San Juan Flyers to host mountain flying class


By Anne Kautzky
Special to The SUN

Pagosa Springs is one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.

One of the reasons it is so gorgeous is because of the majestic mountains we have in our backyard. These towering beauties, from a distance, seem harmless enough, but for those who venture into their midst know there are dangers to be aware of. These dangers are not just for the hikers, skiers, hunters and travelers, but for the pilots who choose to navigate in amongst the peaks.

Most general aviation pilots from the east coast and the midwest, commonly called “flatlanders,” are used to climbing over mountains in the 2,000 to 3,000 foot range. As these pilots fly westward, they find themselves with mountain ranges that protrude skyward to well over 12,000 feet. Many general aviation aircraft do not have the ability to climb over such terrain, so the only options available are to either go around the terrain or fly through the mountain passes.

This is known as mountain flying.

Mountain flying allows new opportunities for the general aviation pilot to experience unique and interesting destinations, not to mention spectacular scenery that the majority of the population will never have the chance to enjoy. However, with this new adventure comes challenges and risks that are associated with unforgiving terrain, high density altitude and safe navigation through this rugged terrain. This requires specialized training.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, flight instructor Anne Kautzky and San Juan Flyers will host Introduction to Mountain Flying, with guest speaker Raymond Mallet.

Mallett comes to Pagosa Springs with over 20,000 hours of flying experience including chief pilot and director of operations for Mesa Air, check airman for Trans-Colorado Airlines, chief pilot and program director for the aviation program at Colorado Northwest Community College, chief pilot and training officer for Salmon Air in Idaho and flights over Mount McKinley in Alaska. Ray has taught pilots of all ratings and certificates the art of mountain flying and the safety aspects that are required to master this skill.

This introduction to mountain flying class will be held at Nick’s Hangar in the upstairs conference room from 6-9 p.m. This is a bonus class for the Private Pilot Ground School that started three weeks ago. The mountain flying class will cover some of the basics of mountain flying, such as density altitude and why is it important to understand it, the need to have the proper equipment for the route and destination you intend to fly along with terrain, and weather considerations when planning a mountain flight.

Anyone interested in learning more about mountain flying — whether you are a pilot or someone who has always had an interest in flying — is welcome to attend. There is no charge for the class.

Nick’s Hangar is located at the south side of Stevens Field just off Piedra Road, next to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) building.

For more information, contact San Juan Flyers flight instructor Anne Kautzky at (970) 903-7718 or e-mail