August 2010 Issue

Mountain Wave

Going from smooth VMC to turbulent IMC in a matter of seconds can lead to spatial disorientation.

Learning to fly as I did in the relatively flat Eastern U.S., I never really had to deal much with windy, mountainous terrain until after I earned my instrument rating and started using a personal airplane for transportation. My most memorable encounter involved flogging a Skyhawk north out of Asheville, N.C., at 9000 feet. Improbably, I had a tailwind. All was well until passing Mt. Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina. While I enjoyed the tailwind, I did not enjoy the mountain wave it generated. I soon found my relatively heavy 160-hp Skyhawk needed to be in a climb attitude with full power—which ain’t much—to maintain a descent rate of less than 300 fpm.

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