For a number of years I have been selling aviation products on eBay (a story for another day) and one of the more popular books was the "Mountain Flying Bible" by Sparky Imeson. This book was considered essential reading for anyone who was going to venture into the mountains in an airplane. And even experts on mountain flying can get bit by the dangers. The author of the "Mountain Flying Bible" Sparky Imeson died in a crash on the mountains on March 17th, 2009. Unfortunately it appears his death has also brought an end to publication of his popular mountain flying books.
So when the NTSB issued its findings in the airplane crash which killed famed aviator Steve Fossett it did not come as a complete surprise. Many a pilot has ventured into mountainous terrain never to be seen again. The discovery of the Super Decathlon that Fossett was flying near Mammoth Lakes, CA brought a lot of speculation about what happened to the aviator and of course the conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork with fantastic tales about his disappearance. After reviewing the intermittent radar tracking of Fossett's flight which became more important once the accident site had been located showed that he was flying along a crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Winds that day were gusting between 29 and 35 miles per hour which likely produced downdrafts of more than 400 feet per minute. If the airplane could only climb at 300 feet per minute at that altitude, and given an investigation of the crash site, it appears likely Fossett flew into a strong downdraft from which he could not recover, slamming the aircraft into the ground followed by fire. Apparently local pilots at the time of the accident had speculated that the infamous winds had claimed yet another victim. This accident, and the one claiming Sparky Imeson, remind us once again that flying is a dangerous business and requires all of a pilot's attention and skill, particularly in the mountains. Always be alert, fellow pilots. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 When you get it right mighty beasts float up into the sky. When you get it wrong people die. — Roger Bacon