Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Joys Of Summer

Depending on where you live, summer can be the time to fly

A few other tips can make life easier and safer in the summertime. Remember that any major temperature variation from a standard 70 degrees, either on the high or low side, may incline us to skip items on the preflight. That's exactly the time when we need to be most cautious.

If you're travelling cross country on a multi-day trip, consider waiting until just before departure to fill the tanks rather than doing it the night before. That way, you can taxi out without overboarding fuel thru the fuel vents or out the filler caps.

Buy a good set of interior sun shields for your airplane if you need to leave it outside overnight in a hot climate. This can lower interior temperatures by 20-40 degrees C to make life easier for avionics, controls and the glue in your upholstery. It also keeps prying eyes from evaluating your avionics.

If you don't have sun shields, be sure to stow headsets out of the sun so they won't be too hot to handle, and cover the yokes with a towel for the same reason. Carry plenty of water on any trip away from settled areas, especially in the desert. You can survive for quite a while without food but only three days without water.
High density altitude becomes a problem each summer in the southwestern U.S. Grand Canyon National Park Airport (KGCN) sits at an elevation of 6,609 feet, but density altitude reaches much higher during the hot summer months.
Then, there's the weather. The dominant phenomenon of summer is one of the worst in the sky: thunderstorms. These aren't specific to summer, but they're more common in the warm months. Entire books have been written on thunderstorms and how to fly them, so we won't attempt to paraphrase them here. The best advice is probably the simplest.

Don't. A few airplanes, mostly Concordes, U-2s and SR-71s, can top thunderstorms, but most other aircraft can't even come close. If you must operate in the vicinity of CB activity, try to stay at least 30 miles away from it and never, NEVER fly under the anvil. That's where the hail lives.

Also, remember that rotation around any extreme low-pressure system, such as a thunderstorm, is always counterclockwise (in the Northern Hemisphere). If you plan to circumnavigate one of the monsters, fly the right side where you're more likely to find tailwinds.

Summer flying isn't really that special. If winter has more clouds, colder temperatures and occasional no-go conditions, summer is more clement, known for shirt-sleeve weather, often friendlier to pilots and airplanes.

Just be sure to watch for airplanes coming through Monarch Pass.


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