Winter is on the way.  In addition to snow and frost and ice, many of us can expect more dark and more cold.  Here are some random tips.  

And if the weather prevents you from flying, find your friendly CFI and head on out to the simulator  --  OR

Spend some time with the AOPA Air Safety Institute.

Lots of great seminars that you can complete in the warm comfort of your home and office.  Check these out.



Unless you can do this, you might want to look at winter preparation! 

How about some gloves and a warm hat.  This will be useful for those days that don't seem that cold until you are on the flight line with a bit of a breeze.  When you are cold, you are less likely to perform the thorough pre-flight inspection that you really want to do.

Throw a couple of flashlights in the bag.  It gets dark earlier now.  I keep one with a strong beam for exterior inspections, and a couple with a beam that is more mellow for use when I am inside the plane.  And a suggestion regarding the "inside light" -  Get one that you can clip on to your hat or shirt and that has some type of swivel.  Speaking from experience, holding a flashlight in your mouth for an hour of instrument flying is downright uncomfortable.

Make sure that you have batteries for every device that needs them.

Cover or Clear: If your aircraft isn't hangared, make sure the wings and cowling are covered. Ice builds on the wings, resulting in inefficient airflow and longer takeoff runs. If you don't have covers for the wings, use a hand broom to brush off snow and ice. Cover the pitot tube and vents. When parking, face east or southeast if possible to let the sun help melt snow.

Preheat: For those who normally base their airplanes indoors, here's an inexpensive way to preheat. Wrap the cowling in heavy blankets, and place two or more mechanic's drop lights in the forward openings or stuff them into the open cowl flaps. A pair of 75-watt bulbs will keep the engine compartment 20 to 40 degrees F above ambient temperature, for very little money. Just be sure that the light isn't touching anything that might catch fire ,and keep the area near the lights free of fuel and oil. Prime at least three times before starting the engine (check your aircraft's manual).

Install a carbon monoxide detector, especially if you have a tightly sealed airplane.

Wheel pants: Take off the airplane's wheel pants (if applicable). Ice and slush can collect under the pants and cause the wheels to lock up when you land.

Engine Breather Tube: One of the hazards of winter operation is that the engine breather tube may freeze shut. This tube provides a vent for normal crankcase pressures that occur during engine operation. Simply clear the breather tube before and after each flight.

Oil: Don't forget to change your oil! For oil weights, reference your POH or provided aircraft manual. Winter operations usually call for less viscous oil so that oil circulates more quickly after engine start.

Inspect cabin heat system: In aircraft equipped with heat exchangers that surround mufflers or other parts of the exhaust system, there is a danger of carbon monoxide seeping into the cabin. Remove heater shrouds, check for cracks in exhaust system and patch or replace questionable parts. (And did I mention, install a CO2 detector?)

Install heat retention devices: If recommended by the aircraft's manufacturer, install baffles and oil cooler covers when temperatures drop to specified levels. Once installed, remember to observe temperature limitations for the devices. Some manufacturers allow temporary operations with the devices installed in warm weather.

Use lots of care when pulling and pushing planes around when snow and ice is present.  Doubly cautious at night when you can't see the ice as well !!

Use care when getting out of the plane - it is icy out there

Fuel: Bring lots of it – more fuel equals more options. Be it climbing above clouds, or steering around a storm, you'll be glad to have it.

Cell: Bring a cell phone. (and charge it.  Or better yet, get a good adapter and keep it charged in the plane if possible.

Weather briefing: Always get a complete weather briefing and perhaps an update before your proposed flight. Sounds like a no-brainer, but many pilots find themselves surprised by weather conditions they were not expecting. If you have trouble interpreting a text based report, don't hesitate to call a flight briefer at 800/WX- BRIEF (800/992-7433).

File a Flight Plan: This is one of the most reliable, easiest, and cheapest means of insurance any time of year. Just file a flight plan when you check the weather. (or use Flight Following)

Fly Safe, and enjoy the smooth air and great climb rates of winter.

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Comments, questions, or just want to chat about anything aviation?  Drop me a note or call: 816-763-5205

updated December, 2018