Mountain Flying Adventure | AOPA Pilot April 2009

Telluride, Aspen, Leadville & Glenwood Springs Top The List.  I was catching up on my reading over the weekend - you know that pile of magazines that never gets read.  Much to my delight, the cover story for April 2009 AOPA Pilot is Mountain Flying Adventure - Backcountry Adventure and to Ten most Challenging Airports.

I thought this was a great piece.  The second piece was the survey results from asking AOPA members about the most challenging mountain airports.  The top four were here in Colorado - Telluride, Aspen, Leadville, and Glenwood Springs.

I thought summary of Telluride, Leadville,  and Glenwood Springs was on the money.

I think Aspen was made out to be slightly more complicated than it really is.  Outbound traffic (especially piston aircraft in the summer) will not be able to stay right until above the inbound traffic due to the high density altitude.  As a result you'll normally follow the Roaring Fork river out of the Valley and watch very closely for in bound aircraft as you cross the extended center line.

Throughout the year I offer instruction for pilots that want to experience mountain flying.  I combine several hours of ground instruction with a tour of Colorado's mountain airports and mountain passes.  Generally, the tour will visit a variety of airports that each present different challenges.  One reason I thought this AOPA article was so neat, is because as part of the training we usually visit each of these four airports.

If you would like to be introduced to mountain flying and visit some of the most challenging airports give us a call.

Safe Mountain Flying

An interesting piece of news reporting from the Denver Post.

A couple days ago the Denver Post printed a story about a Plane Crash near Denver.  The following is an excerpt from that article, which a link to has been provided at the bottom of this post.

"Jay Loar, an Erie resident who was goose hunting in an adjacent field, said he saw the plane circle once earlier in the morning and climb steeply into a "stall" maneuver, wherein the plane's engine stalls on the ascent and comes back on during the swift descent."

Reporting like illustrates the types of myth that are perpetuated by the media, the general public, and even some second rate flight instructors.  I can't even count the number of times a new student was fearful of the engine quitting during a stall because they had heard a story like this before.

Setting the record straight...

A stall is an aerodynamic event where progressively increasing angle of attack (raising the nose) results in seperation of airflow from the top of the wing.  A stall has absolutely nothing to do with the engine.  As another instructor (Sandy Hill) put it... "Birds and Gliders can also stall, but neither have an engine."

Recovery from a stall is as simple as lowering the nose of the aircraft, which decreases the angle of attack of the wing, and returns smooth airflow to the top of the wing to restore lift.

Alpine Flight Training focuses on teaching safe Mountain Flying.  We are based in Eagle Colorado and offer short multi-day courses that focus on what pilots need to know to be safe when flying in the mountains.

See Also

Eagle and Vail Valley Aviation Ground School

Alpine Flight Training, with offices at the Vail Valley Jet Center conducts regular Aviation Ground School sessions.  If you would like a schedule or would like to join one our upcoming Aviation Ground Schools please e-mail or call 970-401-5105.  We follow the Jeppessen curriculum for both private pilot and instrument ratings.  Classes are generally held in the evening at the Eagle County Airport at the Vail Valley Jet Center in our offices in Hangar 1.

If you are interested in attending our upcoming ground school please call 970-401-5105.

Learning to Fly in Colorado - Proper Communications

Here at Alpine Flight Training in Colorado we work with new pilots every day that are learning to fly.  Of all the things that there is to learn about flying it seems one of the most difficult for some people is communicating with ATC on the radio.  Not to worry, this come with practice.  A great way to pickup the conversation is to spend time listening to air traffic control on a hand held radio.

The bottom line is that proper terminology and read-back procedures increases safety and efficiency.

Several days ago a new student pilot posed the question: "Why does is the communications with ATC so structured, and is it necessary that we follow that structure?  Using proper terminology and read-back procedures increases safety and keeps everyone in the know as to your aircraft's intentions and position.

The structure of ATC communications as we know it today is the result of development and research prompted by various accidents caused by confusion resulting from informal communications.  These informal communications resulted in misunderstandings between aircraft and controllers and other aircraft.

One such accident that resulted in the development of today's ATC/aircraft communication structure occurred in Tenerife Spain in 1977.  On the 27th of March, 1977, two Boeing 747s collided on the runway on the island of Tenerife Spain.  One aircraft was engaged in a back-taxi, the second was on take-off roll.  The collision resulted in the largest aviation disaster ever excluding the acts of terrorism committed on September 11th, 2001.

I have written a narrative analysis of this accident and provided a link below.  I have also provided a link to the accident report.

So to answer my student's question - the formal communication structure is for safety, and yes it is required.

See Also

Flying over Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Eagle in a Diamond DA-20 Trainer from our Flight School

Checkout our latest video - a trip over the rockies with the fall colors.  We're fling in a Diamond DA-20 trainer aircraft.  This is the same aircraft we provide primary instruction in for private pilot and instrument ratings.  Alpine Flight Training is your flight training and flight school for learning to fly in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Eagle.  We provide flight instruction for all levels from private pilot, instrument ratings, commercial and flight instructor ratings.

Instrument Rating Eagle Airport | Colorado Mountain Instrument Flying

Considerations When Planning IFR in the MountainsA couple years ago I had a Private Pilot come to Eagle for a two day mountain flight training course.  As with all pilots that attend this training, the starting place is a discussion about the type of flying they do, the flying they plan to do, skill level, their goals for the training, and their aircraft.

Based on these conversations I tailor the training to suit each pilot.  While every pilot will learn the same basics... mountain weather, density altitude, etc, some things will be different for each student.  For example a Malibu driver looking to fly to the Rockies mostly in the winter to ski will have a different training experience than a husky pilot looking for unimproved fields in the summer.  Along those same lines the experience will differ from a VFR pilot to a pilot planning to fly IFR.

In this case, the pilot I was working with had a very capable (turbine) aircraft.  He planned to fly instrument approaches and departures into mountain airports.

During the first day of training I asked the pilot to fly and instrument departure from Meeker airport.  This pilot promptly put on his foggles, throttled forward and got in the air.  Within about 15 seconds I knew he was not following the DP, and was just flying runway heading....(as he didn't have the chart out). I asked him to continue with his instrument departure but to please take the foggles of so he could see how this departure was playing out.

5 minutes later his comments were that "I guess maybe my aircraft doesn't have the performance to fly IFR out of mountain airports".  I politely responded that I didn't think aircraft performance was the issue.

The next few minutes was a chain of leading questions that lead nowhere.  As it turns out, this pilot had spent the last 10 years flying from flat land airports in an aircraft with incredible performance.  He was completely unaware that textual departure procedures even existed.  In fact he had never even noticed or looked at that section of the NOAA chart book.  For this pilot, if there was no SID that meant runway heading, contact atc.

For those of you Jepp users that I just lost... NOAA charts have all the DP's in the front of the book - not like Jepp charts that have them with the airport.

While this a somewhat comical situation, there is a moral to the story.  All pilots should seek mountain checkout, not just VFR, and not just those with aircraft short on performance.  I offer IFR mountain flying instruction as well as VFR mountain flying instruction.

Consider the how these are influenced by mountainous terrain:

  • SID / DP's - Climb Gradient / Density Altitude / Performance
  • Approaches - Steep - VDP's (visual descent points are common)
  • Missed Apporoaches - What happens if you go past a VDP and need to go missed? (This is sticky - I'll cover in the next post)
  • Circiling Approaches
  • Off-Angle Approaches (LOC, VOR and LDA)
  • Weather
  • Airframe Icing

Watch One Six Right On Hulu For Free

Anyone even remotely interested in learning to fly should see this movie.  You can watch One Six Right on Hulu for free, click the image below to begin playing.

Aircraft Rental in Vail Eagle Colorado

If you're just visiting Vail, Glenwood Springs, or the Eagle Valley give us a call. We'll set up a flight with one of our instructors to show you mountain flying first hand. One the most popular trips both summer or winter is a flight to Leadville or Telluride. Leadville Is The highest airport in north America and Telluride is the second highest airport. Both flights provide an excellent scenic experience that combines enjoyment and learning.

Alpine Flight Training offers pilot training and aircraft rental in the Vail Valley. Our aircraft is a Diamond DA-20 Eclipse, commonly referred to as a Katana and is the later generation of the tried and true Katana aircraft. The original Diamond DA-20 Katana was equipped with a 90 hp Rotax 912 engine. The Eclipse version we have at Alpine Flight Training is the C1 model equipped with a 125 hp Continental IO-240 that delivers excellent performance especially useful for Mountain Flying. Our Katana Eclipse, with it's larger engine delivers similar takeoff distances as a Cessna 172 SP, but provides superior climb performance, a faster cruise speed, and a fuel burn nearly 1/2 that of the Cessna 172 SP and a slower landing speed. The Katana was originally inspired by european glider design, and also features superior glide performance of 22:1 compared to the 17:1 glide ratio of the Cessna 172 SP as well as excellent visibility through it's bubble canopy design.

Learning to fly in the winter

I am frequently asked what the best season is to learn to fly. Often I see people that want to learn to fly put it off because they think winter is a bad time to fly.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Winter is an incredible time of year. The cold air means dense air, and that means great performance from our airplanes. The planes climb faster, cruise faster and the engine cooling issues of the summer vanish. It's true, the occasional winter storm grounds us, but that's no different then the thunderstorms that ground us throughout the summer. Even with the winter storms, we can still fly on average six out of every 7 days.

What's more, winter creates an incredible winter landscape. One of the most incredible sights is flying over the snow covered rocky mountains under clear skies and a full moon.

Here in the Rockies, every season presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities Flight training in the spring often brings good weather and brisk winds. Training in the summer is marked by beautiful mornings and warm weather that later turns to afternoon thunderstorms. In the fall we see the beginning of winter storms, but great fall colors and many smooth days. And finally, in the winter we have an incredible landscape, ample smooth flying days.

No matter what the season, it's always a great season to learn to fly in the Colorado Rockies. To learn more about flight instruction call one of our instructors at Eagle Airport

Learn to Fly in Glenwood Springs Colorado

Glenwood Springs Colorado is a great place to learn to fly.  You get a blend of aviation old and new.  The Glenwood Springs Airport, located a couple miles south of town is a small 3300 foot runway that shows you the way airports used to be.  One of the great things about Glenwood however is there are the larger more modern airport Eagle located just 10 minutes away.  A new student learning to fly has tremendous opportunity in Glenwood Springs.  They can learn to navigate to and from a true mountain airport like Glenwood, but still be able to learn about tower communications, controlled airspace, and have a 9000 foot long runway that is ample wide to practice landings on.

Alpine Flight Training provides flight training and flight instruction at the Glenwood Springs airport for Private and Instrument ratings.  If you have ever wanted to learn to fly, start now.  Give our knowledgeable instructors a call and we will schedule an introductory flight today.  (970) 401-5105