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"...on average 17 people die annually in GA accidents in the mountains of Colorado alone..."

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Just returned home from a wonderful ski trip out to beautiful Steamboat Springs, CO. Absolutely the best skiing and the nicest people! We had a blast and plan to return!

Flew commercial to HDN. Naturally, I was dreaming all along what a great trip it would be to take the Mooney next time! Maybe even land at SBS. But I was enlightened and shocked by an AOPA statistic: "...on average 17 people die annually in GA accidents in the mountains of Colorado alone..." That's astounding!

Soooooo... a lot of learning about mountain flying will have to take place first before yours truly will even consider taking the Mooney out there! 

Questions to all the knowledgeable folks out there in Colorado: where do I begin?! And do IFR routings with reasonable MEAs for a 201 actually exist to HDN or SBS for example? I know people fly Skylanes and the like VFR through mountain passes. Is this because the great views or is the terrain just too high? I could get used to rocks under me, next to me or above me. But not all of those at the same time!

 

 

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Yes, I've had the same daydreams on approach to Telluride. The thing is what constitutes great ski weather rarely equates with great flying weather for long term trips. I'd feel totally different if I lived in Western Kansas or Eastern Colorado. Day trips into Leadville on bluebird days would be something I'd feel good about.

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Glad you enjoyed your visit to my beautiful home state of Colorado!

A mountain flying course is a must for any flatlander newbie who wants to cross the rocks. Most of the flight schools at KAPA and KBJC offer them. The best courses take a day or two.

There are few, if any, IFR routings over the peaks with reasonable MEA's for normally-aspirated airplanes. They need ample clearance not just for terrain, but also for radar coverage.

People fly through the passes either for fun or because they can't get any higher. Years ago I flew all over the state in a normally-aspirated Socata Trinidad and never had any problems clearing terrain as long as ambient temps were cool enough. One rule of thumb we have in these parts is to be back on the ground before noon to avoid high winds, high density altitudes, thunderstorms and turbulence.

In the winter time your biggest headache is high winds aloft, leading to sometimes brutal turbulence. I actually don't cross the Rockies between November and April because my wife and I suffered through a couple harrowing episodes that we don't want to repeat. Check winds aloft carefully before flying the Rockies in the winter. Anything more than 20-30 knots at 15,000' is a no-go for me unless I have a turbo.

Some resources for you:

Mountain Flying Bible Revised by Sparky Imeson

Flying the Mountains by Fletcher Anderson

You can also get a free aeronautical chart from the State of Colorado that depicts mountain pass crossings for aircraft.

Here are a couple videos to whet your appetite, taken just this morning as I was returning from CA to Denver commercially. As you can see, visibility was unlimited.

 

Good luck!

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Cpa offers a mountain course, it's OK. Really basic. There's a flight component that's pretty decent and worth doing. The ground school, eh... I'd skip it 

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Periodically the MAPA Safety Foundation will offer a Mountain Flying Course in Colorado.  It is usually scheduled in early July.  It was very good at the time I was teaching for them. They will usually base out of Colorado Springs, but have gone to KBJC a few times.  The normally aspirated planes would go in the morning and the turbos would go in the afternoon.  Most airports we would visit would be over 7,000 ft altitude, and of course Leadville and Aspen would be a couple of them.

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When flying from the Midwest into Denver. Is it not good to arrive in the afternoon? Would I be better off spending a night in Kansas and finishing into Denver arriving in the morning.

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6 minutes ago, nels said:

When flying from the Midwest into Denver. Is it not good to arrive in the afternoon? Would I be better off spending a night in Kansas and finishing into Denver arriving in the morning.

You want to be on the ground by about 1pm. Beyond that it's thunderstorm city. They generally form on the front range and move East so you might sneak in a little later but I wouldn't really count on it.  

Edited by peevee

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2 minutes ago, peevee said:

You want to be on the ground by about 1pm. Beyond that it's thunderstorm city. They generally form on the front range and move East so you might sneak in a little later but I wouldn't really count on it.  

Y'all get hail with those thunderstorms?

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Way more people die on the ski slopes than you hear about in the news.  It's not good for business.  2-3 a year in the Vail area per year. One of my rules is no piston single in the colorado rockies

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1 hour ago, teejayevans said:

Y'all get hail with those thunderstorms?

yyyyep. weather it falls to the ground or not it stands to reason by definition most to just about all thunderstorms contain hail...

Edited by peevee

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52 minutes ago, Yetti said:

Way more people die on the ski slopes than you hear about in the news.  It's not good for business.  2-3 a year in the Vail area per year. One of my rules is no piston single in the colorado rockies

It's not rocket science, just have to plan ahead and not do dumb things like... try to fly I70 not realizing there's a tunnel 800 or however many feet below the pass that you can't climb over or make a 180 in.

CPA makes it very easy as mentioned above, get the free map. Follow the suggested routes. Don't fly towards higher terrain until you have the altitude you need to cross it (ie don't fly up canyons/valleys). Cross ridges at a 45. Don't fly in the mountains if the peak elevation winds aloft are above 25-30 out of anything westerly, get on the ground by noon-1pm, don't plan of flying the mtns in the winter... etc...

Edited by peevee

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1 hour ago, peevee said:

You want to be on the ground by about 1pm. Beyond that it's thunderstorm city. They generally form on the front range and move East so you might sneak in a little later but I wouldn't really count on it.  

Would it help if I stayed east a little like Fort Morgan (KFMM). Getting into Denver area by 1 pm would be a challenge if I wanted to get it done in a day. It's doable but all would have to go according to plan.

 

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I have 4 flying rules

1. No single engine piston in the Colorado rockies

2. No flying through front lines

3. Land with plenty of gas

4. When you say "It should work" stop and replan it.   Nels just  just crossed the "It should work" threshold with the post above

 

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Two weeks ago I flew from Durango Co and ended up going past Taos and a few miles south of Angle Fire.  The winds were a little above 30 kts at 15,000 as I neared Angle Fire.  To maintain altitude I had to point the nose down until I crossed the mountain, then the opposite (nose up).  --I think my indicated was at 95 kts at one point.  This would have been concerning in IMC (since you can't see what is in front) or if there was another mountain in the way.  Then it was planes and mountain waves for the next 100 miles.

I've taken a mountain training course and knew what to expect.  It's a good idea.  And it's also why I didn't cross the opposite direction two days earlier. The winds were even worse and I would have been in the down draft flying at the mountain.

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12 minutes ago, nels said:

Would it help if I stayed east a little like Fort Morgan (KFMM). Getting into Denver area by 1 pm would be a challenge if I wanted to get it done in a day. It's doable but all would have to go according to plan.

 

I'm not from the Denver area, so take this with a grain of salt.  I would fee comfortable going as far as Denver.  (or KBJC)  Beyond that, you will be in the mountains.  If the winds are high, or if the ceilings are low, you should postpone a flight in the mountains.  Also, remember you are at high altitude.  You may need to lean your engine on the ground.  I like to be 100 or more lbs under gross.  The take off run is noticeably longer, as is the landing.

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30 minutes ago, Yetti said:

 

4. When you say "It should work" stop and replan it.   Nels just  just crossed the "It should work" threshold with the post above

No way would I cross the "it should work" threshhold. That's why I'm asking questions.

 

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June 10-12, 2016.....MAPA PPP in Denver. They are offering the Mountain flying course for those interested. The course has been confirmed and will take place.

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4 hours ago, peevee said:

yyyyep. weather it falls to the ground or not it stands to reason by definition most to just about all thunderstorms contain hail...

I meant larger plane damaging hail that reaches the ground...

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4 hours ago, teejayevans said:

I meant larger plane damaging hail that reaches the ground...

quite often.

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9 hours ago, nels said:

Would it help if I stayed east a little like Fort Morgan (KFMM). Getting into Denver area by 1 pm would be a challenge if I wanted to get it done in a day. It's doable but all would have to go according to plan.

 

FMM to BJC is like a half hour and FMM doesn't have much nor would I want my plane sitting out on the ramp in the afternoon there. I'd just press on.

Edited by peevee

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I did a mountain flying course back in about 1998 with my F model.  I used Cleon Biter and he was pretty impressive.  He is a meteorologist, which gives a whole additional aspect to the course, and was a Mooney owner at the time too.  He is currently listed on the Colorado Pilot Association's website, but not sure if he is still active yet or not.  Cleon is the only flight instructor I have ever used that asked how HE did after the training (a no brainer answer for me).

That said, once I completed the course I was convinced I would NOT have wanted to fly in the mountains without that training.  Way too many things a flat lander will never think about until educated.  During my course, we saw a clearly untrained (or poor decision making) pilot flying below us doing exactly what Cleon was teaching me not to do.  Scary.

Tom

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I have flown in/out of Aspen many times. I did my mountain flying training there with Gary Kraft in a 160hp 172 & M20E. It was my experience in the Mooney that I decided to buy a Mooney(but a turbo model). I have had the privilege of seeing some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet! I have only flown out there in the winter, and only on nice days, but there are many nice days out there. I hit some terrible turbulence once on a calm day. It was later in the day and the cold air above was pouring into the warmer air in the valley. There is a lot to learn, but it is very rewarding. Just always remember that both Sparky & Fletcher, who wrote the books, died while mountain flying. 

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14 hours ago, Yetti said:

I have 4 flying rules

1. No single engine piston in the Colorado rockies

2. No flying through front lines

3. Land with plenty of gas

4. When you say "It should work" stop and replan it.   Nels just  just crossed the "It should work" threshold with the post above

 

Too many rules...  Just one rule for me, "use good judgement".

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17 hours ago, nels said:

When flying from the Midwest into Denver. Is it not good to arrive in the afternoon? Would I be better off spending a night in Kansas and finishing into Denver arriving in the morning.

It depends on the day. The "down by noon" saying is a rule of thumb, not the law. Some days it's nice enough to fly all day out here.

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16 hours ago, Yetti said:

I have 4 flying rules

1. No single engine piston in the Colorado rockies

2. No flying through front lines

3. Land with plenty of gas

4. When you say "It should work" stop and replan it.   Nels just  just crossed the "It should work" threshold with the post above

 

This guy didn't really pay attention to your Rule #1: http://www.amazon.com/Above-Summit-Airplane-Colorados-Fourteeners/dp/0692286136/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459191442&sr=8-1&keywords=above+the+summit

It's a great book...I have climbed many of these peaks, and it was fun to see them from a different perspective.

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