occur with strong winds over a pass. With
this in mind, visually check to see that you
are in fact clearing the terrain. As you fly
closer to the ridgeline, you should be able
to see more and more of what is on the
other side. If not, you don’t have enough
altitude to cross and should execute an
immediate turn or climb.
Once the ridge or pass is crossed,
turn perpendicular to the ridgeline to get
clear of the terrain as quickly as possible.
If a downdraft is present, extra distance
from underlying terrain will be a
One of the last surprises we want to have
when attempting to cross a ridge or pass is
another aircraft headed across in the oppo-
site direction. A local UNICOM frequency,
if one is available, can be helpful in moni-
toring area traffic, but these aren’t always
available. While some pilots have used
123. 45 MHz to announce intentions of
crossing a ridge or pass in remote areas, use
of this frequency is not authorized in US
airspace. An announcement in the blind or
position report over a local CTAF or FSS
frequency may be more appropriate. Check
with Flight Services or local operators for
the proper frequencies and procedures,
and keep your eyes open – just in case.
Any time we’re flying over desolate or
inhospitable terrain, it’s a good idea to
carry survival equipment aboard. In the
event that an emergency requires an off-field landing, having the right stuff with
you can make the difference between a bad
night and a disastrous one. Warm clothing
and boots, a sleeping bag, shelter, first-aid
equipment, signal equipment, fire-making
tools, and food and water are all items to be
considered in a flying survival kit.
Ridges and passes found in mountainous
areas can add excitement and danger to flying. By learning about the hazards, as well as
the techniques and procedures to mitigate
the risks, we can avoid the surprises that
might otherwise ruin our day.
Robert N. Rossier, EAA 472091, has been flying for more
than 30 years and has worked as a flight instructor, commercial pilot, chief pilot, and FAA flight check airman.