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CFIT in the Mountains

Into the Snow and Rain — Controlled Flight Into Terrain

Put yourself in this position:

You're a very experienced pilot, with a very experienced co-pilot along for the ride. However, neither you nor your co-pilot has much mountain-flying experience. Your aircraft has just been completely rebuilt and is fresh off a successful test flight. You've had an extensive weather briefing, and the forecast is "good VFR" with occasional reduced visibility in snow. The FSS specialist recommends the Skeena Valley VFR route because of lower altitude requirements should you run into adverse weather, but you have a pilot report (only 2.5 h old) from the Telkwa Pass, indicating a 3500-ft. ceiling, with visibility occasionally down to 10 mi. in light snow. You select the Telkwa Pass because its so much shorter.

You're now penetrating the British Columbia coastal mountains from Terrace to Smithers, flying toward the Telkwa Pass through occasional snow showers. Thirty miles cumulus, virga and rain in all quadrants. Do you continue? If you do, are you spring-loaded to perform a 180· turn in a very tight mountain pass?

One 10,000-h pilot continued, and wasnt prepared.

The wreckage was located in an avalanche area at the bottom of a recent slide. The engine was at the 7000-ft. level, and parts had slid down more than 3000 ft. Neither pilot had survived. Because of the treacherous area, a detailed investigation could not be completed. However, it is more than likely that the pilot turned a corner and flew into instrument conditions - and into the towering mountain.

Originally Published: ASL 3/1997
Original Article: Into the Snow and Rain - Controlled Flight Into Terrain