Aviation experts weigh-in on challenges of flying in Blue Ridge Mountains

Ingalls Field Airport in Hot Springs is the highest airport east of the Mississippi

HOT SPRINGS, Va. – Following the deadly plane crash on Sunday in Bath County that left five people dead, 10 News is looking into the challenges of flying in the mountainous terrain of Virginia.

Private pilot and Virginia Tech Aerospace Engineering professor, Eric Paterson told 10 News that he’s flown into Ingalls Field Airport where the crash happened.

[RELATED: Who are the victims of the Ingalls Field plane crash?]

“Hot Springs airport is very unique. It is on top of the mountain. It is nearly 2,500 to 2,600 feet above the Roanoke airport. It is the highest airport east of the Mississippi, and it is very susceptible to the atmospheric conditions,” said Paterson.

Atmospheric conditions like wind. On Sunday, there were 44 m.p.h. wind gusts near Hot Springs at the time of the plane crash.

“One of the biggest concerns is wind shear. That’s when the wind on the front part of your planes can change rapidly. Every knot of wind on these airplanes can lead to about a 200-foot landing difference,” said owner of Bon Air Jet, Kyle Falwell.

While Sunday’s plane crash is still under investigation, Falwell said they look at every accident as a lesson.

“Anytime an accident or incident like this happens, we use it as a learning experience to increase the level of safety in aviation,” said Falwell.

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