Following is my personal experience, which enforces the value of using a flight simulator for flights into unfamiliar places. I share my embarrassment with the hope others benefit from it.

I was planning a long cross-country flight which included an overnight stop at Grand Junction, CO (KGJT). Since this flight was planned for mid January, the weather could be IMC and/or night when we arrived. KGJT is at 4850 ft elevation, in a valley surrounded by higher mountains.

I had never flown into KGJT so in seemed prudent for me to test drive the transition from airway to landing on Simulation Flight’s FAA approved AATD (flight simulator).

The route of flight was planned at 11000 ft with the final segment on V484 from Myton VOR (MTU) to WINDO intersection, then directly to KGJT on track for the ILS Runway 11 approach.

The 11000 altitude was selected for expected weather reasons and is above the MEA on that segment of V484. The ILS approach plate identifies WINDO as a navigation point for the approach, and on our GPS it is one of the entry points for the ILS 11 procedure.

With the simulator set for night IMC conditions, I planned to descend to cross LOMMA at 8200 after leaving WINDO. However, while descending the GPS gave a TERRAIN ALERT. What’s going on I thought?

Without arguing with the GPS, I started climbing again. When taking a closer look at the ILS 11 plate, I saw in fine print above the inbound course line the 12 mile leg from WINDO is to be at 13000 ft and the next 21 mile leg at 12000 ft !! The VFR chart and ILS plate show a peak at 8490 ft on that course . On this long approach I falsely read the transition from airway to approach would be a descent to 8200.

Had this been in actual flight, we could have been in serious trouble, or worse.

After thousands of hours of incident free flight time, I am humbled by my error. This experience reinforces my belief in the value of using FAA approved flight simulators before flying into new areas. I encourage others to do so, for both VFR and IFR flights.