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Mountain ridge crossing - safety review?

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Mountain ridge crossing - safety review?

Old 9th Sep 2016, 18:21
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Faced with the what's shown at the start of your video, my first thought was....'no'.

Maybe u planned it all, but I'd never have persisted with the plan to continue into that big mess of cloud, rocks and turbulence and curlover, VFR.

No sensible pilot would. Glad u got away with it, suggest you don't do it again!

(12,500 hours here)
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Old 9th Sep 2016, 22:04
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Originally Posted by AtomKraft
Glad u got away with it, suggest you don't do it again!
Thanks, I promise I won't! In hindsight, this age-old aviation proverb comes to my mind: "You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck."

Being unaware of all risks, I unknowingly took a lot out from my bag of luck that day. So I will be careful and will not empty it prematurely.
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Old 10th Sep 2016, 06:18
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Exactly!

Pop that one in your 'experience' bag.

On another positive note, maybe by sharing the video, some other pilots can add it to their own bag of experience, without actually taking the risk
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Old 10th Sep 2016, 06:24
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rnzoli
Congratulations for having the sense and courage to post the video here and ask the question.
That in itself shows great maturity.
It is a very worthwhile video for others to study in the future.
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Old 22nd Nov 2016, 12:46
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rnzoli,
Here are my 5 cents (with quite some mountain flying experience):
-first, thanks for sharing the video and asking for opinion about tricky decisions you made and also sharing options you were considering and all the planning you did (weather and other info gathered) - it shows me the maturity and professional attitude you are developing. Hovewer, considering options you were thinking about (including 180 turn in clouds close to ridge) I would only agree that you took some stuff out of your bag of luck.


I would suggest that you seriously study pecularities of mountain flying, before you fly near one in the future. Experienced glider pilots with mountain experience might be the best source, as they play with such situations often and there is other reason too: powered, loaded GA plane at high altitude might not have much climb performace left! Maybe study some glider pilots books about flying in Alps (a bible of Alpine flying is Helmut Reichmann˛s "Cross country soaring") - and yes, the author killed himself when he apparently skipped his own advice, when crossing the ridge!
Some very basics:
-do not go perpendicular across the ridge, (45 deg should do)
-allways keep horizontal visibility ahead-not only for terrain and obstacles - on your video, there was no margin in case another pilot, doing same thing, would come close. Visibility must be also behind you - in case of turnback.
-learn about demarcation line
-consider that local mountain winds and clouds can be completelly unpredictable and WX forecast does not help much. Wind is sometimes doing very surprising things- that`s why you never fly along the valley in the middle. etc..etc...
If there is a bridge across a river nearby, go there ocasionally and observe how water is doing over rocks and boulders - at high water and low water. This might give you an idea what wind is doing in the mountains-smooth upstreams, rough areas, vortices, downdrafts and what happends with wind speed increase....
Some real life:
1. gliding happily along the ridge, climbing slowly on upwind side of ridge Cu, I suddenly realised that I fell in a common beginners trap (had 100hours total): clouds became my "ground reference" so I was blown on lee side-but high enough, so I just turned straight into the wind - perpendicular to ridge. But, once into the wind, gentle climb turned into shallow descent, that became more and more worrying. Than, new Cu formed right in front of me, with ridge hidden in clouds somewhere below! (very similar scene to your video) I just kept going straight&level, sank into the cloud uncomfortably (thought it will be only for a few seconds), than a thought crossed my mind, that made me freeze: maybe I forgot to set my altimeter correctly before take-off, so I might be a bit lower than I thought! What followed, were the longest, worst, gut-wrenching seconds of my life. After I-don`t-know-how- many seconds, the sun showed again. Even now, 25 years later, this memory starts my heart pounding.
2. My colleague took off with single engine piston airplane from airfield in the mountains, heading home with two friends - a short hop of 25 minutes, but destination on the other side of the mountains. Mountaintops in the solid overcast clouds, Cb just started forming nearby and moving closely with tailwind. Pilot with instructor rating and quite some hours, but most in the flat landscape.


GPS track showed that plane entered a valley in general direction of intended course to cross mountains, but terrain "climbed" faster than the airplane on full power, until it became too late (narrow) to turn back safely. Plane hit the ground in near vertical position, all three aboard died.


Stay safe and learn from experience and mistakes of others- you will not live long enough to learn from your own!


Regards,


hoistop
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Old 22nd Nov 2016, 15:37
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hoistop, thank you for your insights. It's been several months since I originally posted this and I haven't been near to real mountains since then I am aware of 2 independent flight crews among my aquintances trying to fly to the same area since then one had to chose an alternate upfront, the other had to turn back after some heart-pumping manouvering in a valley and an unsuccessful attempt to fly over the top of the clouds instead. So it's actually not an easy path and everyone is happy to be back home safely. Much of the advice collected from this thread is actually visible in the video description, hopefully serving pilots that aspire going the same route to those mountains.


I, on the other hand, chose to fly some flat-land mission in the autumn (let's leave the mountains for the pros! Ironically, it seems no matter what I do, I end up in some trouble. In my case it was fog and low-level clouds, making me fly on-the-top VFR for about 30 minutes. I didn't dare to put the link to that footage up here to avoid getting flamed. So the luck bag is getting thinner and thinner, mountains or not.

Anyways, take care and thanks for advice on mountain flying.
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Old 22nd Nov 2016, 20:14
  #47 (permalink)  
 
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"So the luck bag is getting thinner and thinner, mountains or not. "

But the experience bag is MUCH fuller.

Last edited by Maoraigh1; 22nd Nov 2016 at 20:16. Reason: Spelling
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Old 23rd Nov 2016, 07:38
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True and I appreciate that. But this steep learning curve is also intimidating a little bit. I had a misconception earlier that I can chose how steep my learning curve should be. Now it seems the learning curve choses us, and looks like a rather steep one picked me out.
All I want is to fly fun cross-country in nice weather on a regular basis, nothing more, nothing less.But now, for my upcoming 1.5 hour flight, I catch myself collecting VFR approach charts to no less than 3 alternates, 1 foreign international airport, 1 home international airport (both H24), and another one with Pilot Controlled Lighting. THen I talk to a military tower controller, if they can take me in case of an emergency. I even look at Google Earth, looking for long straight highway sections near my planned route, to know where to set down the plane, just in case. And I wil memorize the canopy jettison level location before the flight.

Maybe it's just me, but is there a known way to put back some stuff from the experience bag to the luck back again?
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Old 23rd Nov 2016, 17:19
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Highways have Wires

Next time you're on a drive look up to see the cunning aircraft traps strewn about by the electricity folks.

Fields don't have as many wires, but driveways usually have a pole line alongside.

I have dropped into several fields and the majority of the time have to plan my approach around the power lines.

Oh yes, never fly through a gap in a tree line. There's a good chance that a wire is there
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Old 24th Nov 2016, 02:03
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but is there a known way to put back some stuff from the experience bag to the luck back again?
I know nothing of your age or experience.

However I suspect you had little, if any, practical mountain flying experience when you posted the first video.

If you are still running into difficulties ( stuck above cloud for example) then I wonder if you are biting off more than you can chew at this stage of your experience.

Maybe if there is any doubt about weather/mountains/water crossings etc, you should consider some time with an experienced pilot/Instructor before undertaking these types of flights?

That may refill the bucket!
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Old 24th Nov 2016, 09:22
  #51 (permalink)  
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Flying with an instructor is a good idea, but let's face it: it will make us more experienced, with no influence on our "luck bag".
On the other hand, it is also a bit silly from me to ask to be lucky. We are lucky when we aren't well prepared, yet we managed to get ourselves and the plane back home in one piece, undamaged. Flying on the long run is not sustainable on luck alone, that bag will run out eventually. The only way to preserve as much as possible is using the luck factor as little as possible (by learning and preparing better and better).

When it comes to chewing capacity, this is what I try to order


and this is what the weather serves instead! Of course I have problems to chew those beasts.





At the root of the whole problem I find that renting planes to fly in the vinicity of the home base has a certain level of costs, but as soon as I want to fly longer distances (say > 140 NM), these costs will increase exponentially, not linearly. This is because the more interesting and longer trips are more likely to run into a greater degree of weather variation, so turn-backs, diversion to alternates, delays and extended opening hours for night arrivals become more and more likely with VFR-only capabilities.

In this situation, I can only foresee 3 alternatives for continuing cross-country flying safely (all require throwing a lot of ore money at flying, of course):

1) Buy a plane and become a freelancer or pensioner = I can easily wait for the tiny number of days when my next planned route is perfect VFR
2) Continue to rent, but do IFR traing and rent higher capability IFR planes for IFR flying, at least en-route = I can go into and above the clouds
3) Continue to rent, but move to another far-away country with more sun and dry air = more VFR days per month.

This is hard to swallow too, but that's the issue behind all of my (near) screw-ups.
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Old 24th Nov 2016, 23:28
  #52 (permalink)  
 
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I bought a 1/6 share in a Jodel DR1050 almost 27 years ago. More money for flying hours than if I was sole owner.
I check aviation weather and other weather sites, before flying. I keep a watch on the weather I see as I fly. I often change my plan after take-off. Almost all my flying is in the Scottish Highlands. I have only 3 times diverted to an other airfield.
And every time the aircraft is down for any long maintenance, that is the best spell of weather in the year.
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Old 25th Nov 2016, 12:23
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And every time the aircraft is down for any long maintenance, that is the best spell of weather in the year.
So true! And also applicable for periods, when the pilot himself/herself is down for maintenance. Someone broke my right hand during a friendly soccer game (very unlucky collision), just one day after I flew over that ridge. (All pilot friends started to make jokes about my soccer playing being more dangerous than my flying.) What followed was the nicest and driest September and early October. When I knew the expected date of receiving clearance of my suspended medical, I looked at the weather forecast and it was destroyed again with fronts after fronts, heavy rain, fog etc. This is how I became 100% confident that I get the clearance from the AME. And I did, just as the bad weather moved in again.
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