Mexico City

Posted on 13. Aug, 2009 by in Featured

There is nothing like flying into Mexico City to remind you of why training, experience and a well rested crew is so important. Mexico City is in a bowl of very high mountains and as a bonus there are smaller mountains in the base of the bowl that must also be avoided. The airport is at an elevation of approximately 7,800 feet above sea level. For those of you who have followed this site, or read my book, you know an aircraft only knows how many molecules of air pass over the wing or into the engine. That means while your indicated approach speed might be the same as it is at sea level, to get the same amount of molecules over the wing (and into the pitot tube) in the thin air, you actually have to be going a lot faster across the ground. It also means that engine performance is degraded.

The approach threads you between mountains and then you make a hard 110 degree turn, on short final, 1,000 feet above the city. When you make that 30 degree angle of bank turn, the angle of attack raises, thus you must be faster to maintain the same safety margin above stall. So there you are, making a bat turn to final, fast, with anorexic engines. Crews must slow to approach speed, catch it with power, and stabilize it in a very short time frame. Being fast is not an option; even on speed you will be touching down at 200 miles an hour (over the ground); getting stopped could be an issue. As a double bonus it is night! Many are under the impression that flying airliners is a push button job. Nothing could be further from the truth. Watch the River Visual in DC, or the Freeway visual to LaGuardia. Both to very short runways with a river for an over run. In eleven years of flying the line I can count the auto-landings I have made on one hand. That is why training and experience count.

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  1. Rick 14 August 2009 at 13:44 #

    OK, so now I know why I’m always terrified on Aero Mexicana….I thought it was just their pilots being hotshots coming in over the fence so fast at Mexico City. Thanks for the explanation…I hadn’t realized.

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