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I am considering (probably won't do it) to fly to Aspen this Spring in my Mooney Ovation, 310HP in "good health". I have done that before in the Winter with a mountain-flying instructor and my then C182RG (also non-turbo), and it was pretty enjoyable and straightforward. However, the weather was great,the air cold, and the instructor kept me below 14kft almost all the time, winding us through beautiful passes.

This time I am thinking to just go up to 16.5K ft (17.5k coming back) and use V108 (over BRK, Colorado Springs). I have flow my Ovation to that altitude before a few times, so I know I can get there (and if not, I'll turn around before I hit the high country and land in Colorado Springs.

My questions are: Anybody have experience and advice from experience, re:

- What's are the go/nogo parameters (winds aloft mostly; of course IFR+IMC  at that altitude over mountains is a nonstarter for me).

- Any recommendations on performance on takeoff, and how /where to circle/climb to 17.5K feet coming back? Looks like Aspen is surrounded by high mountains and likely lots of traffic. Aspen's (ASE) Obstacle Departure procedure calls for 460' per NM to 14,000 -- I probably cannot make that (800ft per minute or so) but don't intend to depart anyway in IMC; I assume I can get to LINDZ intersection and just circle there in the hold until I get to 16k ft?

- Any other tips/recommendations re. operations? My plan is to climb to 16.5K ft (or even 18ft if I can, flying under IFR rules). I have flown over/into mountains quite a bit and have a very healthy respect for downdrafts and mechanical turbulence. Going West from the flatlands I almost always take the Victor airway through Albuquerque, flying at 13K ft coming back. On that route, 40kts wind at altitude is my absolute limit; I have experienced pretty unpleasant downdrafts and turbulence at less than that. In fact, I have experienced mountain waves with downdrafts that made it hard to even stay at 12k ft. I imagine that the weather and turbulence over the really high peaks going into Aspen can get a lot crazier than that, even.

Thanks for any pointers; if it's not a good place to go without a Turbo I'll rent a car and drive from the West side of the mountains.... But 35 to 40 mins at high altitude to get directly to Aspen from Colorado Springs is attractive (rather than drive for 3.5 hours; I won't need a rental in Aspen anyway; actually, the drive from Colorado Springs will take as long or longer than the entire flight directly to Aspen; so if the weather is agreeable....)

 

Edited by THill182
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See if I got this right...

1) You have the mountain experience/training in the NA C182.

2) You have been there before in the NA C182.

3) you have had your O3 at that altitude  before.

4) what keeps you from repeating the same route  @14,500 as before...   (bringing the same instructor?)

5) you have the IR.  But, Planning to go in VMC.

6) Avoiding windy days, and hot weather, early is better...

7) See if @Joe Zuffoletto has any thoughts...  Joe drives an Acclaim around CO to CA...

Looking forward to the advice and Pirep.

Best regards,

-a-

 

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Thanks for the input. My wife will be with me, and with luggage it might be a bit cramped in the Mooney with another flight instructor. 

Anyway, if the weather is good, just flying the Victor Airway on O2 seems the easiest and quickest way to get there -- about 100 nm over high terrain is all.

I suppose what I am looking for are insights from experienced high-country flyers who have gone to Aspen a number of time, ideally in a non-turbo Mooney: What are the key limits (winds aloft), METAR locations you check (micro-weather, where different airports have very different pressures, temps), what's the right technique to fly out of Aspen and join the Victor airway East at 17,000. Frankly, may main concern is weather...

Will report back how it turns out. Just FYI, I fly for fun (used to fly a lot for business; that was different), so if it doesn't feel right or I don't know for sure -- I'm driving...

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Just make sure the winds aloft are 20 Kts or less and you won't have any problems with the mountains. If it is more than that you have to strategically pick your way through.

My suggestion is to descend from altitude towards Carbondale then fly up the river at pattern altitude. Call the tower based on your GPS, you won't see the airport until about a 1 mile right base. It is OK they are used to that. Get set up for landing as you round the bend and a Big long runway will magically appear! Depart down the river and climb towards Carbondale.

One thing to watch out for at Aspen is if there is High parked over the airport. Even if the winds are calm the down flow out of the high will pressurize the valley and there can be severe turbulence through the passes. Usually OK towards Carbondale. 

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8 minutes ago, THill182 said:

Thanks for the input. My wife will be with me, and with luggage it might be a bit cramped in the Mooney with another flight instructor. 

Anyway, if the weather is good, just flying the Victor Airway on O2 seems the easiest and quickest way to get there -- about 100 nm over high terrain is all.

I suppose what I am looking for are insights from experienced high-country flyers who have gone to Aspen a number of time, ideally in a non-turbo Mooney: What are the key limits (winds aloft), METAR locations you check (micro-weather, where different airports have very different pressures, temps), what's the right technique to fly out of Aspen and join the Victor airway East at 17,000. Frankly, may main concern is weather...

Will report back how it turns out. Just FYI, I fly for fun (used to fly a lot for business; that was different), so if it doesn't feel right or I don't know for sure -- I'm driving...

Sounds like you’ve really put some thought and preparation into this. You’re prepared with your backup plans and sound like you’re ready to execute them if things don’t appear the way you envision them.  I wish more people showed this type of planning and common sense.  Fly safe, enjoy, and give us a full report...with pictures, if possible.

Steve

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My advice is go enjoy yourself!  I got a rare runway assignment to land 33. The 310hp Ovation does a nice job getting off the ground but follow the advice given above. I’m a sea level guy but feel very comfort in the high DA airports since I fly into quite a bit.

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8 minutes ago, kmyfm20s said:

My advice is go enjoy yourself!  I got a rare runway assignment to land 33. The 310hp Ovation does a nice job getting off the ground but follow the advice given above. I’m a sea level guy but feel very comfort in the high DA airports since I fly into quite a bit.

Beautiful pictures; now I am really excited -- and hoping for good weather!

Also, @N201MKTurbo, really appreciate the detailed advice; precisely what I was looking for!

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Ok I’ll give another piece of advice. I’m not sure where your based but I’m assuming it’s at a lot lower altitude than Aspen. You can actually simulate a high density altitude takeoff and climb. It’s not exact but gets you practiced. You simply limit your manifold pressure on take off. Just subtract 1” for every 1000’ of DA. You can fill up the plane with the projected load and the nice thing with the practice is you have a margin of error with the remaining manifold pressure available. It helpful to get the feel that you will experience.

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I’ve got a fair amount of experience with ASE. I go there every couple months in my ‘C. It’s a beautiful trip.

My parameters:

1) Severe clear. I have the luxury of living in the front-range and can pick/choose which days to go. I realize coming from elsewhere you may not have this flexibility so, I would say 8NM vis minimum. Safety aside, it’s such a pretty trip, why waste it on a hazy day?

2) Light winds aloft en route. My max is 30kts at mountain tops. Look at both the 12K and 15K charts. If either depict winds above 30kts I would stay on the ground. If this is your first time I would say a more conservitve maximum should be 20kts. The mountain wave is no joke in a small plane. Crossing the divide @30kts i’ve experienced severe turbulance, +/- 1,500 ft/min on the VSI, gone zero g, and had some scared passengers.

That’s about it. You really don’t need a high performance aircraft if you stick by those rules. I would whole heartedly advise against going IMC. That’s when you have to worry about climb performance, icing, and unseen terrain.

From the Denver area I recommend BJC RLG SXW LINDZ KASE. Along that route you don’t have to go all that high. Radar coverage is usually available @ FL120. I only pop up to 13K to cross the divide @ Corona Pass, then drop back down.

Check the weather at Berthoud Pass (K0CO) before going. That’s a great station to confirm wind, ceiling, and visibility at the divide. Approaching Aspen give Sunlight Mountain a listen on 126.075.

On busy days expect to be routed over Snowmass Village and overfly the airport for a mid-field entry. I usually recieve the option for 15/33. When departing 33 ask to fly down-valley to the NW. That will give you plenty of time to climb to altitude.

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I have flown to Truckee (field elevation~6000 feet)  in my Mooney over 50 times.  I use DA of 8000-8200 feet, winds of 14 knots, and gusts of less than 7 knots with airplane less than 3000 lb as my personal minimums.  Taking off from rwy20 has the luxury of sloped down wide open space for a left 270 to climb.  

Reading about Aspen and field elevation of 7800 feet, I was wondering if anyone could share their personal minimums for take off and landing at Aspen.

Driver AKA chicken!!

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All good advice. One thing though. Unless you’re dealing with a wind from the north over 10 kts, request rwy15. Rwy33 is downhill, you have a much higher groundspeed to begin with and I’ve heard of a number of pilots bouncing on 33, with eventual prop strike. 

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Aspen is a beautiful flight and not very hard on most days. 

I am based at BJC and spend a lot of time going over the front range (usually in a turbo model). However, I have been over in a 172 as well. There is Rollins Pass west of Boulder that is below 12k and a very gradual approach.  V8 goes over this pass.   On your flight from COS you have lots of time to climb to about 13k (or 14 if some wind) to make the crossing with comfortable margin. Winds below 30 knots seem to be relatively benign with little downdraft. As usual for flying over a ridge, approach at 45 degrees so it is easy to turn away if you experience too much downdraft. Once you get over the ridge go to RLG then EGE.  Easy flight with nothing else high to clear. Continue west near Glenwood Springs and follow the highway to Aspen. Standard/preferred pattern is arrive on 15 and depart on 33. 15 is uphill and deceiving so follow the PAPI to avoid getting below glide slope at the high altitude.

Departure on 33 is great with downhill runway and ability to follow the valley out to the NW with lots of time to climb. On the way back afternoons can have lots of thunderstorms.  It is less than an hour so you don’t need a big window to get back and there are airports at Eagle, Kremmling and Grandby if you need to wait out weather.  The good news is in Colorado is the mornings are usually clear and smooth and the afternoon thunderstorms move quickly so if you are patient you can usually get out but be ready to have to wait for a couple of hours if needed.

Of course the other option is just to climb up and follow V108 but it requires you crossing the highest part of the mountains.  Instead of a long circling climb, you can enjoy the flight towards Denver and cross at a lower altitude on V8.

Both routes are good options depending on the temperature, weather and climb performance.

Have fun.  Be careful. The scenery is amazing.

 

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@Christian: Thank you for the detailed routing and departure info; extremely useful info! 

@Warren: I sort of "missed" V8; that is a lot lower than V108; clearly the better way to go it seems.

PS: I have flown in/out of high density situations many times, and learned that my Ovation performs pretty much exactly as advertised in the POH (modified 310HP performance charts). So flying strictly by the numbers and indicated airspeed gives very predictable results. But I know from my mountain flying course that there is a lot of regional knowledge about weather, passes, routing, etc. that is really good to know and consider in planning. So again, really appreciate the practical info! This is a great forum!

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I've never flown a prop into ASE, but I have flown there many times.  I would just make the general comment that ASE in good weather/light winds is a piece of cake.  Bad weather can make it very challenging.

Pick a good day.

Also be aware that landing 15, if the tower reports winds are calm, you may experience a significant tailwind until short final.

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10 hours ago, Christian said:

I’ve got a fair amount of experience with ASE. I go there every couple months in my ‘C. It’s a beautiful trip.

My parameters:

1) Severe clear. I have the luxury of living in the front-range and can pick/choose which days to go. I realize coming from elsewhere you may not have this flexibility so, I would say 8NM vis minimum. Safety aside, it’s such a pretty trip, why waste it on a hazy day?

2) Light winds aloft en route. My max is 30kts at mountain tops. Look at both the 12K and 15K charts. If either depict winds above 30kts I would stay on the ground. If this is your first time I would say a more conservitve maximum should be 20kts. The mountain wave is no joke in a small plane. Crossing the divide @30kts i’ve experienced severe turbulance, +/- 1,500 ft/min on the VSI, gone zero g, and had some scared passengers.

That’s about it. You really don’t need a high performance aircraft if you stick by those rules. I would whole heartedly advise against going IMC. That’s when you have to worry about climb performance, icing, and unseen terrain.

From the Denver area I recommend BJC RLG SXW LINDZ KASE. Along that route you don’t have to go all that high. Radar coverage is usually available @ FL120. I only pop up to 13K to cross the divide @ Corona Pass, then drop back down.

Check the weather at Berthoud Pass (K0CO) before going. That’s a great station to confirm wind, ceiling, and visibility at the divide. Approaching Aspen give Sunlight Mountain a listen on 126.075.

On busy days expect to be routed over Snowmass Village and overfly the airport for a mid-field entry. I usually recieve the option for 15/33. When departing 33 ask to fly down-valley to the NW. That will give you plenty of time to climb to altitude.

This response nails it in every respect.

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I've been there once in my J, but I usually go to Rifle as it is easier and much, much cheaper for this CB. ;)

Great comments above... I've gone up high at 16.5K and thru the passes on northern (Boulder area) and southern (Co Springs area) routes depending on weather. Sometimes there are build ups and showers in one area but not another, so flexibility is good. If the winds are high on the various mountain AWOS's be prepared for an awful ride or better yet, don't go.

The Colorado Pilots Association publishes a very helpful state map with pass and AWOS info, and lots of other good data...try to get a copy!

My one trip into KASE was on a beautiful Sunday afternoon...which unfortunately coincided with all of the pretty people departing in their jets. I was planning to fly the roaring fork visual approach after arriving from the east at 16.5. I got cleared to land and then cancelled on 3 occasions before they turned me back to the east to let jets depart...and I ended up having to come over a high ridge at 14k or so just a couple of miles from the field and land downhill/downwind on 33, which was a white knuckle experience! The mother of all slam-dunk approaches! It involved circling just inside the ridges over the town. It worked out ok, but I wish I had prepared for that possibility during my preflight...I didn't even consider that as an option. Perhaps I should've refused and requested 15 when there was a lull.

Departing is far easier...just fly the valley while climbing out, and either follow pass routes or keep climbing until you're high enough to go over the rocks.

Your Ovation should have no issues at all. Just pick a good weather window and enjoy! The scenery is incredible, and we're very blessed to get the vantage points we do flying in that part of the world.

Sent from my LG-US996 using Tapatalk

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Good advice given. Aspen isn’t that challenging on a good mountain flying, low wind, VFR day.   

I highly recommend taking the Colorado Pilot Association (CPA) Mountain Flying weekend course for anyone who wants to learn more about mountain flying in Colorado and elsewhere. It’s given in June and August every year. Several associated instructors have Mooney experience. 

Ho

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11 hours ago, KSMooniac said:


The Colorado Pilots Association publishes a very helpful state map with pass and AWOS info, and lots of other good data...try to get a copy!
 

It's the state Division of Aeronautics which publishes the char (no doubt the CPA has input!). It shows some commonly flown mountain routes. It's available at most Colorado FBOs or you can order it here. https://www.codot.gov/programs/aeronauticso

Download the airport directory while you are at it. 

Edited by midlifeflyer
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9 hours ago, midlifeflyer said:

It's the state Division of Aeronautics which publishes the char (no doubt the CPA has input!). It shows some commonly flown mountain routes. It's available at most Colorado FBOs or you can order it here. https://www.codot.gov/programs/aeronauticso

Download the airport directory while you are at it. 

Didn't know about these resources; very valuable! And cheap (not often I use that term in aviation related postings....).

Thanks!!

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5 hours ago, THill182 said:

Didn't know about these resources; very valuable! And cheap (not often I use that term in aviation related postings....).

Thanks!!

Just as an FYI, many states provide a state airport directory and map. Colorado is a bit unique in the it adds the mountain route info.

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General advice for flying into Aspen?

Make sure you visit the Hotel Jerome.  The hotel was built in 1889 and the J-Bar is one of the nicest places in town to relax.

If you're a fan of Hunter S Thompson then visit the Woody Creek Tavern for lunch - really close to the airport.

For daytime sightseeing there's the Maroon Bells or the Ice Caves (Grottos).  Do an image search on those.  Amazing.

And of course Independence Pass (if it's open), although it's a bit dull despite being a big tourist draw.

Have fun.

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