "I don't want to hear about it."

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