Note from the author Amy Hoover

Amy at Johnson Creek

The articles and material on this website are by no means comprehensive and cannot substitute for real flying experience. They are intended to help pilots operate with greater forethought and safety when flying in mountains and canyons anywhere. However, like many other disciplines, this type of flying is a lifetime learning process. Operating an aircraft in mountain and canyon areas is not a do-it yourself project.

Although careful study of concepts and techniques is helpful, pilots are encouraged not to rely on knowledge gained solely from reading books or watching videos (including mine!), no matter how good the photos or text. If you plan to fly in mountain and canyon areas you should seek instruction from a qualified and experienced certified flight instructor who is familiar with the area in which you intend to fly. The joy you may find from sharing the flying experience in the mountains and canyons is unsurpassable.

Many pilots have joined me over the years for seminars, presentations, workshops, and flight instruction in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. They will be familiar with the curriculum and written training course materials I developed that are still in use by some of those mountain canyon flying seminars today.

I did not start out to fly planes!!  After I finished graduate school sometime in the early 1980s, instead of getting a real job I decided it would be more fun to tramp around the Idaho wilderness working as a geologist and whitewater river guide.  In the winters I ran from the cold to Baja Mexico, where I could sea kayak and kiss whales...and get paid to do it!

One day sometime in the those low water years on the Middle Fork of the Salmon I had to fly into the river; my first small airplane flight was in a Britten Norman Islander into Indian Creek (pronounced "crik").  From that moment on, I was hooked!  I got my private license in 1987 and soon after bought a 1947 Cessna 120.  For some reason I do not now fully remember, I decided to fly it to Florida ... in the middle of the winter!!  Three weeks and lots of adventures later, I made it :)  I hung out in the south until June and completed my instrument rating and commercial pilot license, and in 1992 landed a job as an Idaho back country air taxi pilot.  Soon after I completed my CFI certificate and started teaching back country flying for the FAA mountain flying seminars in Challis in 1993.

For most of the 1990's I flew around the Idaho back country and taught flying in Boise (except for a short stint as a corporate pilot flying a rice rocket).  During that time I learned many valuable lessons and made lots of friends in the back country aviation world. One of my main mentors, the late Lyn Clark invited me to join her and Lori MacNichol, another flight instructor from McCall, in forming the McCall Mountain/Canyon Flying Seminars. We saw that general aviation flying in the Idaho backcountry was growing more popular, and we wanted to do our part to promote education and safety flying in that unique area. Sadly Lyn, the anchor of the company and good friend died in 1997 after our first year conducting seminars. For the next several years I finished what Lyn had started and developed the curriculum and training materials that are still in use today at many of the popular mountain canyon flying seminar courses.  You can see some of it on this web site and in articles written for Pilot Getaways magazine.

Realizing I wanted to reach out to a broader spectrum in aviation education, I took a position as Director of the Professional Pilot Program at Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon while completing my Ph.D. in Education, and in 2003 joined the faculty at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, where I am now Professor and Department Chair. 

The basis for my writings are a body of knowledge shared by back country and mountain pilots who make their living in Idaho's wilderness, as well as my own experiences flying and teaching in the mountain west. In particular, I want to acknowledge my friend, mentor, and pilot, the late I.E. "Lyn" Clark. Our many long discussions about flight instruction and her sound and thorough knowledge and advice have served e well. Additionally, I owe much of my attitudes about flying to one of my personal heroes, the late Jim Larkin, WWII Pilot, Forest Service Pilot, back country, and Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame inductee. Jim's vast knowledge, experience, advice, and humor have been a source of constant inspiration to me, as is his memory.

I want to thank all the pilots and students with whom I have had the privilege of flying over the past 25 years. The meaningful questions and productive suggestions and feedback have shaped my own continued learning and growth as a pilot and flight instructor.

After having given over 3000 hours of back country flight instruction and over 75 professional presentations on mountain and canyon flying to various organizations throughout the united states, including FAA, Alaska Airman Association, Idaho Aviation Association, Washington Pilots Association, Oregon Pilot's Association, Columbia Aviation Association, Women in Aviation International, International 99's, State of Washington Dept. of Aviation, and more, I still love flying in the back country. My favorite place to fly in Idaho is......(you know I won't give away that secret unless you come and fly with me!).

Veteran mountain pilot


About the author

Canyon turns



How to Lighten Up

Idaho backcountry

Back country preflight checklist

Flying a constricted approach

Uphill downhill

Back country Instruction

Interesting links




After spending more than two decades in the rugged terrain of central Idaho studying it's rocks and landforms, navigating it's rivers, and flying it's canyons, Amy has a great awe and deep respect for the Idaho wilderness. "I love sharing the wonder of the area with other pilots", she says, "but we need to realize that a certain responsibility must accompany the privileges we enjoy when flying the backcountry". Those responsibilities should include safe and courteous operations, which has been the focus of her back country instruction for the past 23 years.


The Canyon Goddess

The perfect back country machine!