My planed next trip (see here: http://www.euroga.org/forums/trips-airports/2683-looking-for-expert-advice-for-european-vfr-trip-planning ) may involve crossing the Alps.
I have never done this and I’m torn between saying “let’s go for it – at least if really good weather and CAVOK is assured at all times” and saying “no need to press this… do it with another pilot first, maybe a couple of times, and do your own crossing maybe in a couple of years’ time”.
The crossing would be via Innsbruck and the Brenner pass, which is said to be easiest (yes – I have studied boscomantico’s http://www.fliegen-in-italien.de/). I’m assuming in really good weather, I can fly on top of the alps at say FL 115. Am I right to say that THIS option is MUCH less demanding than navigating within the alps at say 6500 ft using SkyDemon?
Most people seem to do this with at least a C172 or similar. Will I likely have problems (power-wise reg. winds, climb performance etc) with a C152?
I obviously haven’t done a mountain flying course. Should I? What are the key points to understand in such a course?
As an alternative to crossing the Alps as described above (but avoiding to fly all the way around via Vienna), how would you judge a crossing (again, in good weather) slightly to the West of Vienna (let’s say Linz → Graz or similar)?
Thanks a lot for any insight
There is flying IN the mountains, and OVER the mountains. My advice is to fly early in the morning before the daytime heat, and at say FL115. The airplane won’t know any different.
EDIT: just realized you are going in a C152. Is FL115 realistic with two guys and fuel in a 152 on a summer’s day?
navigating within the alps
Navigating within the alps is IMO quite easy if you have reasonable maps with you. It’s like driving on the motorway, just don’t take the wrong exit
What are the key points to understand in such a course?
I’d check the QNH north side (eg. Salzburg LOWS) and south side of the alps (eg. Ljubljana, LJLJ), if the difference is 5 or more, I’d be careful, as you’re in for a bumpy ride.
You defo won’t do FL115 in a 152 at MTOW in summer.
That said, you really don’t need to climb that high. Flying the Brenner is as easy as anything. Once you have done that, you can do other passes. It’s also more interesting than flying “IFR style” over the Alps.
For flying IN the alps, I’m still torn between those saying “do it, it’s fine” and those saying “don’t do it before you’ve done it 5 or 6 times with an experienced mountain pilot”.
Are the alps being “glorified” a bit in that sense? I went over mountaineous terrain on my X country solo in SoCal. Certainly not the alps, but I had the odd up- and downdraft and found this fine.
How about a straight line via Linz and Graz in good conditions? That would seem most convenient.
Are the alps being “glorified” a bit in that sense?
Absolutely, there is not that much to it. Fly the Brenner route as suggested, piece of cake. Most valleys in the Alps are very wide.
Are the alps being “glorified” a bit in that sense?
Yes. Do it only in fine weather and plan minimum altitudes and stick to them, then you should have no problems at all.
straight line via Linz and Graz
Yes why not. Alps light
I’d be planning a low ‘Alps Light’ version in a 152, on the principle of planning the route that is most likely to be possible on the day. If it happens to be hot the climb is going to be slow and time consuming, at slow airspeed, and your passenger can get sick if you’re circling for altitude etc.
I’ve flown low powered, low wing loading aircraft across (non-alps) mountains a fair bit, with an absolute aircraft ceiling of around 10K feet. It takes a long time to climb high enough, and may not be straightforward, depending on the day…
I’m also thinking of (as it happens) the last time I rode a motorcycle across the Brenner, last June, to Meran. The conditions that day were forecast and avoidable, yes, but the wind left with me with a certain impression! Obviously you’d never plan the flight on a day like that, and it would work on a different day.
What I have found, starting with my first Alps crossing in 2004, is that a huge amount of nonsense is written in pilot forums on this topic (not on EuroGA of course ).
Back then, one “big pilot forum personality” posted dark hints about mountain waves killing you, etc. He knew I had a TB20 with a 20000ft ceiling, and as the owner of a similar high perf aircraft plus a self proclaimed syndicate member of a Citation he should have known better than to post that rather typical too-brief piece of “information”.
Anyway, I bought this piece of “advice” and some others from various “pilot forum pilots” and flew to Switzerland first, where the plan was to wait for absolutely perfect VMC and zero wind weather. Result? We got stuck for a few days at Wangen-Lachen, in crap surface weather and eating €20 sandwiches We got a nice pic of Samedan but it wasn’t worth the hold-up.
Next time I did that, in 2005, I simply waited for a relative lack of wind across the Alps and VMC and flew straight over the top of the whole lot. There was some interesting cloud cover but it was always possible to climb above it.
So, my basic advice is to allow a bit of room above the terrain according to how much wind there is. In a C150/152 you have a ceiling of about 10000ft-11000ft depending on the temperature. Probably 10000ft in the typical summer ISA+10 conditions. So you have to pick a calm day; below 10kt winds IMHO. In a TB20 you can fly at 18000ft anytime so you have about 8000ft above the typical terrain, and can take a lot more wind; IME even 30kt is not really perceptible.
I have never done (on my own) what is called “mountain flying” which is flying inside the canyons and often below the cloudbase. Obviously you need to know what you are doing and where you are. The locals are trained for it but I would caution the average e.g. UK trained PPL to be pretty careful and check the weather and the route carefully.
So, my basic advice is to allow a bit of room above the terrain according to how much wind there is. In a C150/152 you have a ceiling of about 10000ft-11000ft depending on the temperature. Probably 10000ft in the typical summer ISA+10 conditions. So you have to pick a calm day; below 10kt winds IMHO
That seems right to me. My post above was not intended to be dark and foreboding I like 2000 ft over terrain. I’m over 6000 or maybe 7000 ft mountains on many of my flights, and a few higher ones less frequently – Rhino will know the drill. I’ll admit to being a little careful after seeing 1500 fpm descent at full power for something over a minute, and some other stuff like that. That doesn’t make it dangerous, IMHO it just makes mountain flying in a low powered plane a kind of strategic exercise – the planning has to be good because the tactical options once you’re airborne are more limited without so much power.
Come to think of it any flying in a low power plane is best done as a strategic exercise.
In a C150/152 you have a ceiling of about 10000ft-11000ft depending on the temperature. Probably 10000ft in the typical summer ISA+10 conditions.
Sounds right. I’ve been in a C150 on a very hot day when it wouldn’t climb over about 7500 ft, with my dad many years ago. He used it as a opportunity to teach his son about density altitude.