ASF - Mountain Flying

March 25, 2013

AOPA Air Safety Foundation

Mountain Flying Resources

 

High-Altitude Mountain Flying

Mountain Flying

High-altitude mountain flying has always been one of the more dangerous activities GA aircraft undertake each year. On average, 17 people die annually in GA accidents in the mountains of Colorado alone. Where eastern Appalachian flyers are used to climbing over mountains in the 2,000 to 3,000 foot range, pilots in the west regularly have to navigate in areas where the base ground is over twice that height, and the mountains themselves protrude skyward to well over 10,000 feet. Not many GA aircraft have the ability to climb over such high terrain, so the only option for most GA pilots in this area is to fly through the mountain passes. This brings numerous risks with it, as the statistics show. Some of these accidents occurred because pilots would check the weather from areas outside of the pass, when the weather inside of the pass was quite different. To solve this problem, Colorado aviation authorities recently installed Automated Weather Observing Systems (AWOS) in five mountain areas and two at critical areas of the plains. There are plans for more as they can get funding. These AWOS systems are exactly like those you may find at your local airport.

While these systems help with the weather, turbulence is still difficult to detect. Winds are usually fairly high at higher altitudes, particularly following a large weather system, The wind then funnels through mountain valleys, spills through the passes' cracks and crevices, and mixes with winds from other valleys and winds coming over the mountains. This can lead to a lot of disturbed air, and some serious turbulence. Always report pireps if any encounters with mountain turbulence occur - for the safety of pilots that may be following you, and those still on the ground.

For more information on mountain flying, visit the Colorado Pilot's Association Web site.

 

Accident Report

A Piper Malibu sustained substantial damage during an encounter with turbulence while on descent near Granby, Colorado. The ATP and his three passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for this cross-country flight that originated from Idaho Falls, Idaho, approximately 1 hour 24 minutes before the accident. An IFR flight plan had been filed.

According to the pilot, "the flight had been uneventful to that point." He said that "he felt the nose tuck a little and then wham — they hit severe/extreme turbulence." The 5 second event rolled the airplane into a 90 degree right bank, and a pitch up attitude of 45 degrees. The pilot reported that his airspeed indicator was reading 140 knots, and his altitude was 15,700 feet at the time of the event. He calculated his maneuvering speed to be approximately 120 knots.

Radar data indicated that the airplane gained 500 feet of altitude in 5 to 6 seconds. Additionally, the radar ground tract indicated that the airplane was over Corona Pass when the event happened. Both wings and horizontal stabilizer had to be replaced.

 

Alaska Mountain Passes

Alaska Range Passes:
  • Lake Clark
  • Merrill
  • Rainy
  • Windy
  • Isabel
  • Mentasta
Southeast Coast Passes:
  • White
  • Chilkoot
Talkeetna/Chugach Passes:
  • Tahneta
  • Portage
Brooks Range Passes:
  • Anaktuvuk
  • Atigun

Suggested Western Mountain Routes

Northern, West to East
ROUTE 1 NM MEA CHARTS
Seattle V120 to Wenatchee 86 12,000 Seattle, Great Falls, L 1/2, L 9/10
Wenatchee V120 to Ephrata 32 5,500
Ephrata V120 to Spokane 74 5,000
Spokane V2 to Mullan Pass 81 9,000
Mullan Pass V120 to Great Falls 172 13,000
Great Falls V120 to Lewistown 78 8,400
Total Distance 523
ROUTE 2 NM MEA CHARTS
Seattle V2-298 to Ellensburg 80 8,000 Seattle, Great Falls, L 1/2, L 9/10
Ellensburg V2 Moses Lake 48 7,000
Moses Lake V2-448 to Spokane 72 5,000
Spokane V2 to Mullan Pass 81 9,000
Mullan Pass V2 to Missoula 72 9,600
Missoula V2 to Helena 91 10,000
Helena V113 to Lewistown 100 10,200
Total Distance 544
ROUTE 3 NM MEA CHARTS
Seattle V4 to Yakima 93 10,000 Seattle, Klamath Falls, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, L 1/2, L 9/10, L 7/8
Yakima V4-298 to Pendleton 82 5,000
Pendleton V4 to Baker City 70 10,000
Baker City V4-444 to Boise 104 9,000
Boise V4-253-330 to Alkal Intersection 50 9,500
Alkal Intersection to V4 to Burley 70 9,500
Burley V4 to Malad City 67 9,400
Malad City V142 to Fort Bridger 103 12,000
Fort Bridger V6-142 to Rock Springs 65 10,000
Rock Springs V235 to Muddy Mountain 151 11,200
Muddy Mountain V235 to Newcastle 98 8,300
New Castle V536 to Rapid City 56 9,300
Total Distance 1,009
ROUTE — Alternate Route from Rock Springs NM MEA CHARTS
Rock Springs V4-6 to Cherokee 65 10,000 Seattle, Klamath Falls, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, L 1/2, L 9/10, L 7/8
Cherokee V6 to Medicine Bow 71 10,000
Medicine Bow V100 to Scottsbluff 113 9,300
Total Distance 953
Midway, West to East
ROUTE 4 NM MEA CHARTS
Sacramento V392-494 to Signa Intersection 69 11,000 San Francisco, Klamath Falls, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, L 1/2, L 7/8, L 9/10
Signa Intersection V200-392 to Mustang 47 11,500
Mustang V6 to Lovelock 61 10,000
Lovelock V32 to Battle Mountain 83 11,000
Battle Mountain V6 to Wells 96 11,000
Wells V6 to Lucin 53 10,300
Lucin V6 to Ogden 79 9,000
Ogden V6 to Fort Bridger 76 12,000
Fort Bridger V6-142 to Rock Springs 65 10,000
Rock Springs V235 to Muddy Mountain 151 11,200
Muddy Mountain V235 to Newcastle 98 8,300
Newcastle V536 to Rapid City 56 9,300
Total Distance 934
ROUTE — Alternate Route from Rock Springs NM MEA CHARTS
Rock Springs V4-6 to Cherokee 65 10,000 San Francisco, Klamath Falls, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, L 1/2, L 7/8, L 9/10
Cherokee V6 to Medicine Bow 71 10,000
Medicine Bow V100 to Scottsbluff 113 9,300
Total Distance 877
ROUTE 5 NM MEA CHARTS
Sacramento V392-494 to Signa Intersection 69 11,000 San Francisco, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, L 1/2, L 5/6, L 7/8
Signa Intersection V200-392 to Mustang 47 11,500
Mustang V105-564 to Mina 96 11,500
Mina V564 to Coaldale 36 11,500
Coaldale V105 to Beatty 87 11,000
Beatty V105 to Las Vegas 100 12,000
Las Vegas V394 to Morman Mesa 59 7,500
Mormon Mesa V21 to Milford 113 10,000
Milford V21-235 to Delta 61 9,600
Delta V21-235 to Fairfield 64 10,300
Fairfield V21 to Salt Lake City 34 9,600
Salt Lake City V32 to Fort Bridger 77 12,000
Fort Bridger V6-142 to Rock Springs 65 10,000
Rock Springs V235 to Muddy Mountain 151 11,200
Muddy Mountain V235 to Newcastle 98 8,300
Newcastle V536 to Rapid City 56 9,300
Total Distance 1,213
ROUTE — Alternate Route from Rock Springs NM MEA CHARTS
Rock Springs V4-6 to Cherokee 65 10,000  
Cherokee V6 to Medicine Bow 71 10,000
Medicine Bow V100 to Scottsbluff 113 9,300
Total Distance 1,157
Southern, West to East
ROUTE 6 NM MEA CHARTS
Hector V8-210 to Goffs 67 9,000 Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Wichita, L 3/4, L 5/6
Goffs V210 to Peach Springs 85 9,000
Peach Springs V208-210 to Grand Canyon 71 10,000
Grand Canyon V208 to Tuba City 45 9,500
Tuba City V210 to Farmington 158 12,000
Farmington V368 to Alamosa 121 13,000
Alamosa V83-210 to Lamar 157 14,000
Total Distance 703
ROUTE 7 NM MEA CHARTS
Hector V12-442 to Needles 98 9,000 Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, L 3/4
Needles V12 to Drake 99 10,000
Drake V12-264 to Winslow 86 10,500
Winslow V12 to Zuni 81 9,000
Zuni V12 to Albuquerque 115 11,000
Albuquerque V12 to Otto 43 12,000
Otto V12 to Anton Chico 44 10,000
Total Distance 566
ROUTE 8 NM MEA CHARTS
Paradise V388 to Palm Springs 56 9,500 Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, L 3/4
Palm Springs V16-372 to Blythe 85 8,000
Blythe V16 to Buckeye 98 6,000
Buckeye V16 to Phoenix 43 5,000
Phoenix V190 to St. Johns 149 12,000
St. Johns V190 to Albuquerque 121 11,500
Albuquerque V12 to Otto 43 12,000
Otto V12 to Anton Chico 44 10,000
Total Distance 643
ROUTE 9 NM MEA CHARTS
Imperial V66-458 to Bard 46 3,600 Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, El Paso, L 3/4
Bard V66 to Gila Bend 98 4,000
Gila Bend V94 to Stanfield 39 5,000
Stanfield V94 to San Simon 139 10,000
San Simon V94 to Deming 84 9,000
Deming V94 to Newman 71 9,000
Newman V94 to Salt Flat 62 8,800
Total Distance 539
Northern, East to West
ROUTE 1 NM MEA CHARTS
Lewistown V120 to Great Falls 78 8,400 Great Falls, Seattle, L 1/2, L 9/10
Great Falls V120 to Mullan Pass 172 13,000
Mullan Pass V2 to Spokane 81 9,000
Spokane V120 to Ephrata 74 5,000
Ephrata V120 to Wanatchee 32 5,500
Wanatchee V120 to Seattle 86 12,000
Total Distance 523
ROUTE 2 NM MEA CHARTS
Lewistown V113 to Helena 100 10,200 Seattle, Great Falls, L 1/2, L 9/10
Helena V2 to Missoula 91 10,000
Missoula V2 to Mullan Pass 72 9,600
Mullan Pass V2 to Spokane 81 9,000
Spokane V2-448 to Moses Lake 72 5,000
Moses Lake V2 to Ellensburg 48 7,000
Ellensburg V2-298 to Seattle 80 8,000
TotalDistance 544
ROUTE 3 NM MEA CHARTS
Scottsbluff V100 to Medicine Bow 113 9,300 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Klamath Falls, L 1/2, L 9/10, L 7/8
Medicine Bow, V6 to Cherokee 71 10,000
Cherokee V4-6 to Rock Springs 65 10,000
Total Distance 249
ROUTE — Alternate Route to Rock Springs NM MEA CHARTS
Rapid City V536 to Newcastle 56 9,300 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Klamath Falls, L 1/2, L 9/10, L 7/8
Newcastle V235 to Muddy Mountain 98 8,300
Muddy Mountain V235 to Rock Springs 151 11,200
Total Distance 305
ROUTE NM MEA CHARTS
Rock Springs to V6-142 to Fort Bridger 65 10,000 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Klamath Falls, L 1/2, L 9/10, L 7/8
Fort Bridger V142 to Malad City 103 12,000
Malad City V4 to Burley 67 9,400
Burley V4 to Alkal Intersection 70 9,500
Alkal Intersection V4-253-330 to Boise 50 9,500
Boise V4-444 to Baker City 104 9,000
Baker City V4 to Pendleton 70 10,000
Pendleton V4-298 to Yakima 82 5,000
Yakima V4 to Seattle 93 10,000
Total Distance 704
Midway, East to West
ROUTE 4 NM MEA CHARTS
Scotts Bluff V100 to Medicine Bow 113 9,300 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Klammath Falls, San Francisco, L 1/2, L 7/8, L 9/10
Medicine Bow V6 to Cherokee 71 10,000
Cherokee V4-6 to Rock Springs 65 10,000
Total Distance 249
ROUTE — Alternate Route to Rock Springs NM MEA CHARTS
Rapid City V536 to Newcastle 56 9,300 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Klammath Falls, San Francisco, L 1/2, L 7/8, L 9/10
Newcastle V235 to Muddy Mountain 98 8,300
Muddy Mountain V235 to Rock Springs 151 11,200
Total Distance 305
ROUTE NM MEA CHARTS
Rock Springs V6-142 to Fort Bridger 65 10,000 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Klammath Falls, San Francisco, L 1/2, L 7/8, L 9/10
Fort Bridger V6 to Ogden 76 12,000
Ogden V6 to Lucin 79 9,000
Lucin V6 to Wells 53 10,300
Wells V6 to Battle Mountain 96 11,000
Battle Mountain V32 to Lovelock 83 11,000
Lovelock V6 to Mustang 61 10,000
Mustang V200-392 to Signa Intersection 47 11,500
Signa Intersection V392-494 to Sacramento 69 11,000
Total Distance 629
ROUTE 5 NM MEA CHARTS
Scottsbluff V100 to Medicine Bow 113 9,300 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, L 1/2, L 5/6, L 7/8
Medicine Bow V6 to Cherokee 71 10,000
Cherokee V4-6 to Rock Springs 65 10,000
Total Distance 249
ROUTE — Alternate Route to Rock Springs NM MEA CHARTS
Rapid City V536 to Newcastle 56 9,300 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, L 1/2, L 5/6, L 7/8
New Castle V235 to Muddy Mountain 98 8,300
Muddy Mountain V235 to Rock Springs 151 11,200
Total Distance 305
ROUTE NM MEA CHARTS
Rock Springs V6-142 to Fort Bridger 65 10,000 Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, L 1/2, L 5/6, L 7/8
Fort Bridger V32 to Salt Lake City 77 12,000
Salt Lake City V21 to Fairfield 34 9,600
Fairfield V21-235 to Delta 64 10,300
Delta V21-235 to Milford 61 9,600
Milford V21 to Mormon Mesa 113 10,000
Morman Mesa V394 to Las Vegas 59 7,500
Las Vegas V105 to Beatty 100 12,000
Beatty V105 to Coaldale 87 11,000
Coaldale V564 to Mina 36 11,500
Mina V564 to Mustang 96 11,500
Mustang V200-392 to Signa Intersection 47 11,500
Signa Intersection V392-494 to Sacramento 69 11,000
Total Distance 908
Southern, East to West
ROUTE 6 NM MEA CHARTS
Lamar V83-210 to Alamosa 157 14,000 Wichita, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, L 3/4, L 5/6
Alamosa V368 to Farmington 121 13,000
Farmington V210 to Tuba City 158 12,000
Tuba City V208 to Grand Canyon 45 9,500
Grand Canyon V208-210 to Peach Springs 71 10,000
Peach Springs V210 to Goffs 85 9,000
Goffs V8-210 to Hector 67 9,000
Total Distance 703
ROUTE 7 NM MEA CHARTS
Anton Chico V12 to Otto 44 10,000 Albuquerque, Phoenix, Los Angeles, L 3/4
Otto V12 to Albuquerque 43 12,000
Albuquerque V12 to Zuni 115 11,000
Zuni V12 to Winslow 81 9,000
Winslow V12-264 to Drake 86 10,500
Drake V12 to Needles 99 10,000
Needles V12-442 to Hector 98 9,000
Total Distance 566
ROUTE 8 NM MEA CHARTS
Anton Chico V12 to Otto 44 10,000 Albuquerque, Phoenix, Los Angeles, L 3/4
Otto V12 to Albuquerque 43 12,000
Albuquerque V190 to St. Johns 121 11,500
St. Johns V190 to Phoenix 149 12,000
Phoenix V16 to Buckeye 43 5,000
Buckeye V16-94 to Blythe 98 6,000
Blythe V16-372 to Palm Springs 85 8,000
Palm Springs V388 to Paradise 56 9,500
Total Distance 644
ROUTE 9 NM MEA CHARTS
Salt Flat V94 to Newman 62 8,800 El Paso, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Los Angeles, L 3/4
Newman V94 to Deming 71 9,000
Deming V94 to San Simon 84 9,000
San Simon V94 to Stanfield 139 10,000
Stanfield V94-95 to Gila Bend 39 5,000
Gila Bend V66 to Bard 98 4,000
Bard V66-458 to Imperial 46 3,600
Total Distance 539



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