This post is part of the five pieces that make up 2013’s How To Fly Across.
For us, the most daunting portion of the cross-continental journey is getting past the Rockies. It is always summer time and the combination of high altitude and high temperature makes for really high density altitudes. (If you don’t understand density altitude that is the first thing you should study up on before you try to cross the country. Ignorance on that front is an invitation to a fatal mistake.) I refuse to cross the Rockies except in the beginning of the day before winds have built up, or in the evening if things have calmed down. The latter tends to only happen flying home and we’re pretty careful about it. I think a lot of accidents are people in little planes thinking there’s a margin of performance available which just isn’t there.
I treat those first three legs as carefully as a lunar mission. I have refreshed my understanding of the plane’s performance at various temperatures at maximum gross weight, I have sharpened my landing skills with some pattern work, and I have been studying the weather patterns for about a week prior. So I look at a reporting point in one of the passes, and the half dozen airports along the route and I see how their weather changes through the day. So far there has only been one year that we postponed our departure, but that’s why I watch it. There’s no reason to launch if we have to turn back.
But whatever your most difficult part is, work hardest, and first, on that. The rest of the journey will fall into place.