Mountain Flying

by colorex | May 12, 2012 | (32) Posted in Challenges

Mountain Flying


by colorex
 

 

 


Introduction

Flying on a mountaintop is one of the most awe-inspiring and thrilling moments I have ever experienced. The amazement at the huge and beautiful landscape, and the thrill of flying far below you make for a wonderful and enjoyable experience.


I live in Portoviejo, Ecuador, which is a small town 45 minutes from the coast. However this week I managed to get a small trip to Riobamba, Ecuador. After traveling by bus for 8½ hours, I finally arrived at the town, located up in the mountainous ridge going along South America. Riobamba is very close to the Chimborazo Mountain – the highest peak on the planet, but measuring from the center of the earth instead of the sea level. In other words, Chimborazo is the closest point to the sun.

The town is at almost 10 000 feet (3 000 meters) above sea level. The thin air at that altitude makes it harder to catch your breath after making physical exercise. Oh, did I mention that thin air increases airplane stalling tendencies? Both real and model airplanes suffer from this – fly too slow, and you’ll stall!

I have flown my Bixler through 5 batteries in the two days I've been here! And fortunately I have not wrecked it more than a loose aileron horn or a popped off cockpit. In the little flying time I've got, I've learned some things that I would like to share.


Scenery

Up in the mountains there are plenty of beautiful places. Especially if it’s sunny, the colors of the landscape shine very brightly. Rifts, ridges, mountaintops, tree patches, all combine for wonderful flying experiences.

The terrain can affect the flying conditions. Mountains with rifts and ridges will generally have turbulence in the air, but they provide a much more exciting experience.





Altitude

One of the biggest issues with flying in high altitude (my experience ranges from 10 000 to 12 500 feet (3000 to 3800 meters) above sea level) is that the air gets thinner – less dense air, lower pressure, lower oxygen levels. Because of this, altitude has effects both on the airplane and the pilot. As for the pilot, lower concentration of oxygen in the air can have a temporary negative effect on the brain. A reduced oxygen supply to the brain can give you a headache, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. Flying may agitate some individuals, and the thinner air makes it hard to catch your breath.

As for the plane, the altitude increases the difficulty of flying as stall tendencies increase proportionally with the elevation. Stronger stalling tendencies make turning around by banking and yanking much more difficult. But even in straight forward flight, you need to keep up quite some speed to keep from stalling and crashing.

Altitude may also have an effect on the power system. As the air is thinner, the prop can spin around much more easily, reducing the amp draw on the motor, but also reducing the thrust. Theoretically, the best prop at high altitude might make the plane over propped at sea level. Fast altitude changes can affect your batteries! Mine puffed slightly because of the air pressure change.

Altitude can even affect the landscape. Above certain altitude, there are no evil trees!




Wind

Wind can be your friend – and your enemy. The highest wind we've had was around 15 – 20 mph. When you’re flying on a mountain with wind,remember that the wind will go up on one side, and down on the other. You definitely want to fly on the side with the wind going up.

A mountain is an unending slope - slope soaring just got beat! Slope soaring usually has a sink area, then a lift area, then another sink area. But on a mountain, lift (as long as you don’t go over the top) it’s just lift, lift, lift! Even a few hundred feet above the ground you can still have enough lift to stay there forever!

Wind on a mountain also has its drawbacks – if there is a rift going down the mountain, there can be a big sink area around it. General rule, the wind will tend to roughly follow the profile of the landscape.

As always, when flying in the wind, you’ll always want to turn into the wind. Turning with the wind will quickly take your plane faraway!




Temperature

Usually, high places are always cold. And low temperatures can have a slight influence both on the pilot and the plane. For the pilot,cold weather has obvious effects. Numb fingers, trembling (which causes lack of precision), or even cold-related health problems.

The effect of the cold on RC airplanes is less obvious. The cold affects the batteries’ properties. The discharge capacity of a battery goes down as the temperature falls.


Space

Up in the mountains, you will have tons of space to fly – if you stand on a mountaintop, you’ll be able to fly all around even below you! It’s really amazing to stand near the mountaintop and fly the plane down in the valley below. Something I found great was that if you launch from the edge of a cliff, you can have much more time to adjust your trims as you are further away from the ground.With more space to fly, comes less space to land. Especially on a mountain, there are hardly any flat spots to land. If you have to land on a slope, keep in mind that if you go down the mountain into the wind, you’ll have way too much lift to let you touch down. If you go up the mountain with the wind, you’ll be going too fast to be able to land softly. Landing sideways is an option only if you’re good at it. So before you launch your plane, be sure to know where you can land it.




Plane

Mountain flying cannot be done with all planes. You need a plane that has a low wing loading, but is still heavy enough to cut through the wind. You also need a lot of power on it so you can climb back to the top. Don’t fly the battery to the end, you don’t want to go down a huge mountain to get your plane back! Use a plane that can land on rough terrain or tall grass.Belly landings are really good for tall grass.If you ask for a specific recommendation, I can’t recommend the HobbyKing Bixler enough! Just put clear tape on the belly and the nose and the leading edges, and it can take a really hard beating! Use a 2200mAh; battery instead of the recommended 1300mAh, the bigger battery will give you about half an hour of enjoyable cruising. However, if you plan to do fast dives and high G maneuvers, you will need to reinforce it a bit more.




Conclusion

Mountain flying is a really enjoyable activity – but it’snot for the faint of heart or for beginner flyers. Get a good plane, find a nice spot, and enjoy yourself more than ever before. Prepare for an adrenaline-filled experience when your plane makes a close pass on a ridge!



Follow me on Twitter for more fun stuff!

@colorexLive



COMMENTS

liveyourdreamsRC on December 9, 2012
Man those pics are really great. I hope I can do this someday...
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pilot Dewey on May 14, 2012
cool that sounded like fun to go fly in the mountains in south America.

thanks for posting
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colorex on May 18, 2012
Thanks!
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stonekap on May 12, 2012
What a great article! Thank you for posting this.
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Joab J Roseberry on May 17, 2012
Awesome Article!
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colorex on May 18, 2012
Thanks Joab! Cool to see you here!
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earthsciteach on May 12, 2012
Great article, Andre! Hey - if I make it to Ecuador with my Wild Hawk and Assassin, can I crash at your place? :-D

For the inconvenience of ordering stuff, you are blessed with one of the most beautiful areas on Earth! Its an Earth Science teacher's dream: a massive subduction boundary off the coast forming incredible volcanic mountains, and a lush equatorial climate!

PS - I'm still waiting on that list, young man...
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colorex on May 13, 2012
HAHAHA You can crash nearby :) I do have some nice places here. Most of them are far from where I live.

My country has four regions - Galapagos Islands, Coast, Mountains, and Jungle. Lot's of variety.

And I'm working on the list.
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aaron2233 on May 12, 2012
thats nice i use to do that when i was 14 it was the best

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colorex on May 13, 2012
Yeah, mountain flying is really awesome.
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marci on September 20, 2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JztX1oShnFs&feature=plcp
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FliteTest on May 12, 2012
Great job! Love the photos.
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colorex on May 13, 2012
I didn't have Photoshop to optimize them, I had to use pixlr.com . So I didn't get best results. It was a cloudy day too.
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kiwideno on July 7, 2012
Food for thought.
cheers

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marci on September 20, 2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJQ5AIgJ0ck&feature=plcp
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DejaD on May 18, 2012
Great article Colorex! What a beautiful place to fly, It sounds like you had a wonderful time. How did you add the pictures to the article? I have one to post but can't get pictures into it...can you help?
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colorex on May 18, 2012
Yes, it is indeed more beautiful than it looks. My camera didn't capture the colors that nicely.
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MESA RC on June 4, 2012
Once again, excellent, good read!
MESA rcFF Team
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patolin on May 16, 2012
Awesome! somebody from Ecuador here :)

I always have flown in the heights of the Andes mountains (I live in Cuenca, Ecuador), arround 3500/4000m over sea level (thats arround 12000ft over sea), and yes, the plane must go fast to stay in the air.

I have some family in Portoviejo, so will be great when I go down there, fly in your flying spots.

Awesome pictures, and keep posting. Congratulatios
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colorex on May 18, 2012
Hola! I flew at 4200 meters after posting the article, at the foot of the Chimborazo mountain. But it was waaay too windy to do any good flying.
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Hugo Wilding on May 12, 2012
awesome article, thanks for sharing!!
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colorex on May 13, 2012
Thanks!
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bicyclemonkey on May 12, 2012
Great write-up! The scenery there is amazing!
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colorex on May 13, 2012
Oh, yeah, isn't it. But it's quite far from where I live.
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Jake Wells on May 12, 2012
Very Cool! Thank you for taking the time to post this.
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colorex on May 13, 2012
Thanks, You're welcome!
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FlyBoy on July 20, 2012
Nice article man ! :)
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colorex on July 20, 2012
Thanks! :D
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ilovefpv on May 13, 2012
Thanks for sharing colorex!
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colorex on May 13, 2012
You're welcome! Thanks for all the info on your site!

www.ilovefpv.com
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Porksboy on May 12, 2012
Beautiful scenery. What a wonderful place that must be to fly. 30 minutes of soaring must be exhausting and exhilarating. Keep up the good work.
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colorex on May 13, 2012
Oh, my friend did 45-50 minutes with his Bixler, just using the wind to mantain altitude.
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Toby on May 16, 2012
Nice article :)
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colorex on May 18, 2012
Thanks Toby!
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jetpackninja on May 14, 2012
Awesome- and just think, this time last year you were only dreaming of having a plane!
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colorex on May 14, 2012
HAHA, that's true! Now I'm already getting a lot better!
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colorex on May 14, 2012
HAHA, that's true! Now I'm already getting a lot better!
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Mountain Flying