Downdrafts

Lee Rhodes, helicopter pilot

Helicopter descending off a ridge     Photo: Scott DW Smith

Most often, you get hit by them on the back side of a ridge. When you’re coming in to land at 12,000 feet—that’s high for a helicopter—and you have a big downdraft, you don’t have enough power to pull up, so you have to turn. You always try to leave yourself an out. As I’m coming into a peak or a ridge, I’m always asking, If I get hit by a downdraft now, where am I going to turn and go?

Rhodes flies heli-ski clients at Colorado’s Silverton Mountain.

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