Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Winter Flying Tips
Twenty things you can do to stay safe and have fun
WING AND ENGINE COVERS
Alaska Wing Covers
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
AeroTherm Engine Heaters
E Z Heat Aircraft Products
Red Dragon Propane Heaters
Reiff Preheat Systems
Tanis Aircraft Products
PORTABLE LOCATOR BEACONS
ACR Cobham ResQLink
McMurdo Fast Find
SPOT Personal Tracker
SUNSET/SUNRISE, CIVIL TWILIGHT TABLES
US Naval Observatory
17 A careful check of your airplane's battery at the onset of winter weather will save you considerable trouble once temperatures drop. Frequently, a weak battery will suffice right up till the temperatures drop a bit, then, "Click...." nothing. A check of electrolyte levels and battery voltage is easy and is considered preventive (as in owner-performed) maintenance. If your airplane is flown infrequently in winter, consider having a low- voltage battery maintainer (trickle charger) installed to keep it charged between flights. All batteries will lose some of their charge between cycles, and if you fly infrequently, the cold can really sap that charge.
18 The end of summer is also a good time to change your engine oil to remove contaminants and moisture from the engine and start the winter with fresh oil. If you run straight-weight oil in summer, you may want to switch to multiviscosity oil in winter. It might just pay for itself in reduced engine wear and the ability to start that one time when your engine got a LITTLE cooler than you'd like prior to a start.
19 Sometime between the first hard frost and the onset of really cold weather, take the opportunity to thoroughly clean your windshield and windows. If, like me, you park in an unheated hangar or worse yet, outdoors, this might be your last chance to thoroughly clean that collection of bugs off the windows before spring. Your airplane will also benefit from a thorough airframe wash before winter—all those bugs create drag.
20 We need to recalibrate our thinking about flying weather as we go into winter. While our biggest concerns in summer may be convective activity and occasional low ceilings, winter weather presents very different challenges to flight safety. Icing is a very real threat; winds are often stronger and frequently gusty. And, winter-weather systems often move faster and are more "energetic" than summer systems. As a consequence, we need to shift our weather THINKING to more of a strategic mind-set, as opposed to the more tactical approach we may be able to get away with in summer flying. Planning a cross-country flight of any significant distance in winter should include a good bit of planning well before the planned trip, and if at all possible, dates should be flexible. Remember the winter aviator's mantra: "If you have time to spare, go by air."
So, there you have it: Some ideas to help you get out and enjoy some winter flying while caring for your airplane in what can be very challenging weather conditions. But, as I noted at the beginning of this article, winter flights can be very enjoyable and safe with just a little preparation and care. Go enjoy the smoothest air of the year, along with some gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, without having to get out of bed at 4 a.m.
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Labels: Cross-Country Travel, 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