Monday, March 14, 2016

Aircraft experts say mountain flying has unique challenges (with video)

The Palisades Reservoir area has seen several small plane crashes over the past year.

KPVI News that Works for You looked into the unique challenges posed in mountain flying.

KPVI spoke with an experienced ISU flight instructor and one of his students about flying small planes through the mountains of East Idaho and Western Wyoming.

They say flying above the mountains is one of the most amazing things you will ever see, but it’s not without risks.

“It’s extremely challenging.  There is many more things that you have to think about,” says Tucker Stefan, ISU Student.

Tucker Stefan is a student at Idaho State University.  He tells KPVI that he has flown into nearly every back country airstrip in Idaho.

“Situational awareness is definitely very important, I mean it’s not you know the same as flying over open country for sure,” says Stefan.

Michael Evans, the Program Coordinator for Idaho State University Aviation, tells KPVI that there are several factors to consider when flying through mountain ranges.

“Pilots need to be proficient in slow flight.  This is where we fly air speeds that are approaching minimum controllable air speed,” says Michael Evans, Program Coordinator, ISU Aviation.

Evans says flying at slower speeds allows the aircraft to make a smaller radius of a turn inside a canyon.

Another major factor pilots have to pay attention to is weather.

“No matter when it’s clear every place else, it seems like we have clouds in the mountains, so sometimes we are flying below the clouds and we just have to know exactly where we are at all times,” says Evans.

Evans says pilots also have to be aware of where they fly, in relation to various peaks, including which side relative to the wind, and height at which they cross over peaks.

“We want to cross the mountains at 45 degrees, one thousand feet above the nearest peak, unless the wind is 20 knots or higher, then we want to cross at two thousand feet higher than the nearest peak,” says Evans.

Lastly, Evans says flight preparation is critical, including filing a flight plan and making sure your aircraft is properly maintained.

“Always make sure your aircraft is at peak performance and everything  is operating normally.  Never take a chance,” says concludes Evans.

Evans says flying through the mountains isn’t necessarily more dangerous, you just need to be more cautious and have knowledge of the area you are flying in.

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