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Aspen flying

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Active member
Jan 3, 2002
I fly into Aspen every now and then in a Lear 60 and it seems like every time I do it is always an eye-opening experience. From turbulance to shooting crazy approaches or getting dumped in impossibly high, it never seems to go smoothly. In the meantime I am trying to give a good ride to all those in back while diving at 4000 feet per minute banking around a mountain.

I was wondering if any of you had any interesting stories or insights you could share on this subject?
The trick to doing the Aspen arrivals is to get your speed slowed WAY back BEFORE you start down.... then everything happens slower and you will not need quite as high rates of descent...
Use to go there at least 3 or 4 times a month. Different employer has changed that schedule. Aspen is a challenge. I usually tell my passengers, if they are first timers there that the ride will be a little bumpy and the like due to the terrain. Most of the people going there really want to go there and arrive in style. aka 'their' own airplane.

I found that configuring way early and using power to maintain altitude keeps the approach a little smoother.

If you really want to get someone's atention. Do the real circle. Almost everyone lands straight-in dispite the wind.

Have the airplane configured to land over DBL VOR. This lets you concentrate on descending into the valley at a comfortable speed. Besides, if your landing checks are done all you have to think about is flying and keeping it off of the rocks...:D

I agree with the previous posts. Get configured and slow early, and be fully prebriefed on the missed if you need it.

I haven't been there for a little while, but have always circled if it put more than 10 knots on the tail.

Aspen is not a particularly challenging approach compared to others, but it has the potential to turn ugly if you let it THe relatively short distance from Red Table coupled with the amount of altitude loss required, and the lack of direct alignment can lead to confusion and a destablilized approach.

I know a lot of operators won't go in there unless the ceiling is at or above red table VOR. It's also one place you should really know the surrounding terrain, before departing. Know where the hills are, and the drainages, and why the departures are set as they are. In the event of an excessive loss of performance or other probems, it may save your life.
I agree, early configuration is definitely key. One gripe I forgot to mention is when the tower launches someone straight at you while you're flying a straight in to 15. Makes you wonder about the legalities when they don't have you in sight and turn right at the last moment.
One thing I did forget. Since the approach is not approved for night operations anymore, it is normally not a big deal. But in low visability conditions, and there I do consider 3 miles low vis. especially with snow, be careful. There is a road at the approach end that crosses the approach path at a very low angle. Car headlights might make it appear as the runway. That may have been one of the reasons for that G3 accident a couple of years ago.
As with any mountain approach you must know the terrain and the approach. Ideally going into a mountain airport CAVU before hard IFR is a real advantage. I still carry WAC charts with me for all the mountain terrain so I can get a good feel for the terrain a lot further than 25 miles from the airport. On the 727 you had to always consider the possibility of loosing 2 engines and performing a one engine miss. Knowing which valley to go to as you are climbing at 200fpm is a real advantage. The same would apply to a light twin. Think outside the box. We used to fly into Puerto Vallarta a lot with the Lears. At night it was so dark you couldn't see a thing. It is surrounded by 11,000 to 12,000 foot mountains, but they are more than 25 miles from the airport. When you went in there at night it was real dark so you couldn't see the mountains. One of our kid captains from the west coast of Florida went in there one night. The next day I say him and asked him what he thought of the mountains as he hadn't been there before-he said"What mountains." This business will kill you with that attitude. Back to Aspen. Slow it down, configure early have the approach memorized then back your memory up with the brief and the plate. Have the missed approach down pat and know why the miss is the way it is. Know the direction during the miss away from terrain in case you have a nav failure during the miss.(facilities will fail, especially in South and Central America)Next enjoy it. I love flying mountain IFR, I have done my share, but the secret is procedure, procedure, procedure. Aspen is a neat approach but the only time I went there I cheated, it was CAVU and 100 miles vis.

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