Lessons Learned – To Hell You Fly | Aviation

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It is rumored that the town of Telluride, Colorado, got its name in the 1800s from the phrase “to hell you ride,” alluding to the treacherous journey required to reach the remote mountain destination by horseback. When flying into this high-altitude airport, the name is as fitting now as it was then. Situated at a breathtaking 9,078 feet msl with the density altitude frequently gracing the high 11,000s, it’s no surprise Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX) has the distinction of being the highest-altitude commercial facility in the United States.

Although I’ve been flying for more than 20 years, I only recently received my commercial certificate, and shortly thereafter, my very first assignment to fly a family from San Antonio to Telluride in a beautiful Piper Turbo Saratoga, a PA-32-301T. The aircraft is owned by the family and managed by their longtime pilot, Nat. The job was exactly what I was looking for, and I excitedly became acquainted with both Nat and the aircraft. It was explained to me that they have made this particular trip in this particular aircraft dozens of times.

Nat recommended that I fill the tanks, put all the luggage in the nose compartment, and everything would be “spot on.” In preparation for the journey, I took the free online mountain course offered by AOPA, watched a couple of YouTube videos, and honestly felt quite comfortable. Despite having absolutely no mountain experience, I was not about to turn down my very first paid flight. I may not have even performed a weight-and-balance check had the flight not been to KTEX. After all, it was only me and two passengers. The hundreds of hours I had in a similar Piper, a Cherokee Six PA-32-300 boasting a useful load of 1,560 pounds, was working against me.

The scheduled flight was more than a week away, falling during the busy Fourth of July weekend. I retrieved the POH and generated an aircraft profile in ForeFlight. Nat was right. To complete the 700 nm trip nonstop would…

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