Winter can be one of the best times of the year to take flight. The landscapes have dramatically changed. Areas you flew over in the warm months feel like brand new territory to explore. Even if you’re training out at our Florida or Tennessee flight schools you’ll want to keep up on best practices and follow these safety tips for Winter flying. No need to limit yourself when Winterscapes provide some of the most scenic flying experiences!
Every flight starts on the ground. Your aircraft needs to be winter ready. Installing winter baffles, removing wheel pants, and making sure you have the right oil is a good start. Follow that up with checking the condition of your hoses, fittings and seals, and your battery. What about your route? It’s a good idea to travel near roads. You don’t want to go down in the wilderness in the midst of Winter.
If you have the luxury of using a heated hangar, your preflight will not be much different than in the warm months. If your airplane is out in the elements, it’s critical you don’t rush your preflight. Preheat your engine and the cockpit. Don’t tune your radios before they’re warm. Instruments, buttons, and knobs don’t like cold weather.
De-ice and Remove Snow
Remove all snow, frost, and ice. Your aircraft should be entirely free of all frost, snow, and ice. Frost can reduce your wing’s maximum lift by up to 30%! It can increase drag by up to 40%. In the past decade, 30 general aviation accidents have been linked to aircraft taking off with frost.
Taxi and Takeoff
Take it easy on the runway. No need for hard braking or sharp turns. Cold weather can result in “below sea level” density altitudes. Be aware of your engine power, especially with a turbo or supercharged engines. Don’t over-boost. Keep your eye on cylinder head temperatures during climb-out. You may need to climb at a faster airspeed due to winter baffling.
Winter weather conditions are volatile. Always file a flight plan and get an accurate weather briefing. Carburetor ice can form in temps between 32 and 80 degrees F, when humidity is 50% or greater. If you’re able to see moisture keep in mind ice will form at temps between 15 and 32 degrees F. Never continue flight into dangerous weather conditions. Aviation statistics are filled with pilots who thought they could. Don’t become a statistic!
Be watchful for signs of carburetor ice during your descent. Carrying a little more power during descent is good. Use your flaps and/or gear to keep your speed steady. Avoid descending into low visibility conditions like fog or low clouds.
Land at a busy airport if you can. It’s safer because landing conditions can be passed on from other pilots. Remember breaking can be minimal or non-existent on a Winter runway.
Post Flight Checks
You’ve completed a safe winter flight. Good job! Make sure to top off your fuel tanks to minimize water condensation. Install engine and pitot covers, wing covers, and control locks.
Winter flying can be amazing when you follow these safety tips for Winter flying. If you’re looking to take flight and enjoy everything aviation has to offer, contact us today!