Bob_Belville

Mountain flying in a M20E

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As posted in another MS thread my grandson and I plan to make a grand, if too quick, tour of the West before we return to MA & NC.

Here are the airports over 5000' in elevation that we'll be landing at. All have plenty of runway to offset a lack of performance. I'd be interested in any local pireps on specific fields, particularity KMMH..

  • KCUT Custer Co. SD (Mt Rushmore) 5602' elev;  5500' r'way
  • KCOD Yellowstone RGNL WY             5102            8200
  • KWYS Yellowstone (West) MT           6649            8400
  • KMMH Mammoth Yosemite CA        7135            7000 in the shadow of high peaks to the West
  • KTPH Tonopah NV                              5430            7100
  • KCDC Cedar City RGNL                      5622            8600
  • KCEZ Cortez CO                                   5918            7200
  • KSAF Santa FE NM                              6345            8300

 

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I've been in and out of KWYS and KSAF in my M20C fully loaded and in the summertime. Neither were any issue, but took two or three laps around the field to climb enough to get out of the valley.

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To me it's more about the approaches to landing (turbulence in the mountains, time of day), planning entry and the final  descent (base to final turn and airspeed). Takeoffs are the most critical where ground speeds can get quite high (controllability), effects of loading, climb performance (temp/x-winds/downdrafts) and choosing the right runway (upslope/downslope etc). Usually I worry lot more about takeoffs than landing. The highest three airports I have done are Truckee, Lake Tahoe and Santa Fe. None of them were difficult in a lightly loaded Mooney.

I never landed at MMH, but scouted it when I was driving past. Approaches from the East should be benign. I know commercial flights land both ways after talking to the guy on the field, but winds usually favor 27. 

Edited by wishboneash
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Fly early in the day or early evening, temps are cooler and the winds aren't as strong.  The winds can be an issue up here,  downwind rotors can be deadly. I have been on the upwind sunny side of mountains, at idle power climbing at over 1,000 fpm just in the updraft.  watch for rotor, lenticular clouds and stay away from them.  I have flow some SAR missions over the years for flat land pilots that land for fuel, fill the tanks and think they can climb out of some of these high strips. Carry water, and stay hydrated.

Have fun, fly safe

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My home field is MEV Minden, Nv.  I have flown for years out of Lake Tahoe.  While the Density Altitude is something to be aware of, your plane will handle it easily.  I fly to Las Vegas every other month.  You'll find flight following will be problematic below 12,500 around the Sierras.  I recommend you carry O2 and fly 13,500 / 14,500 while close to the Mountains.  As Air Pirate mentioned, fly early in the AM.  Winds will come up every day.  When landing at any of the higher elevations, plan for gusts - particularly at Mammoth.  You'll get some good crosswind challenges, but the views are worth it.  Get good wx briefs.  Enjoy!

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I'm not a mountain expert, but the first real family vacation by plane was to KCUT in a 150 HP warrior.  We were a couple hundred lbs. below gross and it was no problem.  If landing on 08, the runway falls away from you at the beginning, so you may float a bit more than normal.  As others have said, stay light and watch the density altitude, you should have no problems.

As a side, you might want to try no-flap takeoffs at the higher airports.  That's what was taught in the mountain flying course I just took.  Your takeoff roll will be longer, but you will be able to climb out of ground effect sooner without the extra drag.   For reference, we did a no-flap takeoff out of Glenwood Springs (5916' MSL; RWY 3305' X 50') and it worked out very nicely for clearing the trees and rising terrain off the end of the runway.

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KCOD is nice. Watch for airliners. Visibility is so good that I had a hard time finding the field; turned out I was looking way too far ahead.

I usually make no-flap takeoffs unless heavy. My wife & I had our luggage for 10 days and a couple of bags from friends whise Cessna was full, so I used flaps departing KCOD.

Our arrival and later departure were from the north towards Billings; leaving, we cut the corner a little bit to beat snow coming from the NW (Labor Day week, no less), as I didn't think my loaded C was up to going east over the Absarokas. Maybe your E can.

It will be a good trip. Have fun with your grandson!

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I use to live in Mammoth and have flown out of there many times - mostly with my dad in an old -172.  Don’t plan on departing after about 11am due to density altitude and wind.  Honestly, I’d try to arrive in the morning as well since it occasionally gets windy in the afternoon.  Hot and breezy in the afternoon/evening, so morning is probably the best bet.  Approach and departure maneuvering room is plentiful.  Won’t even be an issue.  I live in Spokane now and our local rule of thumb is to be on the ground by noon in the summer due to turbulence and density altitude.

 I highly recommend reduced fuel load on the higher departures.  Your runways are plenty long but climb will be anemic with high mountains all around.

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One other tip since you’re going to Tonapah... the Nellis range is very busy.  It’s where the USAF does Red Flag.  There’s lots of restricted airspace.  If you call up Nellis approach they will tell you if the MOA is hot.  It’s legal to go through obviously, but probably not smart.  On the weekend I’ve had good luck going right through on the edge of Area 51.  Keep an eye out for the aliens, dummy Russian missiles, and Iraqi airfields...

If you’re down that way, are you going through Grand Canyon?  Got the Grand Canyon special map?  It shows the vfr routes, frequencies and rules through Grand Canyon.  It’s really awesome to fly over.

Edited by Ragsf15e

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3 minutes ago, Ragsf15e said:

If you’re down that way, are you going through Grand Canyon?  Got the Grand Canyon special map?  It shows the vfr routes, frequencies and rules through Grand Canyon.  It’s really awesome to fly over.

It's in ForeFlight. And yes, don't miss it if you're in the area.

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Hi Bob—I currently live in Mammoth but I hangar my Mooney just to the south in Bishop (KBIH).  As another mentioned, Mammoth can be tricky in the mid to late afternoon with the high DA and nasty winds which are almost always a fairly severe crosswind. Mornings are typically best. It’s a nice little airport though with a fair amount of GA traffic and some commercial jet flights.  Fuel is pricey.  There are rental cars available on the field too.

We tend to avoid flying/crossing mountains when the winds aloft are 20-25 knots or more at 12k. It can be very turbulent.

KBIH can be a very good alternative if the weather or winds are bad. Cheap fuel too if you wanted to fuel up at a lower elevation.   It’s about 15 minutes south and is lower in elevation by 2000 feet + with lots of runway options as well.

Happy to discuss Mammoth if you need more info. If you’re staying overnight, my wife is the director of revenue at the resort—might be able to get you the Mooney driver discount. 

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I've been to most of those fields in my E on various trips... you will have no problems following the usual advice: keep your airplane light (with 2 aboard, no problem), and fly early. Its a lot more pleasant that way. Better to start at 0 dark 30 and enjoy cool smooth air than get beat up with summertime bumps and convection that out-climb our airplanes.

I will add, I consider MMH a one way in-out strip (more for takeoff than landing). I'd rather take a tailwind and land uphill.... and more importantly, takeoff down hill with the terrain falling away.

Edited by Immelman
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I have done Sante Fe, Cedar City, Yellowstone. No worries.  Lighter on the weight, insanely early departure, lean for best RPM. Thank God you are flying the Best Airplane in the World.

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We've got a '66 E and I'm super impressed with the performance out of high-density-altitude fields.  We're in Flagstaff, which is 7000' actual and routinely has density altitudes of 9500-10000 in the summer.  Our actual base is KCMR, with 6000 feet of runway and we're off well before the halfway point even with full tanks and luggage.... granted I weigh 165 and my wife's 110.  If anything, our "issue" is aft CG because of our lighter weight up front.  Anyway, we're flying to Truckee-Tahoe tomorrow and don't even have to think about it.  Don't get me wrong... I'm not lax about DA and we calculate/check it, but it's nice to know the E does so well. 

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4 hours ago, brad said:

My home field is MEV Minden, Nv.  I have flown for years out of Lake Tahoe.  While the Density Altitude is something to be aware of, your plane will handle it easily.  I fly to Las Vegas every other month.  You'll find flight following will be problematic below 12,500 around the Sierras.  I recommend you carry O2 and fly 13,500 / 14,500 while close to the Mountains.  As Air Pirate mentioned, fly early in the AM.  Winds will come up every day.  When landing at any of the higher elevations, plan for gusts - particularly at Mammoth.  You'll get some good crosswind challenges, but the views are worth it.  Get good wx briefs.  Enjoy!

Thanks, I do plan to be back on the ground by about noon every day. I do have O2 and plan to be at 13.5 or above when around the Sierras. Mammoth where we'll rent a car for Yosemite, and the flight through Yellowstone are the only segments with mountain ridges to contend with. 

With full fuel (64 gallons) we'll be close to gross but I won't top off if I need to improve performance for certain fields. 

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1 hour ago, mooneygirl said:

I have done Sante Fe, Cedar City, Yellowstone. No worries.  Lighter on the weight, insanely early departure, lean for best RPM. Thank God you are flying the Best Airplane in the World.

 

44 minutes ago, Ross Taylor said:

We've got a '66 E and I'm super impressed with the performance out of high-density-altitude fields.  We're in Flagstaff, which is 7000' actual and routinely has density altitudes of 9500-10000 in the summer.  Our actual base is KCMR, with 6000 feet of runway and we're off well before the halfway point even with full tanks and luggage.... granted I weigh 165 and my wife's 110.  If anything, our "issue" is aft CG because of our lighter weight up front.  Anyway, we're flying to Truckee-Tahoe tomorrow and don't even have to think about it.  Don't get me wrong... I'm not lax about DA and we calculate/check it, but it's nice to know the E does so well. 

Thanks, Jolie, do you run up to full power to set mixture or do you maximize RPM at some lower power before departing a high DA field?

Ross, what technique do you have for setting mixture before takeoff?

(I lean to max RPM a low power for taxiing but I doubt that'd where I'd want mixture to be at full throttle.

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The E is a hotrod. Just run your DA takeoff & land distances, weights and enjoy. I also recommend you taxi leaned (1 knuckle) at fields above 5,000'.

Fly Safe,
Safety Forum Mod

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2 hours ago, Bob_Belville said:

 

Thanks, Jolie, do you run up to full power to set mixture or do you maximize RPM at some lower power before departing a high DA field?

Ross, what technique do you have for setting mixture before takeoff?

(I lean to max RPM a low power for taxiing but I doubt that'd where I'd want mixture to be at full throttle.

I use target egt around 1250-1300 which is my full rich sea level egt.  Add full power, then lean to the target.  Not recommended on short runway as it will take a few extra seconds fumbling around during takeoff.  It’s also not the best feeling to be fumbling during a critical phase of flight, but I do find target egt to be better than leaning at a runup less than full power.  Either way, have a leaning plan and do it.  Continue to lean as you climb.

Dont forget to do it though because performance definitely suffers.

If you get tired of sucking oxygen at 13.5, you can usually follow the valleys safely around 10.  If you cross westbound near mammoth, you’ll need 13.5.

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Target EGT is what you want to set your mixture for takeoff at a high airport. The target EGT is your standard day sea level EGT. You can adjust during the roll. But with practice you can get close with mixture position and fuel flow. When I had a J my sea level fuel flow was 18.5 GPH. At 7000 feet it was 14.5 GPH to maintain the target EGT. That was about 1” out on the mixture.

My Encore is simpler, all full forward.

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Stopped at KSAF mid-day for lunch and gas on the way home from MooneyMAX solo in my J with no problems.

I used to go to KMMH a lot in Archers and my old '78J and a couple of times in a C-172. Landing is OK, but there can be windshear on approach to 27. The runway is plenty long and a long landing will avoid most of the windsheer. Be very careful with a strong south wind - It funnels downhill over Convict Lake and creates a very nasty windshear midfield. This can be a real problem during takeoff and climb out or a go around. I've seen airplanes do interesting gymnastics under this condition. On takeoff, you can ridge soar the nearby hills to get altitude before heading west if you are going to cross the Sierras. The Sierra Nevada mountains slope up from the west and drop off abruptly on the east side -- like a big sawtooth. If the wind is blowing more that 30 kts or so across the peaks from the west there can be mountain waves and nasty rotors (don't ask how I know this). If you are headed west, Mammoth Pass is the lowest route across the mountains.

If the winds don't favor KMMH, Bishop KBIH has more runways and often better winds.

Have fun,

Skip

Edited by PT20J
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Thanks again for the input. I plan to come down to KMMH from Susanville and east of Reno staying east of the Sierras. After renting a car there to visit Yosemite we'll depart eastbound to Tonopah. I will not need to cross the peaks of the Sierras.  

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Bob, my question is this. How much do you know or have experienced about mountain flying? I've been into COD, SAF (many times), CEZ and CUT, and they were all non-events from an aviation standpoint. But i also spent 20 years flying and teaching in Colorado.

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Good question Mark 

last year leaving double eagle with winds >25 at 3000 I had my hands full n my way to Henderson, it got so brutal I Cox my trip to Lake Tahoe due to wi do and turbulence, I learned what I don’t know and bailed out of my last couple stops, my wife couldn’t handle any more turbulence 

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1 hour ago, midlifeflyer said:

Bob, my question is this. How much do you know or have experienced about mountain flying? I've been into COD, SAF (many times), CEZ and CUT, and they were all non-events from an aviation standpoint. But i also spent 20 years flying and teaching in Colorado.

Mark, I have almost zero hands on experience mountain flying at the altitudes of the West.  

That's why I am soliciting all the advice I can get. I plan to fly early and be on the ground by noon each day. I'll be watching the winds aloft and surface winds carefully. I plan to be on VFR flight plans with flight following most of the time instead of IFR as I would be in the East. etc.

 

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Kudos to you for planning such a great trip to share with your grandson, and for searching out information to make it safe!

What about making a stop early in your trip at one of the flight schools that offer mountain training?  A quick google search yielded a bunch, but not sure if they are on your route. 

I also found a PDF from the FAA:

tips_on_mountain_flying.pdf

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