Flying over the Sierra Nevada Mts

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by themaffeo, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. themaffeo

    themaffeo Filing Flight Plan

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    TL;DR: Is it possible to prudently and safely cross the Sierra Nevadas at some point so that a 172N can travel from OAK to VGT non-stop?


    Background:
    While I wait a little bit to make sure this "I want to fly" thing is for real before plunking down the $$'s, I've been playing around to figure out all the cool places I could go If I had a ppl. It's been fairly interesting, for example, I found out that while Catalina Island is within range, it doesn't have fuel for sale, so I couldn't do it non-stop or I'd be stranded. The other day I suddenly realized that there are a bunch of mountains between the bay area and las vegas. Playing around with the flight planner on aopa seemed to show every route blocked by at least 8k mountains and even that route seems to be blocked by reserved airspace (though, I could be reading the chart wrong ...)

    So is it possible to go over the sierra nevadas with only 180hp plane?
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  2. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yes. It may be a bit challenging and you might have to pick your route carefully but a 180 hp 172 is fine in the mountains as long as it's not over 90% of max gross.
     
  3. Anthony

    Anthony Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I asked the CFI at Leadville, CO when she returned from a training flight if they were using a 180 HP 172. She said, no, it was 150 HP. :yes:
     
  4. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm thinking they probably honored the "no more than 90% of max. gross" guideline and flew early in the day...

    I've flown 150 & 160 hp 172s along the Front Range and they'll climb high enough - ya just gotta be patient and being light helps a lot.
     
  5. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    MEA on V204 over the Cascades is 10,000 MSL. I flew it eastbound at 11,000 and westbound at 10,000 earlier this month in a 180 hp 172. No problemo. Pick your routes and weather and you should do fine.
     
  6. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yes, it's fine in a 180 HP 172. HOWEVER, it's not prudent along a straight line between Oakland and Las Vegas.

    Why? That's the highest part of the mountains -- Mt. Whitney. The passes there are 11,500 feet and higher. To stay 2000 feet over Sequoia National Park, that means a cruising altitude of at least 13500 feet. That's going to be a problem. Your service ceiling on a standard day is 14000, and you'll be required to use oxygen if you're up there more than 30 minutes (you may need it regardless of what the regs say for any time, since you're popping up from sea level). Keep in mind that you'll be flying quite close to Vx (and Vy -- there isn't much difference up there) at full throttle just to maintain altitude that close to the service ceiling. That's much slower than usual cruise, so it may be better on the Hobbs meter (and fuel gauge) to fly a "longer" route.

    Crossing at Tioga Pass will get you down to 12,000 feet. Much better. Crossing at Lake Tahoe is significant but very doable in a 180 HP (it's gorgeous, but a bit out of your way). Crossing at Lake Isabella or anywhere south of it is a nonisssue (but restricted airspace to the east is more of an issue).
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  7. rottydaddy

    rottydaddy En-Route

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    Remember, also, that there's a lot more to it than the service ceiling of the aircraft, even accounting for density altitude.
    Terrain like that can do interesting things to moving air... for example, what do you do if you are entering a narrow pass, unable to climb more than 100 fpm, and a 200fpm downdraft comes out of the pass, or across it? Air flowing up over mountains can be very useful in a low-powered airplane, but like with tailwinds, sooner or later you must pay for the "free ride".

    Also study up on something called a "rotor"... you will need that information.

    Then there's clouds, upslope fog, etc... it all becomes different when you can't climb any more and have little air below you, with rough terrain all around.

    I'm not saying "stay out of the mountains in a 172N", just saying there's a lot more to it than what the book says it will do at MGW on a standard day. "Prudent" in the mountains should be a bit more conservative than in moderately hilly or flat terrain.

    Based on your location and your ambitions, you should definitely take a mountain flying course. You could probably get dual from a mountain expert in the same plane or similar to the 172N you mention.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  8. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Absolutely. Read Sparky Imelson's book. The Sierras are significant mountains, and winds across them can be very nasty.

    Having some margin to the service ceiling buys you options, but it's still possible to have all those options go away if the wind is descending at 2000 FPM.

    In particular, check the wind forecast (graphical.weather.gov). Wind is almost always westerly, and if it's more than 20 knots, turbulence is going to be a factor. If it's more than 30, it's likely to overwhelm you. If the air also happens to be thermally stable, that's perfect for mountain wave formation. It's common to the east of north/south mountains in the West. If the air is unstable, upslope winds often cause thunderstorms.
     
  9. themaffeo

    themaffeo Filing Flight Plan

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    Cool, thanks for all the info! I figured i'd need some mountain training if crossing turned out to be possible. Can't be too prepared =) Looks like I can add LV as another potential destination!
     
  10. Threefingeredjack

    Threefingeredjack En-Route

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    :thumbsup:

    IMHO Anyone who wants to dink around by the bumpy parts should read this book.
     
  11. Raftthis101

    Raftthis101 Filing Flight Plan

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    You might consider taking some Mtn instruction from someone who flies up there, and get some time in the plane prior at high DA. I just went to a mountain flying FAA seminar at TVL and it was great.
    Good luck...
     
  12. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Where are you training? A flight to Lake Tahoe is one of the must-do's of central California flying. There are a bunch of qualified mountain instructors around the Bay.

    Reno is a bit more accessible than Vegas from the Bay Area.

    FWIW, mountain flying is a huge chunk of the reason I took up flying. It's a LOT of fun.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  13. olasek

    olasek Pattern Altitude

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    I agree.
    I have done OAK-Reno many times in 172s, Warriors or Archers. And you can gamble in Reno too :lol:, plus really excellent car museum to see, probably the best in the country (world??).
    South Lake Tahoe is another excellent mountain destination with very picturesque setting (and casinos!).
     
  14. themaffeo

    themaffeo Filing Flight Plan

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    Not training anywhere yet, but I'm looking into the Alamed Aero Club (http://www.alameda-aero.com/)
     
  15. themaffeo

    themaffeo Filing Flight Plan

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    I've actually never been to reno.. could change soon ;) One of the things I'm really excited about is being able to fly to tahoe. The casinos are nice, but the hiking is amazing!
     
  16. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Unfortunately, the two airports near the lake are pretty far from the casinos. But TVL is really nice anyway. It's near the Desolation Wilderness, though I haven't tried to get up there from the airport. The scenery up there is amazing; there is nothing quite like the view from 2000 feet above the lake.

    If you haven't begun training yet, you have a long way to go before you're ready for mountain flying. But I agree, it's a powerful motivator; it's why I did it.
     
  17. yah00

    yah00 Pre-Flight

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    I am out of Fresno, and have yet to try Tahoe. Any suggestions? I fly to Folsom to visit my family often.

    Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
     
  18. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    Crossing the Sierra not so bad but non stop Oakland to Vegas in a 172 is not a good idea. You can get there by a number of different routes but direct is definitely over three hours and it would be a totally gnarly route. They are some mighty big mountains down around that area.

    As a new pilot, first time doing it? Go across the Tehachipi and follow I-15 into town. You can get gas at Bakersfield or Fox. Don't go to Barstow, too expensive there.
     
  19. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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  20. oldShar

    oldShar Cleared for Takeoff

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    BTW, the open-ended quantity of horsepower in the mountains isn't relevant.
    More important is the power match to the airframe onto which it is mounted.

    Aircraft such as J-3's (65 hp), RV-12's (95 hp [METO]), Cessna 150's (100 hp) and others of the same ilk fly the mountains around here (often around 10,000' MSL) frequently and without concern.

    It's really NOT an issue
     
  21. flight2000

    flight2000 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've started using this website a friend gave me as a tool for checking out winds aloft. I've found it to be very accurate when I've checked and then flown the routes I was looking at.

    www.windyty.com

    Cheers,
    Brian
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2015
  22. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route Gone West

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    Pilots have flown little airplanes all over the Sierra Nevada's. But just starting out, stick with the lowest possible routes. Save the high stuff for later. You COULD experiment but dont try and outclimb the mountains. Approach them well above and have a 90 degree and 180 degree out. Also, I take it you know how to lean for best power at altitude? Above 7000', just lean for peak rpm. And you have to richen when you come back down. Fly under gross. More horsepower the better. 180 hp is kind of a cutoff. If you fly less than that, youve got to be patient and catch ridge lift and circle climb. That is with two people. Some of the new low horsepower plastic planes do pretty good. Something overpowered like a Husky is ideal. 180hp 172 does just fine.
     
  23. docmirror

    docmirror Touchdown! Greaser!

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    They've ceased operations. The domain is for sale.
     
  24. Everskyward

    Everskyward Experimenter

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    He typoed the website name. It's windyty.com.
     
  25. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking

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    Flying the high passes is all about weather. You'll only survive when you beat the weather.

    stay off the high country in the late afternoon.
    give your self at least 2500' over the ridge.
    learn how to step climb.

    IOWs get the mountain flying training.
     
  26. weirdjim

    weirdjim Ejection Handle Pulled

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    If I can do it in a 85 horse Cessna 120, you can probably do it with more than double that.

    But not nonstop. That cuts it just a bit close for fuel. Go to skyvector.com, put in the route HWD-MOD-BFL-TSP-MHV-DAG-VGT to see how I would do it if I were flying it. Then go to airnav.com and do the same route, only this time use the fuel planner to find out where the cheap fuel is along that route. (That's Hayward-Modesto-Bakersfield-Tehachapi-Mojave-Dagget-Vegas.) You can do the whole thing below 6000 MSL.

    Me? I'd stop at MHV and see if I could get a glimpse into the Rutan Skunk Works.

    And I don't think you want to train at Oakland, way too expensive. Hayward is nice. Concord is nice. Livermore is nice.

    And just for me, don't use abbrvtns that I probably have to look up. Like VGT, TL, DR. K? Saves lots of us time.

    Jim
     
  27. flight2000

    flight2000 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for the catch! Tried to post from my iPhone....:rolleyes:

    Cheers,
    Brian
     
  28. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route Gone West

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    In good weather it is the best there is. Calm, clear and beautiful. Nature's glory...
     
  29. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Might want to check the date. He made his decision years ago.

    FYI, Oakland is a hellishly expensive place to buy fuel, but it's not that expensive to train. Oakland Flyers is a little cheaper than California Airways in terms of price, even when you factor in their dry rates and expensive Oakland fuel.
     
  30. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    LOL - dang internet :goofy:
     
  31. yah00

    yah00 Pre-Flight

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    Lol, yes that was my fault. I hesitated to post, however I knew you were still active on here so I figured I would give it a shot.

    Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
     
  32. Jeff Oslick

    Jeff Oslick En-Route

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    I'd head west, fly through the gap in the restricted areas near Trona, then over Kern Valley to head north. Check on restricted area altitudes/times. Often on Sundays you can fly through some of them above 6,000 with ATC approval. Not worth the lethargic time-to-climb in a (150/160 hp) 172 to get above 10,000'.
     
  33. James331

    James331 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    As in straight line, I wouldn't do it.

    Following the river is another story, also if it's windy I'd probably take a rain check.
     
  34. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sierra rivers do not generally have friendly emergency landing sites. Aside from the Kern River (very far south), the valleys are deep, twisty, narrow, and very rugged. Glacial valleys are a different story. In the foothills, ridge tops may be a better choice; e.g., the American River above Folsom Lake does not have any useful landing sites except for one airport.

    Especially in winter, it's MUCH better to follow an open highway. There are not many of them, but if you make a successful emergency landing with no injuries, you don't die anyway. Walking out in winter without deep snow equipment is not possible.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  35. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    Blue Canyon Nyak, neat place. There are a bunch of amateur astronomer observatories there. I landed one day when they were having a big weekend meet and they gave me a grand tour of them.
     
  36. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Blue Canyon isn't anywhere near the American River.

    It's a neat place, but it's challenging. Not very long for the altitude, and snow isn't generally plowed.

    I-80 makes a real nice emergency landing site if the traffic isn't too nasty.
     
  37. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    Well if you consider 5 miles to not be "anywhere near" then okay but you said American River and you said one airport so although I thought I did I'll admit now that I have no idea what you're talking about because there isn't anything else up there.

    Also Blue Canyon was nothing a 90 horse Champ couldn't handle.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  38. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There are multiple American Rivers….

    I was referring to Placerville.

    The crossing near Nyack has some pretty good sites, including a wide unobstructed interstate. Around US 50, it's much worse.

    If you have to cross the Sierra, Sacramento over Blue Canyon, Truckee and Reno is a good way to do it. Terrain isn't that high, nor remote nor rugged compared to crossings further south.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  39. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    Given that it's been 3 years, I wonder if the OP is still flying.
     
  40. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    Ahh okay, understood now.