Leaving Las Vegas — NOT!

Photos from a short flight.

A little while ago, I took off from Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport on my way home to Wickenburg. Before I left, however, I rigged up the junky tripod I keep under the front passenger seat with my camera, fisheye lens, and cable release. I strapped it all in with a seatbelt for safety.

The idea was to snap a few photos while I flew. This would be an experiment and I didn’t really expect to get any good images.

The interesting scenes started right after I left. I departed on the taxiway parallel to runway 19R, following the departure route the local helicopter tour pilots use. It requires a steep climb to 3,000 feet while making a turn to the right. The hotel casinos closest to the airport are right out my window.

Here are a few of the best shots. Remember: the camera is sitting on a short tripod on the front passenger seat wearing a 10.5mm lens.

Leaving Las Vegas
This is one of the first shots I snapped after takeoff. I was a few hundred feet off the ground. And yes, on the right side of the photo is a 30-story black pyramid with a giant vodka ad pasted to it.

Leaving Las Vegas
This is a look right down the Strip. The wide angle lens makes everything look pretty far away. It wasn’t. At the direction of the tower, I flew right over the top of Mandalay Bay. I couldn’t have been much more than 100 feet off the roof.

Leaving Las VegasThis photo is the last one I snapped on the flight. I was flying east on Tropicana at 3000 feet MSL. Then the Alt (short for alternator) light on my panel illuminated and didn’t go out. That meant there was a pretty good chance I had an alternator failure. And if there’s one thing any pilot will tell you, it’s not a good idea to start a 2-hour flight across empty desert without an alternator.

I was still within McCarran’s airspace so I called the tower and told the controller I wanted to come back because I had an alternator light. The tower cleared me to turn around and reverse my course. Because two or three helicopters had taken off right behind me on the same route, I dropped down to 2500 feet. They flew over me. The tower asked if I needed assistance. I think he was prepared to scramble the foam trucks. I assured him that I’d be okay. An airliner landed on Runway 19R and I came in behind it to the ramp. Even though there hadn’t been any real danger, I was happy to be on the ground.

After shutting down the helicopter, I crawled underneath to take a look. I no longer had an alternator belt. I suspect that pieces of it are scattered over Tropicana Boulevard.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a recliner with my feet up and my PowerBook on my lap. The comedy channel is on a high-def television in front of me. Other pilots are lounging around with laptops. I’m thinking of ordering a pizza.

A mechanic from Silver State in North Las Vegas may make it out here this afternoon. But there’s no way he’ll get the fan scroll off and the belt replaced early enough for me to get out of here before sunset.

So it looks like I’m not leaving Las Vegas today.

As for my photo experiment, I think I’ll try the 18 mm lens for the next flight.

3 thoughts on “Leaving Las Vegas — NOT!

  1. I like that you aren’t having a hissy fit.

    Everybody is OK, no one is standing in rain waiting for you and you are warm, dry and safe yourself.

  2. Cool photos! That’s a great idea with the tripod and cable release.

    I invested in a wireless remote for my camera. That might be useful for you in this kind of situation. You could just tuck the remote in your pocket and grab it when needed. Didn’t cost too much.

    Miraz’s last blog post..TiKouka in bloom

  3. AND tonight I’m sleeping in a pyramid.

    I do need to fine-tune the camera/tripod idea. I’ll try the 18mm lens on the next flight out and show off those photos if it’s worthwhile.

    The cable release was a lot smarter than I thought when I thought of it. (If you can follow that logic.) I’m glad I had it with me.

What do you think?