Owning A Jet In The Rockies
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
When you start your takeoff roll a mile above sea level, it changes things. There are some unique characteristics to consider when looking at aircraft and what kind of performance you can expect to get out them given these conditions.
Density Altitude Isn't Your Friend
When walking around the ramp at APA or anywhere else situated at a similar or higher altitude for that matter, you would be hard pressed to not overhear someone talking about it. This is because it makes a big difference on aircraft performance no matter what you are flying. For those less accustomed, density altitude refers to the altitude in which your aircraft feels like it is located. To give a simple reference as to how this works, we will consider an aircraft with a maximum service ceiling of say 15000'. When you take off from Miami your aircraft still has the ability to get you 15000' above the ground, unlike here in Denver where that same aircraft could only get you up to just under 10000' because your starting point was 5000' higher. This is not the only performance characteristic effected by higher density altitude's either. Landing rolls and take-off distances are also subject to performance decreases. This means you really need to pay close attention to your aircrafts performance capabilities on those really hot days up here at altitude. This is no place to be careless about how much you weigh down an aircraft with passengers and fuel and decide to take off out of a short mountain strip in the summer.
Fuel Stops Become The Norm
As we mentioned earlier, aircraft performance takes a real hit at altitude. While your aircraft struggles to push through the thin air up to a minimum safe altitude to clear the mountain peaks, it goes from sipping fuel to chugging it. Aircraft that may be capable enough to get you in and out of the mountains might require a fill up just before they get to the foothills. This becomes another major factor to plan for when looking to buy an aircraft to suite your mountain lifestyle. An aircraft's range can be substantially decreased once you add in the requirements for a family of four and their belongings to come with you. These are factors that must be considered when looking into viable aircraft options when you live in a place such as Denver, Vail or anywhere similar.
*If you are interested in learning more about Density Altitude please visit this link to an AOPA article covering the topic in further detail* https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/active-pilots/safety-and-technique/weather/density-altitude