With the cooler mountain weather, it was time for our annual pilgrimage to Western North Carolina. There is nothing prettier than the southern Appalachian mountains in the Fall. Some of my earliest memories are of family visits to Tweetsie Railroad, near Blowing Rock, and Clingmans Dome, near the Cherokee Reservation.
Flying into mountainous airports can be challenging, but especially rewarding. Under certain conditions, it can also be dangerous. The Mountain Flying Bible is an invaluable resource for GA pilots flying in and around of mountainous terrain. (Sadly the author lost his life in 2009 in a mountain flying accident.)
Asheville Regional Airport (KAVL) is located at a 2,000′ elevation, in a valley surrounded by 6,000′ mountain peaks. Runway 16/34 is 8,000 feet long and is served by several instrument approaches, making it a busy airport for commercial airliners.
When we departed Florida for our 2+ hour flight, the weather in Asheville was still reported as low IFR with fog and 100′ ceilings. The weather was predicted to lift before our arrival, but I mentally prepared to fly an ILS approach, just in case.
Fortunately, the weather did improve just before we flew over higher terrain and we landed in VFR conditions. Not long before our arrival, at least one airliner and a Cessna 421 diverted after seeing nothing on the approach. Approaching the airport, we were number five for landing.
As we taxied in, we could see Asheville was a very popular destination as the GA ramp was full of private jets. The FBO, Landmark Aviation, treated us quite well, in spite of being one of the smallest aircraft on the ramp.
After nearly a week of hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, mountain biking and visiting the Biltmore Estate, it was time to head home. We lifted off just before an approaching front, and fought 40 knot headwinds out of the southwest for most of the flight. Even so, a three hour flight is always more palatable than a 9 hour drive.