Swiss Mountain Flying

At the mountainous airport of Saanen you find all kind of people. There is the Glacier pilot with his Maule, working on his engine in the hangar. There is the unknown blonde celebrity on the co-pilot’s seat of a PC-12, desperately waiting for her limousine. And there is the family with their Cessna that borrows bicycles from the airport to get to town.


Saanen is an airport close to Gstaad, where one of the James Bond actors used to live. If you pay attention you may even see the first Bond-Girl of all times (in other words, she isn’t the youngest one, but 😉 ANYWAYS…). The village had many good restaurants and we enjoyed a great 100 dollar burger. It was so much fun to go by bicycle! =) I remember well my sister going through the mud on her bike with her new shoes… haha


The airport had an interesting pattern. I flew overhead and to the east descending along the valley. I pulled out the throttle slowly and did not see any change in rpm. I was totally puzzled until I found the manifold pressure gauge. This moment sure had a big Aha-effect! That gauge didn’t exist during my first 100 flight hours. My dad assisted me during the approach and on short final he told me to aim at the beginning of the runway rather than on the numbers. I wondered about it but complied. During roundout I realized the airplane was much too fast. My father saw the problem coming and I had no clue. This is why you always must know the numbers of your airplane!

Maybe I learned even more on our departure. Due to traffic in the pattern we decided to takeoff westbound despite the tailwind. My father suggested one notch of flaps to climb better. I set the trim and applied power. After liftoff the Cessna pitched aggressively up and if I remember right I even had to push on the yoke. Not sure about that one, but anyhow: I did not expect the airplane to behave as it did. Of course it was trimmed for zero flaps. While I was messing around with the trim and had the sun in my face (no sunglasses this time), the airspeed indicator was almost invisible and I nearly lost track of my airspeed. I think it wouldn’t have happened if I were sitting in the left seat. But what I’ve learned is that a power-on stall is not that unlikely as I believed it to be.

Remember to first fly the airplane even if there are many distractions. Maybe I became a bit too comfortable because I never had problems before to keep airspeeds right there where they should be. But I have the license to learn, right? 😉

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