Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Winter Flying Tips
Twenty Things You Can Do To Stay Safe and Have Fun
1 Dress for the environment that you'll be flying over. More than one pilot has departed from an airport in relatively balmy weather, only to arrive at an airport that's locked up after hours, and where the weather is substantially colder/windier/raining/snowing. The worst-case scenario would result from an enroute engine failure, resulting in an off-airport landing, and the subsequent wait for search and rescue to arrive, possibly with injuries. Winter flying should dictate wearing clothing appropriate to walk around in the weather and terrain you're planning to fly over.
2 Preheat your engine. When temperatures drop below about 32 deg F, I apply preheat to my engine prior to start. While the engine manufacturers place the minimum temperature for start without preheat somewhat lower, I'm a firm believer in proper preheat any time the ambient temperature (or the overnight temperature if a morning launch) is below about 32 degrees F. There are a number of very efficient engine heaters available if you have access to electricity. Without electricity, you'll have to get a little more creative, but there are also combustion heaters that work well. In any case, gentle slow heat over several hours is always better than a short blast of very high heat. Remember—your goal is to get that essential heat to the very core of that engine, and that takes a little time to penetrate the mass of the engine.
3 You need to wrap that expensive engine in an insulated engine cover. This is to make that preheat really effective on an overnight stay or for parking your airplane outdoors for a few hours without heat during a stopover. If the ambient temperatures aren't really THAT cold, you may be able to get by with something as simple as an old sleeping bag or quilt draped over the cowling, but a good-quality engine cover is both efficient and easier to keep in place in even the windiest of conditions.
5 Does your airplane have a winterization kit? Many manufacturers provide an oil-cooler cover, some provide "winter fronts" to block off part of the air inlets. Be careful doing the MacGyver thing though, i.e. creating your own "homemade" winterization kit. First, check for factory-provided products. Modifying the air inlets to your engine can disrupt air flow through your cowling and cause damage to your engine. Neither the airframe manufacturer nor the FAA will look kindly on such unapproved modifications.
6 Are you night-current? These winter days are much shorter than summer ones, and during the fall transition, it's easy to forget just how much shorter the daylight is as we lose three to four minutes a day. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of departing in daylight on a cross-country flight home, only to realize midflight that your arrival will be more than one hour after sunset. Spend a little time reacquainting yourself with night operations BEFORE you find yourself on that late cross-country flight.
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Labels: Emergency Situations, Features, Flight Hazards, Flight Planning, Flying Skills, Journeys, Pilot Guide, Pilot Resources, Safety, Weather, Weather Flying, Weather Skills, Winter Weather, Situational Awareness, Proficiency, Adventure Flying, Pilot Safety