Mountain Flying: Experience and Training is Essential
Mountain flying is exhilarating, exciting, and challenging. It can open up new flying opportunities, but you need training, experience, and careful preparation to safely navigate those lofty peaks and spectacular scenery.
Your training should begin with a quality mountain flying course that includes adequate mountain ground and flight training. You have a narrow window of safety when flying around mountains so youll need the experience and knowledge gained from a recognized training program. After your training is complete, and before your first flight, make sure you perform a mountain checkout with a qualified mountain flight instructor.
Mountain flying, even more so than flight in the flatlands, is very unforgiving of poor training and poor planning. Its essential that you learn how to carefully prepare for the rigors and potential pitfalls of a mountain flight. Knowing the conditions is essential. The combination of weather and the surrounding terrain can cause dangerous wind, severe turbulence, and other conditions that may create serious challenges for a small GA aircraft. So, its important to use every available clue about the weather and terrain.
Even experienced mountain pilots may not be familiar with the way local conditions and terrain may affect an aircrafts performance. While enjoying the views at a high-density altitude, you can quickly become surprised by your aircrafts changing performance. The pressure altitude, corrected for temperature, will make your airplane perform as if it is at a higher altitude. This change can have an adverse impact on your aircrafts performance.
Here are the skills youll need:
- Knowledge of your airplanes performance, including how your aircraft will perform in all weather conditions and at high altitudes. Youll need to review takeoff, climb, landing, cold starts, hot starts, and stalls, among other performance characteristics. Make sure you take conditions into consideration, and are leaning the engine correctly for optimum power. Your planes condition and performance is essential to your survival.
- Flying skills. Do you have the skills needed to operate in extreme conditions, make decisions quickly and calmly, and fly in all types of weather?
- Do you have a Plan B? This is critical when flying a GA aircraft in the mountains. You should have an alternative route to get you out of trouble, or the option of delaying your return to home base.
- Survival. Are you experienced in personal survival techniques? Bitterly cold temperatures, high winds and other factors can land you in a position that you werent originally counting on. Be sure to pack specialized emergency and survival equipment on board. Youll want to include personal locator beacons, in addition to a 406 emergency local transmitter.
Mountain flying is demanding so you should carefully consider your experience and background before beginning a flight into mountainous terrain.
- Are you fully knowledgeable about your capabilities and those of your aircraft?
- Have you taken a specialized training course and worked with your flight instructor?
- Are you aware that while youre focused on a type of flying that has great rewards, it also has heightened risk?
Those mountain views are beautiful, but theyre even more stunning when you can enjoy them safely.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) communitys national #FlySafe campaign is designed to educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.
Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on FAA.gov, we provide pilots with Loss of Control solutions developed by a team of experts some of which are already reducing risk. I hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.
What is Loss of Control?
A LOC accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen when the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and quickly develops into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.
More about Loss of Control
Contributing factors may include:
- Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
- Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
- Intentional failure to comply with regulations
- Failure to maintain airspeed
- Failure to follow procedure
- Pilot inexperience and proficiency
- Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol
Did you know?
- In 2015, 384 people died in 238 general aviation accidents.
- Loss of Control was the number one cause of these accidents.
- Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight.It can happen anywhere and at any time.
- There is one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.
Read Tips on Mountain Flying, by the FAA FAASTeam.
This FAA Mountain Flying tip sheet has specific information designed to keep you safely in control of your aircraft.
Have you read the Extreme Weather edition of the FAA Safety Briefing? Rocky Mountain High: The Zen of Mountain Flying is just one of the good articles in this May/June 2012 issue.
Are you a practical type? If so, youll appreciate the Top Ten Practical Considerations for Mountain Flying on AvWeb.
This NTSB Safety Alert has lessons learned information that can be critical to your safety.
TheFAASafety.govwebsite has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.
Check out GA Safety Enhancements fact sheets on the mainFAA Safety Briefingwebsite, including Flight Risk Assessment Tools.
TheWINGS Pilot Proficiency Programhelps pilots build an educational curriculum suitable for their unique flight requirements. It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.
TheGeneral Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC)is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of GA accidents. The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers in the FAA, several government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and stakeholder groups. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The National Transportation Safety Board and the European Aviation Safety Agency participate as observers.