Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Aircraft And Engine Preheat Is A Big Deal

Pilots need to stay warm during the winter months. Your airplane deserves the same consideration.

Aircraft Engine Preheat Is A Big DealYour engine needs preheat. Starting a cold engine can give it the equivalent of 500 hours of cruise wear and tear, according to engine authorities. Assuming no other potentially catastrophic damage occurs, this single event easily could raise the hamburger price to a healthy four-digit value.

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And don’t forget—aircraft preheating should be recognized as only one of several necessary phases of the winter preflight. There are many other maintenance-related steps that should be undertaken before the mercury heads south. These considerations are beyond the scope of this discussion, but essential to the safe operation of an aircraft in colder ambient temperatures. Aircraft and engine operating manuals, service bulletins, trained mechanics and experienced pilots should all be consulted. A strategy for dealing with airframe contamination also is of paramount importance.

So once again, here’s what you should do before flying your plane in cold air:
• Preheat when the temperature drops below 32 degrees F.
• The time required will depend on your methods, but expect the duration to increase exponentially as the temperature inches downward.
• Warm engine oil is not a true indicator of a thorough preheat. Touch the cylinders, case and crankshaft (behind the propeller flange) to check these metals for heat absorption.
• Keep your battery fully charged.
• Be mindful of the placement of any heating source, especially those that deal with live flame. Fuel sumps or strainer leaks, engine oil and some fabrics might react with some enthusiasm.
• Don’t be intimidated by the season. Dress for the diligence and safety that winter flight ops demand.
Now, go enjoy how the winter light illuminates the landscape. Did I mention the benefits cold, dense air has on aircraft performance?


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