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Going missed in the mountainsGoing missed in the mountains

This approach to the scenic mountain airport in Driggs, Idaho, looked easy. 

The AWOS reported clear skies, good visibility, and light wind. Despite the promising weather report, however, Cessna Citation pilot Luz Beattie reviewed and mentally rehearsed the published missed approach procedure as she flew a GPS approach to Runway 4.  

The airplane descended into a mountain valley 15 miles from the airport and continued toward the runway. But five miles from the threshold, a few airport buildings were visible—but not the runway itself. Then the Citation entered a fog bank and visibility dropped to zero.  

The only safe response was an immediate climb, then a left turn to stay clear of terrain, as the missed approach directed. 

As soon as the Citation emerged from the fog, however, the runway was in plain sight ahead and to the right. Fog obscured the threshold of Runway 4, but a landing in the opposite direction on Runway 22 seemed like it could be done in visual conditions. 

After informing air traffic control, Beattie made a 180-degree turn and landed on Runway 22.  

There was sunshine on one end of the 7,000-foot runway and fog on the other. 

Mountain flying can be full of surprises, especially in winter. But being prepared to fly the missed approach allowed Beattie to act decisively—and correctly—as soon as the runway disappeared. 

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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