How to fly into Albuquerque VFR from the East

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00 Intro.JPG
Planning your first trip to Albuquerque from the East at VFR low altitude can be a little daunting. The sectional chart shows 11,000ft MSL as the lowest safe altitude for the sector, but that's because Sandia Peak is at 10,600ft. I'll tell you how to fly in at 8,500ft. Always be prepared to climb or U-turn in case of strong downdrafts. Let's start by looking at the two Sectional charts at the bottom of this page.
02 East side.jpg
The view from 8,500ft about 5 miles north of Edgewood. I-40 winds through a pass called Tijeras Canyon. If you stay roughly on top of I-40, you will have the lowest terrain below you. You are aiming for the small V near the center of the picture, and you will then turn right, around the southern tip of Sandia mountain. Controllers may not have radar or Comm coverage until you get a little closer to the canyon.
03 Tijeras Canyon approach.jpg
Now we are just over I-40, just a few miles away from the Cement Plant. The view is beginning to open up to the West. If there is any wind coming from the west, watch for turbulence and downdrafts. Altitude, altitude, altitude!
04 Tijeras.jpg
Now we can clearly see our way out of the canyon. Just some smaller foothills left.
05 Tijeras.jpg
On the right is the last ridge of the southern tip of Sandia mountain. It's the last thing we have to clear before the entire valley opens up below us
07 Sandias South end.JPG
This will be your view off the right wing as you cross the last little tip.
08 Sandias South End at 9500ft.jpg
Albuquerque Approach may request you go a little higher, depending on traffic at the SunPort. If you are at 9500ft, this will be your view to the North.
09 Looking South from the Canyon.jpg
As you come out of Tijeras Canyon, look to the South. I-40 is down below
1 OTO-AEG-Sectional.gif
You can fly into Albuquerque from the East at 8500 feet. Just follow I-40 through Tijeras Canyon, and when you get close the the Cement Plant (marked with a flag on this chart), call Albuquerque Approach and get clearance through their airspace. You will normally stay North of I-40.
11 ABQ Sunport to the South.jpg
If you are landing at Albuquerque Sunport, the controller will give you directions. Otherwise, head for Double Eagle II (KAEG) on the west mesa.
12 The I40-I25 Interchange.JPG
12 The I40-I25 Interchange.JPG
13 The I40 Coors Rd Interchange.JPG
13 The I40 Coors Rd Interchange.JPG
14 AEG is just behind this hill.jpg
Double Eagle II airport is just west of this little hill with the faint 'J' on it. It is a busy airport with two runways and the only GA airport between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, so be listening to the CTAF or Tower frequency as far out as ABQ Approach will allow you. Remember patterns on the west runway are flown to the west, (i.e. Runway 22 is right traffic) and the east runway is flown to the east. And they have a Tower now.
15 Overhead KAEG.JPG
Over the top of runway 17-35 at Double Eagle II. Note the windsock in the center illustrates some of the runways are right traffic.
16 Downwind 22 KAEG.JPG
Turning right downwind for runway 22. Note the Sandia mountains to the East in the distance. That's what we just flew through.
17 Turning right base for 22.JPG
17 Turning right base for 22.JPG
18 The Ramp at KAEG.JPG
18 The Ramp at KAEG.JPG
19 Turning Final for Runway 22.jpg
19 Turning Final for Runway 22.jpg
2 0E0-AEG-Sectional.gif
If you can make 10,500, you still fly through Tijeras Canyon, but you can overfly some of the higher foothills and take a more direct route. You will still probably end up being requested to stay North of I-40 once you get to the very southern tip of the Sandias. At 12,500 and above, you might be able to just overfly the top of Sandia crest if there isn't much wind.
20 On Final for Runway 22.jpg
20 On Final for Runway 22.jpg
21 Short Final for 22.jpg
21 Short Final for 22.jpg
22 Short Final from the ground.jpg
22 Short Final from the ground.jpg
23 N6030X at KAEG.jpg
Now go look at the movie clips at the very bottom of this page and see what it's like to fly through the mountains! Nothing on this page should be construed to contradict safe mountain flying practices. Watch your altimeter for downdrafts!
MPEG Movies
I40 W of Santa Rosa.mpg 12.0MB October 29, 2006 5:16:15 PM GMT
Landing KAEG.mpg 12.1MB October 29, 2006 4:38:36 PM GMT
Tijeras Canyon Part 1.mpg 22.8MB October 29, 2006 4:53:02 PM GMT
Tijeras Canyon Part 2.mpg 17.3MB October 29, 2006 5:08:35 PM GMT

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