The Idaho crash video: This is density altitude

If you live in the flat lands like I do (303 feet above sea level), you’ve heard about the effects of high density altitude–but maybe it’s still a tough concept to grasp. The air’s less dense so there isn’t as much lift? Huh? AOPA’s aviation subject report puts it like this: “On a hot and humid day, the aircraft will accelerate more slowly down the runway, will need to move faster to attain the same lift, and will climb more slowly.” (There’s a lot more information in the subject report. It’s worth your time to review it, and your CFI will give you a gold star.)

A pilot and three passengers in Idaho have provided us with probably the most compelling, graphic display of high density altitude’s effect on aircraft performance that you could ever hope to see. Please be advised that while all four in the aircraft survived the crash, disturbing footage of the pilot’s injuries appears at 5:20. Click here for the video. Student pilots: You’ll note that the aircraft takes a long, long, long time to lift off from the runway, which was near the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.  

The preliminary NTSB findings for the accident are here.–Jill W. Tallman

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  • Brian

    Hi Jill,
    It may be on my end but I couldn’t get the hyperlinks to work for the video or NTSB.

  • Person

    Less dense air is a triple whammy for performance. The propeller gets less bite into the air, the engine doesn’t run as well, and the wings don’t work as well at generating lift (they have to deflect a mass of air down to make the plane go up, but if the air weighs less because it is less dense, then there is less force up).

  • jtallman

    I’ve reloaded the links for both the video and NTSB report. Hope it works! —Jill

  • Benjamin Bookman

    Jill, I am also having an issue with the links not working. Somehow they are not links they are just blue letters.

  • nick
    heres the link to the video