Mountain Flying Procedures

PREFLIGHT SAFETY TIPS

TAKEOFF OPERATIONS

ENROUTE FLYING

ESCAPING DOWNDRAFTS

LANDING OPERATIONS

RULES OF THUMB FOR PILOTS

MOUNTAIN FLYING SURVIVAL TIPS

MOUNTAIN FLYING AT NIGHT

REPORTING EMERGENCIES

 

 

 

 

 

Preflight Safety Tips

Be familiar with your airplane and know it's operating limitations.
KNOW YOUR V SPEED

Check the weather and plan to stay out of marginal areas.
CALL FLIGHT SERVICE/USE DUATS/GET AREA FORECAST/CALL AIRPORT/CALL LOCAL SHERIFF OR RADIO STATION

File a Flight Plan and fly that plan

PLAN FLIGHT TO FOLLOW ROADS, VALLEYS, POPULATED AREAS. DIRECT ROUTING IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST OR POSSIBLE DUE TO TERRAIN.

Keep airplane as light as possible.
CALCULATE A WEIGHT AND BALANCE ON ALL FLIGHTS.

Become familiar with the field of intended landing.
CALL AIRPORT AND ASK ABOUT ANY IF THERE ARE SPECIFIC PROBLEMS COMING IN OR GOING OUT OF FIELD.

Plan flight to takeoff and land in early morning air.
SMOOTH AIR IS NORMALLY AVAILABLE DURING THAT TIME.

Carry survival equipment/water/first aid in airplane.
DRESS FOR THE WEATHER AT YOUR DESTINATION.

Oxygen should be available.
BECOME FAMILIAR WITH ROUTE AND IF REQUIRED, USE OXYGEN.

Carry survival gear.
IF YOU HAVE TO GO DOWN, BE PREPARED.
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Takeoff Operations

Calculate takeoff performance using current conditions.
REFER TO OPERATIONS MANUAL/USE KOCH CHART/MAKE SURE YOUR AIRPLANE CAN CLIMB TO CLEAR TERRAIN.

Lean mixture for takeoff and climb
FOR MOST SINGLE ENGINE AIRCRAFT-DO A FULL POWER RUN UP AFTER THE NORMAL RUN UP AND LEAN FOR MAXIMUM RPM.

Let the plane fly off the ground.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLIMB IN HIGH DENSITY ALTITUDE SITUATIONS UNTIL THERE IS SUFFICIENT AIRSPEED. LET THE SPEED BUILD IN GROUND EFFECT IF NECESSARY.

Keep a positive rate of climb, even if it is 100 fpm.
IF CLIMB RATE DECREASES AFTER TAKEOFF, LOWER THE NOSE. KEEP UP THE SPEED. DO NOT ALLOW THE PLANE TO MUSH AND THEN STALL.

Use known escape routes.
TALK WITH PILOTS AND FBO OPERATORS TO LEARN ABOUT WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN NOT MAKE A NORMAL CLIMB OUT.

There is no natural horizon. Constantly rising terrain can appear to be level.
MONITOR THE ATTITUDE INDICATOR AND AIRSPEED ALONG WITH VISUAL REFERENCES.
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Enroute Flying

Use mixture control.
LEAN FOR MOST EFFICIENT FUEL BURN AT ALTITUDE.

Use altitude for safety if you can.
PLAN YOUR FLIGHT SO THAT YOU HAVE AT LEAST 1,000 FEET OF CLEARANCE OVER THE HIGHEST TERRAIN ALONG YOUR ROUTE. IN HIGH WIND CONDITIONS, PLAN ON 2,000 FEET OF CLEARANCE.

Watch for downdrafts.
NORMALLY THE DOWNDRAFT WILL APPEAR ON THE LEEWARD SIDE. DOWNDRAFTS CAN ALSO OCCUR DURING CLIMBOUT OVER MOUNTAINS. IF YOU ENCOUNTER A DOWNDRAFT ON CLIMBOUT, TURN AROUND AND WAIT FOR WINDS TO CALM.

Cross mountain ridges at a 45 degree angle.
THIS WILL ALLOW YOU TO TURN TO LOWER TERRAIN WITH ONLY A 90 DEGREE TURN RATHER THAN A 135 DEGREE TURN

Turbulence is normal during the summer months
IN THE LATE MORNING AND ALL AFTERNOON, TURBULENCE CAN BECOME ANNOYING. RIDE OUT LIGHT TO MODERATE TURBULENCE. KNOW YOUR V SPEED. SEVERE TURBULENCE CAN BE DANGEROUS. CONSIDER CANCELING DURING WARNINGS OF SEVERE TURBULENCE.

Keep abreast of the weather
CALL FLIGHT WATCH/CALL UNICOMS/LISTEN TO OTHER AIRCRAFT/IF ADF, LISTEN TO LOCAL STATIONS.

Let people know where you are.
MAKE POSITION REPORTS TO FSS OR TO LOCAL AIRPORTS.

Fly your flight plan
IF YOU CAN NOT FLY YOUR FLIGHT AS PLANNED, LET FSS KNOW ABOUT IT IMMEDIATELY AND GIVE THEM YOUR INTENTIONS.
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Landing

Use mixture control.
SET MIXTURE CONTROL FOR BEST BURN AT YOUR ALTITUDE.

Use your normal indicated airspeeds.
AT HIGH ALTITUDES WITH THE WINDS PRODUCING LESS LIFT, THE PROPELLER LESS EFFICIENT AND THE ENGINE PRODUCING LESS POWER, YOU STILL APPEAR TO BE MOCING FASTER (TRUE AIRSPEED IS HIGHER) AT NORMAL INDICATED AIRSPEEDS. BUT, USE THEM!!!

Fly a stable approach with constant airspeed rate of descent.
REMEMBER WITH A LANDING AT A NARROW FIELD, YOU WILL THINK YOU ARE HIGHER. MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN CAN ALSO CONFUSE YOU AT TIMES AS HORIZON IS NORMALLY FALSE.

Watch out for departing traffic.
SOME MOUNTAIN AIRPORTS REQUIRE LANDINGS AND DEPARTURES IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS DUE TO TERRAIN. KEEP YOUR LANDING LIGHT ON FOR IDENTIFICATION.

Be careful if landing at night.
DUE TO TERRAIN SURROUNDING MOUNTAIN AIRPORTS, USE THE OVERHEAD DESCENT PROCEDURE.

Watch out for dangerous crosswinds or wind shear.
REMEMBER, MOUNTAIN WAVES. THEY CAN ROLL ACROSS RUNWAYS IF MOUNTAINS ARE CLOSE TO RUNWAY.

Close your flight plan.
REMEMBER, THE FAA WILL START LOOKING FOR YOU WITHIN THIRTY MINUTES AND THE CIVIL AIR PATROL WILL BEGIN A SEARCH WITHIN ONE HOUR.

DO NOT TOP OFF YOUR TANKS. PLAN YOUR FUEL SO THAT YOU CAN GET MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE ON TAKEOFF AND CLIMB AND HAVE ENOUGH TO GET TO LOWER ELEVATIONS BEFORE TOPPING OFF.
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Rules of thumb for pilots

RUNWAY LENGTHS:
ADD 10% takeoff roll for each 1,000 feet of field elevation above sea level.

ADD another 10% for each 15ºF above std. temp. (Sea level 59ºF)

A 10% increase in weight results in a 20% increase in takeoff roll. A 20% wt. incr. requires 40% more runway.

CROSSWIND COMPONENTS (Degrees to Runway):

15º = .3 x Wind 30º = .5 x Wind
45º = .7 x Wind 60º = .9 x Wind

MEDICAL, OXYGEN:
ALWAYS breathe supplemental oxygen above 12,500 feet M.S.L.

Night vision deteriorates rapidly above 5,000 feet M.S.L. Use Oxygen from ground up. A smoker who averages one pack a day has the same oxygen requirements at 10,000 feet as the nonsmoker requires at 14,000 feet.

GENERAL:
A non-instrument pilot will often lose control of the aircraft within 3 minutes of losing visual contact with the ground or a true horizon. VERY IMPORTANT to night flight in Nevada.

TEMPERATURE CONVERSION:
Actual : C. x 1.8 + 32 = F.
Est. : C. x 2 + 25 = F.

Climb Performance / V speeds

Maximum Search Ceiling Altitude: climb rate of 300 feet per minute.
Effect of Weight on climb performance (less weight is better):

C-172: for each 100 lb. weight reduction, ROC increases 60 fpm
C-182/Arrow: for each 100 lb. weight reduction, ROC increases 80 fpm

Most V speeds change as 1/2 the percentage of the change in weight (the square root of the ratio is more precise)

Turn Technique

Bank angles for search:

Maximum of 30º while scanning
Maximum of 45º to position the aircraft for a pass
The 60º bank is reserved for an emergency escape (It may result in altitude loss)

Canyon turn: entry speed - 1.5 Vso, approach flaps, 60º bank, pull to stall warning (AVOID ACTUAL STALL), may lose altitude.
Modified Wingover: Pull up to ~ 30º pitch, when airspeed drops to ~ 70 kts apply rudder in direction of turn, allerons neutral; after 90º of turn, relax back pressure and rudder pressure. Recover from nose-down with gentle back pressure.

Speed/Size/Distance Estimation
1 knot = 100-feet per minute
Crosswind estimation: at 100 kts, each 5 degrees of crab is equal to 10 knots of crosswind component.

Direction/velocity estimation: Over a distinct point, enter a 45º turn at 100 KTAS. After a full circle, check position back to the point.
Wind direction is from the point to current position
Velocity in knots is the distance in thousands of feet times 2.

Turn Radius (in feet):

45º bank time (speed in kts, squared) + 10 (11.26 to be precise)

30º bank 75% larger

60º bank 40% smaller

At 100 knots, a 45º bank turn has a radius of ~900 feet
At 100 knots, you travel 1,000 feet in 6 seconds
Time in seconds to make a 360º turn at a 45º bank speed in kts + 3 same rules as for radius for 30º and 60º banks above apply for time

3º decent 20/1 @100 kts, 3º = 100/20 = 5 kts or 500 fpm or multiply speed in knots by 5 to get fpm (100 kts x 5 = 500 fpm)

4º decent: multiply speed in knots by 8 to get fpm descent rate

 

Rules for Ridges and Canyons
Approach ridges at a 45º angle when within 1/4 to 1/2 mile
Always remain in a position where you can turn toward lowering terrain
Safe to cross a ridge when you could cross the ridge in a power-off glide
Fly along windard/downwind sides of canyons to allow use of the full width to turn around

Altimetery
Pressure Altitude: set altimeter to 29.92 to display, or add 1,000-feet per inch of mercury above 29.92 (subtract below 29.92)
Standard Temp: 59ºF-3.5º per thousand feet MSL (Standard Lapse Rate)
Density Altitude: Pressure Alt + 66 x (Ambient Temp - Std Temp ºF) or add 600 feet for each 10ºF above Standard Temperature
Temp Conversions: Double ºC add 30 for ºF (exact ºF = ºC x 9/5 + 32)
True airspeed increases ~ 2% per thousand feet of altitude

Downdrafts
For each 10 knots wind speed, fly 1000 feet above terrain
If wind is >30 knots at peaks, don't go unless absolutely necessary

Appendix
Mountain Wave conditions (AVOID):
1) Forecast winds aloft at alt of peaks > 30 kts
2) Wind direction +/- 30 degrees of perpendicular to obstruction
3) Wind velocity steadily increasing with increasing altitude(wind velocity at 34,000 feet >74 kt is a strong indicator for wave)
4)Wind direction relatively constant with increasing altitude

Wave Downdraft Escape: if descending at Vy faster than you should be ascending:
1) Turn toward lower terrain,
2) Increase speed to cruise speed, (use Va if any turbulence is present) to flu out of the downdraft area
Turning downwind is the fastest direction to fly out of the downdraft

Takeoff/Landing Distances
If you don't have 71% of take off speed at midpoint of runway, abort the takeoff because you won't reach takeoff speed before the end of the runway.
Takeoff distance varies as the square of the weight.
For each 1000 DA above sea level, add 12% to the sea level takeoff distance, add 4% to the landing distance.

Takeoff surface:

firm turf: add 7%
rough, rocky or short grass (<4" high): add 10%
long grass(>4" high): add 20-30%
soft field: add 23-75%
mud or snow: add 50+%

For each 1% of downslope, subtract 5% from takeoff distance
For each 1% of upslope add 7% to takeoff distance

Oxygen
O2

Is required for the pilot after 30 minutes above 12,500 feet;
At all times above 14,000;
For all passengers above 15,000
Recommended for search operations above 10,000

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Mountain Flying Survival Tips

Survival Kit

Shelter

1 Tube tent
2 Space blankets

Fire/Signaling
5 Altitude flares
2 Day/Night flares
2 Orange smoke signals
1 Signaling Mirror
1 Whistle
2 Small long-burn candles
25 Waterproof strike-anywhere matches

Tools
1 Swiss army knife
50' Nylon rope
1 small pliers
1 Hack say blade
2 Razor blades

First Aid Kit
Band-Aids
Butterfly bandages
Gauze
Antiseptic pads
Antiseptic cream
Surgical tape
Ace bandage
Tweezers
Ammonia inhalants
Aspirin
Salt tablets
Anti-diareal tablets
Throat lozenges
Antacid
Safety pins
Facial tissues
Insect repellent
Sun Screen
Snake bite kit

Water
Containers
Purification tablets
Small sponge

Food
Tea bags
Bouillon cubes
Dry soup packs
Granola bars
Chewing gum

Miscellaneous
Compass
Pencil and Pan
Electrical tape
Metal cup
Garbage bags
Survival book
Pen light
Zip lock bags

Emergency Uses of Aircraft Parts
Ailerons - snow cutting tools; shelter braces; splints

Air Filter - fire-starter material; water filter

Aluminum Skin- reflector for warmth around a fire; splint; signaling device; snow saw blade

Battery - signaling with lights; fire starter

Break fluid - fire starter

Charts and Maps - stuff inside clothing for insulation

Compass - oil for starting fire; direction finding

Control Cables - rope; snare wire; binding for shelter

Control Pulleys with Cable - block and tackle

Disc Brake Plates - signaling devices

Doors - shelter; windbreak

Engine Cowl - shelter; water collector; windbreak; fire platform

Engine Mags - spark producers for starting fires

Engine Oil - fire starter; black smoke for signaling

Engine Gas - fire starter; fuel for stove; signaling

Fabric Skin - fire starter; water collector

Fuel Cells - use to melt snow on a black surface; black smoke for signaling; place on snow for signal to search and rescue planes

Fuselage - shelter

Hoses - siphon for water/gas/oil; burn for black smoke

Inner Tubes - canteen; elastic binding; black smoke signal

Interior Fabric - water strainer or filter; clothing; insulation; bandages

Landing Light Lens - fire starter

Landing Light, Strobes - use battery to signal at night

Light covers - utensils; small tools

Magnesium Wheels - signaling devices

Nose Spinner Cone - bucket; stove with sand, oil and fuel; scooping tool; cooking pot; funnel

Oil Filter - burn for black smoke

Propeller - shovel; snow-cutting tool; shelter brace

Rotating Beacon Lens - drinking cup

Rugs - ground pad; insulation, clothing

Seats - sleeping cushions; back brace; fire starter; signal material; insulation; ground pad; rubber sponge for neck support

Seat belts - binding material; slings; bandages

Spring Steel Landing Gear - pry bar; splint

Tires - fire starter; fuel; black smoke

Vertical Stabilizer - shelter support; platform

Wheel Fairing - water storage; water collection; black smoke

Windows - shelter; windbreaks; cutting tools

Wings - windbreaks; shelter supports; overhead shade; platform for fire; water collector; signaling device; crutch

Wingtips - drip collectors; water carriers

Wiring - binding; rope

Wooden Wing Struts, Braces, Props - fire starter; fuel; pry bar; splint; shelter brace; flag pole
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ESCAPING DOWNDRAFTS

When crossing ridges or a series of ridges while heading into the wind, you should always turn to approach the ridge at a 45- degree angle when within ¼ mile of the ridge. Choose your crossing point and anticipated direction of turn (to the right or to the left) so that the turnaround path will be free of obstructions. This provides the option of escaping toward the lowering terrain and reversing the course with only a 135- degree turn rather than a 180-degree turn.

Suppose that you have chosen a good escape route. While attempting to cross the ridge at a 45- degree angle, you find yourself descending in a strong downdraft. If it is doubtful that you can safely cross the ridge, start the turn immediately, heading away from the ridge. Apply full power and fly in a climb attitude at maneuvering speed. The aircraft may still be descending. It is important to get as far away from the ridge as possible as quickly as possible. The further away from the ridge, the less downdraft and the less turbulence will be encountered.

The use of maneuvering speed allows for the fastest speed possible that prevents overstressing the aircraft in severe turbulence. Although the transition to maneuvering speed may increase the rate of descent, the overall time period the airplane is in the downdraft is shortened, resulting in less altitude loss.

Always monitor your vertical speed indicator as some downdrafts are smooth and you may not even realize you in one. For this reason, monitor the vertical speed indicator in the mountains. Typical downdrafts are 1000 to 1400 feet per minute and on occasion may be much higher.

Flying in a downdraft may produce a sudden and severe jolt, similar to hitting a curb in an automobile. Next may be a lull followed by another bump. The jolts may come from all directions, vertical and horizontal. Sometimes the turbulence is severe enough to tip the airplane up on one wing. It keeps you very busy and it may be difficult to maintain full control.

However, be careful not to over-control, especially elevator control. Fly an attitude and accept altitude loss. When the airplane approaches lower terrain, the severe turbulence will subside. At this point, the airplane may still not be able to climb as the air above is still cascading down. It may be possible to climb to a certain altitude and then the rate of climb goes to zero. It may be necessary to fly toward the windward slope or some distance downwind from the ridge that is causing the downdraft before the airplane can establish a positive rate of climb.

While maneuvering to get out of the downdraft, all available power may be required. With a constant speed prop, advance the control for low pitch (high RPM). Lean the engine for maximum power.

Before attempting to cross the ridge again, climb 2000 to 3000 feet above the ridge before attempting to cross it again. In a high wind condition, a downdraft may be encountered even if you are 2000 to 3000 feet above the ridge. Expect downdrafts and turbulence when the wind is strong.

Some accidents caused by pilots encountering downdrafts are due to the pilot’s concern about altitude loss, rather than an escape away from the ridge that is causing the downdraft.

Flying at maneuvering speed, rather than the best rate of climb airspeed will place the airplane farther away from the slope in less time. The difference in altitude loss may be as little as a 100 foot per minute difference while flying at Va rather than Vy during the time required getting out of this area. The total altitude loss, even though the rate of descent is greater when flying at maneuvering speed, will be less overall.

During the 30-second escape maneuver, maintaining Vx results in a 450-foot altitude loss while traveling 3,050 feet downwind from the mountain. Flight at Vy results in a 400-foot altitude loss and a distance from the mountain of 3,813 feet. Although flight at Va resulted in a total altitude loss of 500 feet, the distance from the mountain is increased to 4,575 feet.

This translates to a loss in feet-per nautical mile of 896 at Vx, 637 at Vy, and 664 at Va. Thus is it best to fly at Va in a downdraft.

If you can find an area with a more gentle slope, as opposed to a severe face, you would be much more likely to avoid a downdraft. Try to visualize the manner in which air will flow over the mountain’s surface.

And remember—all up and downdrafts are not necessarily associated with ridges. Sustained up and downdrafts can occur anywhere.
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MOUNTAIN FLYING AT NIGHT

Flying in the mountains at night can present unique problems to the pilot who is not familiar with mountain flying. Around mountain towns you can see the lights of the town and surrounding lights, but the mountains, especially on a dark night, appear as large, dark, ill-defined shapes, if visible at all. Know where you are at all times and make sure that you have plenty of altitude to clear the terrain.

If you are flying VFR and receiving vectors from ATC, do not count on them providing terrain clearance unless you ask for it and they agree to provide advisories. Even if you are receiving vectors with terrain clearance, and you are not comfortable with the surroundings, query ATC.

If you are flying straight and level and have a mountain in front of you, but you can see lights of a town or road in the distance ahead of you, you will clear the mountain. If you cannot see the lights, then there should be some doubt in your mind as to whether or not you will clear the mountain tops. Check your sectional for terrain elevations and if you are uncertain about your position, begin climbing or reverse your course.

When crossing the mountains in VFR conditions, at night, it is a good idea to follow roads or highways, especially Interstate Highways. It will help you keep track of your position and if you do have an emergency, it is better to have it with a road beneath your aircraft. Also, if possible, obtain FLIGHT FOLLOWING from ATC.

Watch closely the temperature/dew point spread, especially when it is clearing up after a rain during the day. Use caution when the spread is fewer than 4 degrees F. The earth is giving up its heat rapidly and the temperature /dew point can come together quickly. You may first notice little patches of fog in the low areas. If they start growing and filling in, it is best to get to an airport and land as soon as possible. Airports located in mountain valleys are very susceptible to fog at night and in the early mornings. The fog may form very quickly, so pay close attention to what you observe from the air.

If you experience a power loss at night in the mountains and there are no lights in the vicinity, complete the usual emergency cockpit check and begin looking for any light of any kind. Sometimes lakes and rivers are visible at night, even with only starlight illumination.

If all you observe is a black void, extend full flaps, trim for nose up at a speed just above stall speed. The indicated forward speed, depending on the type of aircraft, will be about 45 knots and the vertical descent will be about 500 feet per minute. If your model aircraft, with full flaps extended, causes a descent in excess of 700 feet per minute, use the one -half flap setting. Turn the fuel valve off. Then turn on your ELT, if you can and also turn on all your lights to locate soft trees. Put something in front of your face just before impact. And remember, BROADCAST YOUR POSITION AND SITUATION ON A FREQUENCY THAT YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY DETERMINED WILL PROVIDE THE BEST RECEPTION IN THAT AREA. top

REPORTING EMERGENCIES

While flying in the mountains, determine what will be the best frequency to use for reporting emergencies. The standard emergency frequency, 121.5 MHz, may not always be the best one for the area where you are flying. An ATC Center frequency that has a remote repeater or a remote FSS frequency may provide you with a much better means of communication.

Also, pay attention to the CTAF frequencies for the airports along your route. Many are not monitored, but some are and if you are in the vicinity of one of these airports, check in on the frequency to ascertain if there is anyone listening. Also listen to determine if there are other aircraft in the air or on the ground at those airports that could hear you if you needed assistance in an emergency.

A cellular telephone can also be utilized in case of an emergency. If you have a cellular telephone, also carry it with you while flying in the mountains. Although reception is sometimes "spotty" more and more areas, within the mountainous west, are obtaining coverage. Remember 911 works almost everywhere. top