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VFR Mountain flying

You can always convert speed into altitude, height into speed, etc. All planes fly with the same principles. If say you are doing 130kt then you can gain hundreds of feet before approaching Vs. This can be used to do a tight (climbing) turn.

What you don’t want to do is run out of height and speed at the same time.

I think “mountain flying” (flying inside the canyons, rather than flying straight over the top) needs a lot of local knowledge and preparation, which is why I have never done it Well, I did it once, in 2004, with a local pilot as passenger, from Wangen-Lachen to Sion where he was collecting a PA28 from maintenance. Got loads of great pics on that flight. We flew 8000ft-13000ft. On the way back I followed him, and my plan was that if I lost him I would use my moving map (I had a special setup even back then, showing a topo map of the Alps, running on a pocket/pc PDA) to stay in the canyon while climbing straight up (there was some cloud cover) and declare an emergency to ATC.

When flying to “canyon airports” (e.g. Zell am See, Locarno, Bolzano) and even when going there at say FL150 you have to be well prepared with topo charts and positively identify the canyon which you are going to descend into, so you can climb back up before getting too far down.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Well, while it is best to know exactly where you are in the mountains and what to expect, regardless I was taught to always have an out, like for icing.

The ‘out’ in the mountains is always having enough room to turn around. This room is highly influenced by your groundspeed.

What is being discussed about faster/slower flying adds some 3D to the decision and that bit is in my view more personal:

  • Do you want to fly faster, hence have more energy margin, and then perhaps plan on climbing/slowing down before turning back?, or
  • Do you want to fly slower, have more margin to turn around , possibly in level or descending flight, but with less energy margin?

I tend to pick a balance, depending on the width of the valley at my altitude…the wider the faster.

Antonio
LESB, Spain

Peter wrote:

I think “mountain flying” (flying inside the canyons, rather than flying straight over the top) needs a lot of local knowledge and preparation

It’s actually very easy. You study the map, then follow roads, rivers valleys, fjords. They are all distinct features, easy to navigate. What traditionally has been a problem is people have gotten lost (almost independent of experience). With a low ceiling and less than 10+ vis, it suddenly starts to get very difficult because you see only a small part of the valley you are flying into, and they all start to look the same. One wrong turn is all it takes, and going back isn’t all that helpful, because you don’t know where you took the wrong turn (+ it all still looks the same). Flying low and look at road signs has been the savior (seriously). It’s that, or you end up decorating a mountain, or manage to land at some odd place (road, football field or similar).

With GPS people don’t get lost anymore. No need for a SD kind of thing, the magenta line is of little use. A very simple moving map is all it takes, google maps works fine, or some of the earliest Garmin GPS with “maps”. That’s how I flew for ages. Traditional paper map planning, and a simple (very rudimentary) moving map/GPS for SA. Today I only use SD (or Easy VFR, depending on how angry I get with one of them due to some stupid “feature” ), mostly because it is so simple and fast. In addition, the planes I fly also have a moving map on the panel. The exception is the Cub.

This is the main reason Alaska is one notch above everything else IMO. There are vast areas with pure wilderness, no human made structures. With GPS it’s no problem, but in earlier times it must have been really difficult. Getting lost was more of a death sentence.

LeSving wrote:

This is the main reason Alaska is one notch above everything else IMO. There are vast areas with pure wilderness, no human made structures. With GPS it’s no problem, but in earlier times it must have been really difficult. Getting lost was more of a death sentence.

not to mention the magnetic declination that can be 20 ° while in central Europe is neglected (2 ° in Switzerland)

LSGS, Switzerland
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