November 1, 2004
By Ian J. Twombly
Mountain flying can be some of the most rewarding and beautiful flying a pilot will ever experience. Unfortunately, it also can be one of the most dangerous.Like many Florida pilots, I never learned proper mountain techniques during initial training. After all, when the tallest point in the state is often joked to be Epcot, knowledge of mountain flying is not particularly necessary or useful — as long as you don't leave the flatlands. In fact, most pilots only learn one important mountain-flying principle in their initial training — density altitude.
Although density altitude is a key concept in mountain flying, there are many other considerations a pilot must take to remain safe, not the least of which is wind. This point became evident to me on a recent trip flying around Denali in Alaska where my instructor was able to keep us safe from downdrafts, simply by coaching me on which side of a pass to fly through. In addition to weather and density altitude, all pilots should consider the following before venturing into mountainous areas.
(For more stories on mountain flying in this issue, see " Safety Pilot: Going to Jackson," page 48, " Hard Knocks," page 97, and " On Display: Steering Clear," page 147.)
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AOPA's A Pilot's Guide to Mountain Flying booklet compiled by AOPA's aviation technical specialists. www.aopa.org/members/files/guides/mntfly.html
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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