During a time of emergency in mountain flight, good decision making should stem from proper training and preflight planning. Breaking accidents down into three categories should help to clarify the importance of proper planning. “Controlled Flight into Terrain” generally means flight was continued into deteriorating weather conditions and eventually terminated by running into something. This type of accident is usually fatal. Proper weather planning, considering alternate routes, and planning for room to maneuver, all of which have been discussed, should prevent this type of accident.
“Forced Landings,” meaning for example engine failure, have a 9.8% fatality rate among mountain flight accidents. Clearly this type is unpredictable but with proper route planning odds favor your survival.
“Precautionary Landings,” means the pilot retained enough control over the situation to decide how and where to land. This type of accident resulted in a fatality rate of 0.06%. Statistics show that admitting you made a mistake and getting on the ground anywhere are better than losing control of the situation. Another way of looking at this is you are 60 times more likely to survive if you make the decision early. This does not mean set down in some remote valley at the first sign of trouble, but it does mean that after exhausting your planned options or alternate courses of action, instead of trying to search for other solutions at random, land while you are still in control. Keep in mind that it may take rescue personnel some time to reach the site of your emergency landing — maybe a day or two or longer. If you are not injured and you decide to walk out, all you need to do is walk down hill. Roads, towns, rivers, etc., are more numerous and easier to locate down rather than across or up. If staying with the plane is mandatory due to injury, make sure the ELT is working and start a fire for warmth and recognition. During your training for mountain flight you should have learned how to pack both survival and first aid gear for the type of country you are flying. This gear usually weighs fewer than ten pounds.
We hope at the conclusion of our three part series on mountain flight the importance of proper planning has been persuasive.
Reference: Flying The Mountains by Fletcher Anderson
Foothill and Mountain Flying, Part 1
Foothill and Mountain Flying, Part 2
These safety tips are provided by the WCFC Safety Committee. They are intended to stimulate thought and discussion about flight safety and do not necessarily represent club policy nor are they intended to replace instruction from a qualified instructor.