It’s no secret: Backcountry and mountain flying have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. Pilots who participate in this sector of aviation have myriad reasons for doing so—a new challenge, a great way to sharpen their flying skills, breathtaking views, and a chance to get off the grid for the ultimate feel of freedom. Whatever the reason, the allure of backcountry flying is undeniable.
But flying in the backcountry comes with a unique set of challenges, and therefore, risks. The past few years have seen some troubling mishaps, so our focus is set on improving safety while making flying in the backcountry more accessible and enjoyable.
Not every airplane is a perfect fit for the backcountry and the lighter, big tire airplanes are favored for a reason. Before flying off-pavement or into the mountains, consider your airplane’s strengths and limitations, like prop clearance, engine performance, takeoff and landing performance, range and useful load, and overall aircraft health.
Before heading into the backcountry, make sure you’re proficient and (ideally) have received training from a qualified instructor on backcountry-specific techniques like short and soft field landings, canyon flying and turns, and backcountry navigation. The most paramount area of required proficiency is decision making—in the backcountry, there is little to no room for errors in judgment.
Higher risk, higher rewards: Backcountry flying provides stunning views and access to amazing locations inaccessible to most pilots. But backcountry and wilderness airfields are often remote, subject to unique mountainous weather patterns, and lack a typical airport’s resources like maintenance, fuel, and cell service. Extra planning (including contingency planning) is required before a backcountry flight.
We enjoy the privilege and freedom of backcountry flying, and with it comes our responsibility to care for the environment, property, and community that make it possible. But we must also make every effort to create positive perceptions of general aviation backcountry flying by being safe and considerate—avoiding maneuvers that could result in unnecessary regulations, restrictions, or worse, prohibitions. Let’s all do our part to keep the backcountry safe and accessible.
Learn more about stewardship with backcountry flight operations use at established airstrips in and around wilderness areas:
Download Idaho BC Stewardship PDF
Flying the Backcountry: Risks and Rewards Webinar Series
It’s no secret: Backcountry and mountain flying have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. Pilots who participate have myriad reasons for doing so—a new challenge, a great way to sharpen their flying skills, breathtaking views, and a chance to get off the grid for the ultimate feel of freedom. Whatever the reason, the allure of flying the backcountry is undeniable, but flying in the backcountry comes with a unique set of challenges, and therefore, risks. Be sure to join us to hear from backcountry experts about what it takes to be a safe and successful backcountry aviator.
Help the AOPA Air Safety Institute get the word out about the dangers of density altitude to every backcountry strip, private grass strip, and any airport you visit this summer. Request up to 10 printed copies of our density altitude poster, or download a printable PDF of the poster, and ask that they be posted at all the locations you travel to this year. They can be customized to standard density altitude for any location.
With your help and continued education on the effects of density altitude on aircraft performance we can save lives! Learn more about density altitude.