Mountain Flying

Mountain flying offers the opportunity to see some spectacular scenery, but it also presents the pilot with additional challenges. They include the possibility of increased turbulence, limited or non-existent emergency landing locations, boxed-in and narrow canyons. And just like when you’re hiking in the mountains, help may be far away or impossible to reach. For all these reasons, it’s essential to learn proper mountain flying techniques before you even take off from the airport.

Some flying clubs and aviation schools offer mountain flying classes. There are also several excellent books and videos about mountain flying available from online aviation supply stores and bookstores.

When researching mountain flying techniques, keep in mind the type of aircraft you’ll be flying versus the one you see in the video or read about in the book. Some aircraft are better suited than others to mountain flying, and some shouldn’t be flown at all in the mountains. Always consider the aircraft’s characteristics, loaded weight, and other applicable factors and compare them to the mountain conditions and weather. For example, if it’s an extremely hot day and your aircraft has a small engine but will be at maximum weight, determine before you take off if the plane will be able to gain the proper minimums you’ll need for where you’ll be flying.

For your first several trips into the mountains, take a fellow pilot with you who’s familiar with the area. With you as the Pilot in Command, he or she can assist you with the navigation and help prevent disasters like wrong turns that can take you into a box canyon from which you can’t escape. One of the keys to flying safely in the mountains is to think ahead and always maintain a way out for yourself. Don’t commit yourself to anything before you know it’s safe. Another thing to keep in mind is that even while working out your next move, you have to fly the airplane—don’t get distracted and forget the basics.

Mountain flying is exciting, not only because of the scenery but because you have to work on all cylinders. Just like your aircraft.