8 ways to stay safe when flying in winter
Flying in winter takes a little more thought and preparation than it does the rest of the year round – particularly if you want to avoid delays, malfunctions, or even worse. Follow our top tips to keep you in the air all winter through!
Read up on the cold winter procedures for your aircraft
It doesn’t take long to read the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) for the aircraft you fly, so make sure you do so before flying in winter. The POH will include everything you need to know about your aircraft’s cold weather normal and emergency procedures, so don’t take off without checking it out first!
Make thorough pre-flight checks
Leave yourself enough time for a thorough pre-flight check before take-off. Make a full inspection of your aircraft, paying careful attention to potential issues that might arise in winter. For example, tire pressure can decrease in cold weather, so be prepared to add air if needed. Check engine cowlings for small animals that might be sheltering from the cold, and check every part of the aircraft for frost and snow. This leads us on to…
Remove all frost and snow before flying
There are some things you can do to make this tiresome (but essential!) task easier on yourself. If you have an early morning flight, park your aircraft in a hangar the night before, bringing it out only shortly before you fly. If this isn’t possible, park your aircraft facing the sun – it’ll start melting the snow and frost for you!
Be mindful of fuel contamination
If you do hangar your aircraft, be aware that condensation may form in a half-empty fuel tank if the aircraft is parked while still warm. This could contaminate your fuel tank with water – worth keeping in mind!
Know the limitations of your aircraft and engine
Your aircraft and engine will respond differently in cold weather, so don’t expect them to perform in the same way as they do the rest of the year. When the temperature dips below freezing, avoid maneuvers involving sudden power changes, such as simulated engine failures or touch-n-gos.
Prepare for night operations even if you’re making a daylight flight
With short daylight hours, you should be ready to implement night operations, regardless of when you intend to fly. A short, unforeseen delay could make the difference between flying in daylight and darkness, so be ready for it – especially if you’re making a cross-country flight.
File a flight plan and bring your cell phone
You should plan for emergencies whenever you fly, but when flying in winter, it’s even more important. By filing a flight plan, you increase your chances of a quicker rescue if the worst should happen – and in freezing temperatures, time is crucial. And, remember your cell phone could be your lifeline, so make sure you bring it with you!
Dress for winter!
It may be warm and cozy in the cockpit, but if you have to make an emergency landing, you need to prepare for the elements! Bring everything you would usually wear outside in cold weather, including warm layers, a thick coat, a hat, gloves, and insulated footwear.
If you’ve never flown in winter before, or it’s been a little while, why not brush up your skills at CTI Professional Flight Training? Get in touch today to book a lesson with one of our outstanding instructors!