Mountain Flying in Colorado

One of the greatest thrills of being a pilot in Colorado is the opportunity to fly throughout the majestic Rocky Mountains. With snowcapped peaks, high deserts and grasslands, and many interesting public-use airports, mountain flying can be the highlight in a lifetime of flying.

Mountain flying isn’t without risk. Narrow and sloping runways, one-way airports, density altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet and unpredictable and abrupt changes in weather will test any pilot’s decision-making abilities and skills.

Statistics show that pilots without the training and skills needed for safe flight over mountainous terrain often get themselves into situations which are beyond their capabilities. The risks of mountain flying are minimized when a pilot fully understands the conditions commonly encountered in mountainous regions, specific challenges of destination airports, and the performance characteristics of their aircraft. All Western Air pilots wishing to fly in the mountains need a mountain flying checkout. Any pilot with their own aircraft is highly encouraged to do the same. This checkout can be accomplished all through one-on-one instruction or by taking the Mountain Flying Ground School Course in combination with a one-on-one mountain flight session. At Western Air Flight Academy, pilots have the opportunity to train with Colorado’s most experienced and qualified flight instructors that fly daily in the Rocky Mountains.

The Western Air Flight Academy Mountain Flying Course

Ground School
This will consist of 3 hours of ground training, where Pilots will learn the basics of how to fly in mountainous terrain. Students are taught the fundamentals of performance considerations, developing go-no-go judgment skills, mountain flight planning, and developing confidence for mountain flying.

Mountain Flying
Each student will have the chance to fly an individually customized mountain flight route. Common destinations include Buena Vista, Leadville, Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Granby. There are many other options; the sky is the limit on where you can go.

Both the ground course and flight will incorporate the following topics:


  • Density altitude and its effects. Learn how to calculate density altitude and the dramatic effect on engine performance, propeller efficiency, and overall degradation of aircraft as altitude increases.
  • Wind! How it will affect flying in the mountainous terrain, how much altitude to have when approaching a ridge or pass and how the winds aloft will affect that number.
  • How and when to approach ridges, and canyons.
  • How to review the flight route options in detail. How wind speed aloft, wind direction and cloud bases influence route selection.
  • Compute weight and balance and takeoff and landing distances.
  • What to include in a mountain flying survival pack.
  • Why maneuvering speed, (VA) is important and how it changes with aircraft gross weight.
  • Minimum runway lengths and how to establish a point on the departure runway beyond which take-off should be aborted if not airborne.
  • Procedures for dealing with severe downdrafts and wind shear.
  • Where to expect turbulence and how to read the clouds to anticipate the severity of the turbulence.
  • Typical mountain weather patterns.
  • Determining “Safety Zones” in the mountains.
  • Looking at the “Big Picture” in making go-no-go decisions.
  • Given a particular aircraft make, model, and engine and propeller configuration, what kind of mountain flying is safe and what kind to simply avoid?

How much does it cost?

  Hours Cost
Ground School 3 $99
Aircraft Rental ($150/hour estimate) 4 $600
Instructor ($70/hour) 4 $280
  11 $979

* These prices are just an estimate. Actual costs will vary on an individual basis depending on different learning styles and the proficiency and preparation of the pilot, as well as, the type of aircraft and length of flight.