August 2009 Issue

Windy Conditions in Mountainous Areas

Windy conditions in the mountains can be too much to handle when itís already high and hot.

Some of the more memorable flights Iíve made over the years involve flying over or through mountainous terrain. The terrain itself, of course, is visually interesting, with vivid colors and shapes, contrasting with the overwhelming monotony other geographic areas may present. I will long remember a late afternoon, eastbound flight over New Mexico, with some of my favorite music blasting over the headphones as I watched the terrain underneath change to its nocturnal state. I was overflying the terrain, though: The airplane performed as it always does at 13,000 feet msl. The weather was utterly benign, yet Iím glad I was cruising instead of taking off or landing. On another occasion, I found myself looking at decent weather but strong winds aloft for a flight over other portions of New Mexico, plus Arizona and Nevada. I scrubbed that flight due to the forecast winds at altitude, which were at or above the airplaneís stall speed.

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