• PiperForum.com is a vibrant community of Piper owners and pilots. Our over 1,500+ active members use Piper Forum to swap technical knowledge, plan meetups and sell planes/parts. We host technical knowledge of general aviation topics and specific topics on J3-Cubs, Cherokees, Comanches, Pacers and more. In addition to an instant community of pilots for you, PiperForum.com is a library of technical topics, airplane builds, images, technical manuals, technical documents and more.

    Access to PiperForum.com is subscription based. Subscriptions are only $49.99/year or $6.99/month to gain access to this great community and unmatched library of Piper knowledge.

    Click Here to Become a Subscribing Member and Access PiperForum.com in Full!

Colorado Mountain Flying

Mountain Pilot

Well-Known Member
Apr 13, 2010
Reaction score
This in response to Bart's question so I am posting it under a new thread.
Also I am going to post this under General Discussion instead of Training, for I feel it will be more of a discussion on others experiences.

First off even though I am a Flight Instructor and have been flying in the South-Western US for most of my flying experience, I do not feel I am any kind of expert of Mountain Flying. As with most pilots I have done many stupid mistakes, none has lead to an overall negative experience. I have learned by them and have attempted not to relive them again. Most of the proper methods and also Do-Nots have been explained to me by the "Old-Timers" that have survived. The two most experienced Mountain Pilots in the Colorado Area died in crashes in the last two years, they both got themselves into situations that they in their own Mountain Flying Books warned against. Overconfidence in ones abilities are one of the main factors in Mountain Crashes. Also overconfidence in ones planes abilities do many in. A high performance plane with 2000 ft per minute climb rate at 8,000 ft elevation will not overcome a 3,000 FPM downdraft.

When reviewing NTSB Accident Reports, most Colorado mountain accidents are in high performance aircraft although a majority of local aircraft are of the lower power such as the Cherokee-140 and Cessna-172 class. Why? Many flying a turbocharged 300+ Hp aircraft with IFR certified anti-icing and the latest GPS Technology feel they have the ability to fly anywhere at anytime, and get by with it in the mid-west flat-lands, it is not so around here. many times it is impossible to get over the weather when it reaches to over 24 thousand feet, and embedded in it is extreme turbulence, vertical winds going over 4,000 FPM, icing rates that no anti-icing can handle. The low powered crowd know they are at a disadvantage and fly knowing that and take few to no risks. Fly daytime, usually mornings while it is cool and winds low. Keep loads light and are not afraid to turn back. I have hit headwinds through passes that put my ground speed at -20 mph, climb rate at -2000 FPM, Time to turn around and get out of there before loosing much altitude, now retreating at 240 mph ground speed, it doesn't take any time to retreat at those speeds....

So how do the poor guys like me with low performance aircraft survive? I carry a pillow and a couple blankets, find a cot or fluffy chair at the terminal where I am at and await the passing of the bad weather and winds. I fly cross countries during the day ( mainly trying to get most of it done in the early morning hours ) and my night flying is in local areas that have lots of room.

To get over the high passes one can use ridge line up-lift to get through them when available. My Cessna-140 with 85 hp got me over 14,500 ft many times. ( See: [ame="http://www.vimeo.com/3528443"]http://www.vimeo.com/3528443[/ame] also [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pskW4V4Mp3A&feature=channel_page"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pskW4V4M ... annel_page[/ame] )

For those who have not been to Colorado please realize it is not like Oregon or Washington State with plenty of water, tall thick grass in pretty mountain valleys, super thick stands of trees. Although we do have some of that, most is quite dry with grass airports few and far in-between, especially in the southern most part of the state ( sorry Bart ) . We have extremes, one side of a mountain range can be wet and forested while the other is very dry with low amounts of vegetation. For non-improved areas expect gravel strips and no services what-so-ever. Many valley areas are very wide but deep, never fly into an area up hill, climb up first to go over the mountain ridge-line and then drop down into your destination while heading down hill ( down stream as we put-it ). The "Valley" that I operate out of is over 7,500 ft elevation. 50 miles wide and 120 miles north to south, Many eastern states will fit into its area. Lowest pass area is to New Mexico at 10,500 ft and passes up to over 12,000 ft going north, with mountain peaks around us reaching to over 14,000 ft. ( see above movie list )

The airport ( KMVI ) that I fly out of is at 7610 ft, standard temperature is 31 deg F. Summer afternoon Temperature will reach over 85 deg F. and density altitude will reach well over 11K FT. Winter climb rates are about 300 fpm and during Summer we fly with 1/2 fuel and 2 people will be happy to see 100 to 150 fpm. Yes I instruct in these conditions and students survive in these conditions. So can you!

Come on over, I will spend time with you to improve your knowledge and comfort level. No charge, no fees. Just for the enjoyment of it.

Now would I fly over an open area of water? No way !!!! I can walk on mountains but have had no success walking on water...

Latest posts