Mountain Flying

Experiencing Rollins Pass from the air should be an ongoing adventure, not a life-threatening one. Learn more about safe mountain flying with resources from the FAA Safety Team.

In our presentations on Rollins Pass, we explore the concept first introduced by historian Marshall Sprague, who described mountain passes as ‘Great Gates’ that funnel humans and animals from one side to the other. With technological advancements, the definition of a ‘Great Gate’ has certainly broadened to encompass more than just humans and animals—it now includes water, data, and aircraft. For instance, the Moffat Water Tunnel transports water from the western slope to the eastern slope, and fiber optic infrastructure transmits data beneath the Continental Divide via pulses of light. Additionally, various types of aircraft use Rollins Pass as a comparatively low-altitude crossing over the Continental Divide. (This is why Beacon #82, the highest rotating airway beacon in North America, was once positioned on the pass at over 12,000 feet above sea level.) This page is dedicated to manned aviation, focusing on risk mitigation and safety measures for mountain flying.

This page is for manned aviation. If you’re looking for drone information related to the Rollins Pass area, review the resources on our Drone Regulations page.

Per the FAA Safety Team's guidance, attend a comprehensive Mountain Flying Ground School before attempting a mountain cross-country flight!

MOUNTAIN FLYING RESOURCES FROM THE FAA SAFETY TEAM: CHECKLIST AND TIPS

While these documents were created by the FAA in 1999, they still remain valid more than a quarter-century later and are given out as collateral at FAA Safety Team events nationwide.

AVIATION INVESTIGATION FINAL REPORT FOR ACCIDENT NUMBER DEN84FA308

From the Aviation Investigation Final Report by the NTSB:

THE AIRPLANE DEPARTED GRANDBY [SIC] 8/10/84 AND FAILED TO ARRIVE AT ITS DESTINATION. ON 8/23/87, IT WAS FOUND ON THE SLOPE OF A HIGH TREE-COVERED RIDGE. VIDEO TAPE RECOVERED FROM THE WRECKAGE PROVIDED A VISUAL AND AUDIO RECORD OF THE FLIGHT FROM TAKEOFF TO IMPACT. COMPARING THE RECORDING TO A TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP, THE FLIGHT WAS CLIMBING AND ITS ALTITUDE ABOVE THE GROUND WAS DECREASING WHEN IT CRASHED AT THE 10,200-FT LEVEL. DURING THE LAST FEW SECONDS OF THE TAPE, THE TERRAIN DOMINATED THE VIEW THROUGH THE COCKPIT WINDOW. THE PILOT MADE A 60-DEG BANK, AND THE STALL WARNING HORN COULD BE HEARD 3 TIMES DURING APRX 180 DEG OF TURN. THE AIRPLANE SUBSEQUENTLY STALLED, FLIPPED OVER, AND ENTERED THE TREES. THE DENSITY ALTITUDE WAS ABOUT 13,000 FT.

Occurrence #1: LOSS OF CONTROL – IN FLIGHT
Phase of Operation: CRUISE
Findings

  1. (F) WEATHER CONDITION – HIGH DENSITY ALTITUDE
  2. (F) TERRAIN CONDITION – MOUNTAINOUS/HILLY
  3. (C) IN-FLIGHT PLANNING/DECISION – IMPROPER – PILOT IN COMMAND
  4. (C) AIRSPEED – NOT MAINTAINED – PILOT IN COMMAND
  5. STALL – INADVERTENT – PILOT IN COMMAND

Occurrence #2: IN FLIGHT COLLISION WITH TERRAIN/WATER
Phase of Operation: CRUISE

Cessna L-19E Bird Dog Crash 1984 (Tabernash, Colorado)
This fatal crash occurred approximately 6.62 miles north-northwest from the summit of Rollins Pass on Friday, August 10, 1984.

A REMINDER TO UTILIZE THE FAA SAFETY TEAM (FAASTeam) AS A RESOURCE FOR ALL PILOTS

FAASTeam Mission Statement: Lower the nation’s aviation accident rate by conveying safety principles and practices through training, outreach, and education; while establishing partnerships and encouraging the continual growth of a positive safety culture within the aviation community.

FAASTeam program management applies a Safety Risk Management approach, using system safety principles, risk prioritization, and new technology concepts. The FAASTeam uses system safety techniques to shift the safety culture towards the reduction of aviation accidents.

Click here to find FAASTeam leaders in Colorado. The FAA Safety Team has both WINGSPro and DronePro representatives available to help answer questions and direct pilots to resources and materials. For Drone Regulations on and near Rollins Pass, click here.

FAA Safety Team

VIDEO RESOURCES

Accident Case Study: Into Thin Air
Mountain Flying Tips from MzeroA Flight Training
Mountain Flying & High Density Altitude in 57 Seconds

The primary purpose of our work is to inform the public.

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