Winter can be one of the most beautiful times of the year to take flight. But along with the beauty comes more precautions. When you take into consideration freezing temps, unpredictable weather, and slippery runways, it’s not surprising that many pilots choose to stay grounded during the cold months. Although there are more safety precautions to take into consideration during winter, it can be a rewarding experience and safe when you keep key safety tips in mind. In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 important winter flying tips that will prepare you for safe flying this winter.
Winter flying, more so than other seasons, requires a more strategic approach to preparation. It starts with tracking the weather pattern a few days before your flight and compare it to the forecast of your flight day. Keep in mind weather patterns can change quickly in winter, so have some alternative routes planned. Always be ready to make mid-flight adjustments when the weather demands it, even if it means deviating from your original plan. Flexibility and patience are rewarded in winter flying.
Preheat Your Engine
If your aircraft is outdoors in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a good idea to preheat the engine. Starting a cold aircraft engine can cause damage, so always follow the engine manufacturer’s procedures for cold weather starts. If you can’t store your aircraft in a heated hangar, investing in a preheater is a good idea. Never leave your aircraft unattended when during the preheating process.
Take Your Time
Never rush your preflight, especially in cold conditions. Rushing increases the odds of forgetting items on your checklist. Take your time and be aware of the extra tasks you’ll need to perform because of the cold conditions like brushing off snow, frost, or scraping ice. Also don’t forget to check for ice inside the fuel tank.
Always dress warmly for your winter flights. In the event of an emergency or unexpected stopover, you don’t want to get caught without warm clothing. Dress in layers and bring a hat, gloves, and winter boots. If you have passengers, make sure they are also appropriately dressed for the trip. Also make sure the survival kit is well-stocked and includes wool blankets, a tarp, and tools to start a fire.
Check the Runway
Contaminated runways might be the most dangerous part of winter flying. Taxing on ice or snow can make it more difficult to turn and brake. Avoid making sharp turns while taxing and give yourself plenty of distance for stopping. When dealing with wet, snowy, or icy runways be prepared to increase takeoff distance and increase your landing roll. Before you land, ask ATC for braking reports so you’re prepared. If you can, circle the field to look for any snowdrifts or obstacles that could be a hazard while landing.
Winter flying is all about managing risks. With good preparation and judgment, you can fly safely during the winter months.