Flying during the winter can be some of the best flying around. With less air traffic, usually greater visibility and improved aircraft performance, you can experience some of the best conditions out there. To have the best experience though, planning for winter weather starts well ahead of time.
With pilots contending with snow, darkness, ice, wind, fog and quickly changing weather patterns is a cause of concern with most general aviation pilots skipping the winter season. With these preparation tips, winter flying can be just as fun!
- Know your aircraft. Most of your mechanical equipment is designed to work within certain temperatures. Certain fluctuations may occur in colder temperatures and you may need to adjust your oil and fuel. A visual check of hoses, tubing and seals for any deterioration and any buildup of ice.
- Review your manual. Emergency procedures and normal operations may change slightly to combat the colder temperatures. You should know your temperature and battery limitations and starter duty cycle limits.
- Always deice to prevent a buildup of snow and ice on your aircraft. This will aid in a safer take-off. Icing can still occur during flight and left unchecked, it can damage engines. Don’t remain in icing conditions longer than necessary and either ascend or descend depending on your visibility and performance.
- File a flight plan. The purpose of filing a VFR flight plan is to alert search and rescue if your aircraft fails to complete its flight
- Pack the appropriate survival gear. Flying over water? A life vest and raft are a necessity—when the air is cold, remember the water is much colder. Your survival time in cold water is shorter than you might have expected and swimming actually increases heat loss.
With a little extra planning and caution,winter flying is not particularly hazardous.
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