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Learning PPL in the Mountains \ High elevation

Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:42 pm

New poster, life long follower. I am a near finished PPL student in Colorado Springs. Figured I would ask what the Pros, and Cons are of learning at a higher elevation or near large mountains themselves are and can be down the aviation pathway.
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Re: Learning PPL in the Mountains \ High elevation

Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:30 pm

No cons at all. Probably worked out to your advantage. You probably have a better understanding, via actual experience, of density altitude and wind issues than others who learned "back East".
I don't understand everything I don't know about this.
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Re: Learning PPL in the Mountains \ High elevation

Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:45 am

The important thing for a PPL is mostly clear weather. Doing your PPL in a place with lots of low viz just leads to lots of time on the ground.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
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Re: Learning PPL in the Mountains \ High elevation

Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:49 am

I got my PPL in Las Vegas, and did a big portion of the check ride in Red Rock Canyon to the west of town.

You will probably have to deal with some turbulence (did mine I August, so lots of heat cycle turbulence), from the mountains, so keeping within the limits of a manuver took a lot of constant attention-which is great.

You'll have more experience with MSA's, and some great introduction to terrain and awareness, something you don't get in the flatter plains to the east.

It'll be fine! Good luck!
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Re: Learning PPL in the Mountains \ High elevation

Sun Dec 16, 2018 1:37 am

Some years ago I was sent to an airport in a mountainous area; an operator of Single Engine Air Tankers had two pilots who were refusing to fly, claiming that the retardant was mixed too densely. The USFS has brought in three refractometers to check specific gravity, all showed the retardant was mixed correctly. The pilots said their aircraft was too heavy, based on it's poor climb performance.

The airplanes were single engine airplanes, formerly with radial engines, replaced with turbine conversions. I flew a load and the airplane performed normally. I sat down with the pilots, both in their first year of firefighting, both experienced ag pilots. Neither had any mountain experience to speak of, and neither had experienced density altitude much above the flat farmlands where they sprayed. At this particular location, in the summer heat, they were pushing density altitudes of around 10,000, and they were shocked at the loss of performance, the long takeoffs, the slow climbs.

Getting experience early, especially when performance limited, forces you to not rely on aircraft performance, but on your judgement and piloting. There are plenty of advantages to training and learning at high density altitudes, not the least of which is being accustomed to the higher true airspeeds experienced when landing, the effects of wind, and the need to truly plan ahead around terrain and when conducting cross country flights. A need to judiciously and critically examine your weight appropriate to the terrain you're flying over, and perhaps most important of all, to plan at all times for the potential to make a forced landing and consider your flight path and the terrain below when planning your lifespan.

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