What are your mountain flying weather minimums?

Loren French, with Alpine Flight Training, teaches an introductory mountain flying course aimed at piston-engine pilots navigating below 12,000 feet in VFR conditions. Here’s his guidance on weather minimums for pilots new to mountain flying:

San Isabel National Forest, mountains, scattered clouds & blue sky, Salida, United States, photo credit wikiWings
San Isabel National Forest, mountains, scattered clouds & blue sky, Salida, United States, photo credit wikiWings

What are Your Mountain Flying Wx Minimums?

  • Visibility: Minimum 10 miles along your route
  • Wind Aloft: Maximum 25 knots forecast between 9,000 and 12,000
  • Cloud bases: 2,000 feet above all ridges and passes along your route

Weather minimums are part of Loren’s guidance to develop a strategy that puts conditions in your favor.  If your weather minimums cannot be met look for a suitable alternate route, delay the flight or cancel and rent a car.

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What are basic mountain route planning considerations?

Loren French, with Alpine Flight Training, teaches an introductory mountain flying course aimed at piston-engine pilots navigating below 12,000 feet in VFR conditions. His guidance is to develop a strategy that puts conditions in your favor. Loren’s route planning strategy includes these four basic topics listed below:

Basic Mountain Route planning considerations:
Foreflight VFR chart Rocky Mountains with user defined waypoints, photo credit wikiWings
ForeFlight VFR chart of the Rocky Mountains with user defined waypoints, photo credit wikiWings

Survival: Avoid routes over inhospitable remote terrain were it would be difficult to survive at least one night waiting for rescue. GPS direct is usually not the safest route in the mountains.
Terrain: Children of the magenta line beware.  Mountain flying below FL120 involves user waypoints – points in space – not predefined aeronautical intersections. Only fly terrain routes compatible with your aircraft and your capabilities. You’ll want to be knowledgeable in reading topographical maps. Plan your route over the correct passes, valleys, drainages, etc.
Performance: Understand the performance of your airplane and develop critical decision making skills for takeoff, climb and landing at mountain altitudes.
Weather: What are your go – no go mountain flying weather minimums?

Develop your mountain flying proficiency with an expert local instructor.

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What’s the mountain performance of your airplane?

2008 Cirrus Perspective SR22TN Turbo, Eagle County Airport (KEGE) Colorado, blue sky and scattered clouds, photo credit wikiWings
2008 Cirrus Perspective SR22TN Turbo, Eagle County Airport (KEGE) Colorado, blue sky and scattered clouds, photo credit wikiWings

What’s your airplane’s performance at mountain altitudes? Airplane performance is one of five primary topics discussed in the Alpine Flight Training course.

The Pilot Operating Handbook (POH), Section 5 contains performance data for takeoff, climb gradients and landing distances, which you’ll want to study. Your airplane’s performance will vary based on weight, altitude and air temperature. And, keep in mind the POH numbers listed are for a new aircraft. Your plane’s age and condition can be a factor in actual performance.

Alpine Flight Training, suggests creating a blank table template and entering the actual performance for your individual airplane. Training with a local expert can help you gain a better understanding of your airplane’s true performance in the mountains at high altitude. It’s said, a normally aspirated airplane will lose about 3% in engine performance for every 1,000 feet.  At an altitude of 10,000 feet that’s a 30% loss in engine power. Continue reading “What’s the mountain performance of your airplane?”

We completed a mountain flying course with full motion Redbird FMX simulator

Mountain goat above the clouds in sunset - Alpine Ibex - in Julian Alps_credit iStockPhotos
End of the Day, mountain goat above clouds in sunset, credit iStock Photos

This year, we also completed a mountain flying course with Professional Aviation Resources (PAR), based in Addison Texas. Rachel Palmer, CEO of PAR, ensured all the scheduling and onsite arrangements were flawlessly managed.

The course included a day of ground instruction, followed by flight training in a full motion Redbird FMX simulator with the configuration based on our make and model aircraft. Robert Palmer is the lead Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP). He has more than 18,000 hours flight experience and many levels of certification. He has put together a very well designed program with high quality instruction.

To begin our day, an old mountain flying joke provided the context for training. It’s a cartoon of two pilots looking out from the cockpit into the clouds and asking the question “What’s that goat doing up here in the clouds?” When flying close to mountains you don’t want to see goats in the clouds. Continue reading “We completed a mountain flying course with full motion Redbird FMX simulator”

Here’s the syllabus for our Introduction to Mountain Flying Course

Mountain Flying above Beaver Creek Colorado Ski Resort
Mountain Flying above Beaver Creek Colorado Ski Resort, photo credit wikiWings

If you’re interested in flying near mountains you must realize it’s very valuable to receive expert instruction. There are many mountain flight training programs based around the Rockies. Choose one and get with a local expert for personal training.

In Cirrus speak, you’ll want to have a plan to increase both your Critical Decision Making (CDM) and Cirrus Pilot Proficiency (CPP) skills. But CDM may be the most important, as astronaut Frank Borman said, “A superior pilot uses his superior judgement to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill.”

Here’s the ground instruction syllabus for our Introduction to Mountain Flying Course, by Loren French with Alpine Flight Training. The course introduction begins with a strategy discussion. You’ll want a personal strategy to put as many conditions as possible in your favor. Continue reading “Here’s the syllabus for our Introduction to Mountain Flying Course”

What’s the net number of pre-owned Cirrus planes for sale?

This post is a follow-up from last week to answer the question: What’s the net available pre-owned Cirrus Aircraft for sale?  To find the number of used Cirrus planes many pilots go to popular websites, such as Controller or Trade-a-plane. On July 7, 2017, there were 195 Cirrus piston airplanes for sale on Controller.  But that doesn’t mean you’ll have that many planes to choose from because foreign and fractional sales would probably not be on your list. Continue reading “What’s the net number of pre-owned Cirrus planes for sale?”

What’s the number of pre-owned Cirrus airplanes for sale?

To find the number of pre-owned Cirrus airplanes for sale many pilots will go to popular websites, such as Controller or Trade-a-plane. In July 2017, there were 195 Cirrus piston airplanes for sale on Controller. Here’s the summary listing on the Controller website. Continue reading “What’s the number of pre-owned Cirrus airplanes for sale?”

How many airplanes has Cirrus Aircraft manufactured?

English: Cirrus SR20, 2012 Model, Brenham Municipal Airport, Texas (photo credit: WikiWings)
English: Cirrus SR20, 2012 Model, Brenham Municipal Airport, Texas (photo credit: WikiWings)

Cirrus Aircraft has shipped a total of 6,526 airplanes at the conclusion of calendar year 2016.  Last year, Cirrus shipped 317 airplanes which was up by 5.3% over the prior year 2015.  The numbers exclude Vision Jet delivers.  In 2016, Cirrus delivered three jets to customers.

Deliveries of piston singles are up but still running half the volume of pre-recession levels. Continue reading “How many airplanes has Cirrus Aircraft manufactured?”

Here’s a Cirrus owner’s view of the GA piston market

2008 Cirrus Perspective SR22TN Turbo, photo credit wikiWings
2008 Cirrus Perspective SR22TN Turbo, photo credit wikiWings

In February, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA.aero) released their 2016 annual report. It presents declining piston engine shipments which is disappointing news for GA but that’s not the whole story. Some manufacturers are increasing sales.  In 2016, Cirrus shipped 5.3% more planes than the prior year.  And, Cirrus piston shipments last year were up 14.9% over year-end numbers for 2013. That’s good.

It’s a trend that’s also being seen in Cirrus pre-owned aircraft sales.  Compared to four years ago, availability has changed significantly because more pilots are shifting into Cirrus planes and taking them off the market. Supply slack is just gone in certain Cirrus pre-owned models. Continue reading “Here’s a Cirrus owner’s view of the GA piston market”

Cirrus Vision Jet has a 1-billion-dollar sales backlog!

Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet assembly fuselage, photo credit Wire magazine 2017
Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet assembly fuselage, photo credit Wire magazine 2017

Pat Waddick, Cirrus Aircraft’s president of innovation and operations recently said the company has more than 600 jet customers waiting for their airplanes to be delivered.  This is great news for the General Aviation industry and American manufacturing.  This sales number has been mentioned in aviation articles, but the discussion quickly moves on to another topic.

Cirrus jets are priced at about $2 million apiece which makes these sales a $1,200,000,000 book of business!  Each customer has paid $100K upfront. That’s $60M in deposit payments! Has there ever been a light aircraft pre-sales book of business comparable to this in the history of GA?

Who are these Vision Jet customers? Why did they write that $100,000 deposit check years ago? What compelled a decision even before the jet was certified? Many of the position holders want to remain

Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet Exterior Engine, photo credit Wired magazine 2017
Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet Exterior Engine, photo credit Wired magazine 2017

anonymous.  But we do know ~75% of them are Cirrus piston pilots.  And, the book of business is global.  About eighty of the 600 early position jets are scheduled for Latin America alone.

Most light aircraft manufacturers’ shipments are flat or seeing a slowdown.  But not Cirrus.  Innovation is winning sales and transforming GA.  We need to see more of that. Not naysayers that complain the view isn’t changing. As in a dog-sled pull, they say the view only changes for the leader.

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