Pilot's tip of the week

Flying in Mountainous Terrain


Subscriber question:

"Any quick tips for flying in mountainous terrain?" - Greg L.


“First and foremost, we need to plan thoroughly. Once we have a good plan loaded with options, we need to exercise discipline and make good in-flight decisions.

Don’t even think about operating in the mountains unless you have a comprehensive knowledge of wind, weather, and density altitude. All of these elements can become killers if we don’t pay close attention to how they are impacting our flight. Turbulence is a constant companion in the mountains – be sure to brief passengers on the possibility of turbulence so they don’t become a distraction.

Some hints:

mountain_fying.png● Approach mountain passes with as much excess altitude as possible. Downdrafts can be deadly!
● Don’t fly up the middle of a canyon. Give yourself as much room as possible to turn around.
● Cruise climbing or enroute climbing can be dangerous. Climb over low terrain to get to your desired altitude. Even the big boys do this climbing out of mountainous locations.
● Your (off-field) landing options may be limited. Always be vigilant and fly as high as practical to give yourself options.
● Know the wind direction at all times. Direction and velocity are highly variable in the mountains.
● Operating early in the day when temps are more favorable will give you improved performance (and less turbulence).
● Refer to your performance data religiously. Higher density altitudes can make it impossible to get out of a short field that you have landed in.
● Always carry survival gear. It gets real cold at night and it could be days before help arrives after a precautionary landing. Small injuries could quickly become life threatening.

This may seem like a lot of doom and gloom, but mountain flying should never be taken lightly! Be prepared, be proficient, and respect the wind, the weather and density altitude.”

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