1198151Shorter days, colder nights means it’s time to consider winter flight operations.

Keep in mind, below 20° F in an open field survival time is measured in minutes. With a filed flight plan it takes rescue personnel five hours, on average, to find you and days without a flight plan.  The use of cold weather gear (gloves, hats, boots, warm coats, and CELL PHONE) should be taken seriously as well as planning routes closer to locations where you’re more likely to find help should you be faced with an off-airport landing scenario.

Always call ahead to verify conditions at airports of intended use if in doubt. Cold-soaked airplanes may require engine pre-heat.

Sporty’s ECA operations limits:

At or Below 32°F (0°C) Carry cold weather gear including gloves, hat, boots, warm coats, and cell phone.

5°F to 20°F (-15 to -7°C) No maneuvers requiring abrupt power changes (e.g. stalls, touch-and-go, etc.)

Below 5°F (-15°C) No operations authorized without prior permission.

downloadAny aircraft with frost, ice or snow on any surface should be considered unairworthy and appropriate action taken.

Now is a good time to review cold weather starting as well as starter cycle duty limits published in the Pilot Operating Handbook of your aircraft.

If an engine fire should occur during starting, be sure to keep the engine turning to suck in the fire. If the engine does not start immediately the mixture should be pulled, but keep cranking to suck in the fire. Be sure you know where fire extinguishers are located (both inside and outside the aircraft) before attempting a start.

Snow Covered and Icy Runway Operations.

A. Use caution walking on snow/ice covered ramps and when pulling aircraft out of hangar.

B. Aircraft wheel pants (covers) may become packed with snow/slush and freeze.

C. Do not use aircraft parking brakes. They may freeze in the parked position.

D. Proper crosswind corrections are needed from start-up until the plane is tied down. Aircraft will weather vane more easily in icy conditions.

E. Aircraft with free castering nose/tail wheels may not be controllable on icy surfaces requiring braking during ground maneuvering.

F. Taxi extremely slowly with minimal nose steering.

G. Avoid brakes during a slide. Use aerodynamic controls (rudder) for steering. (Add power to attempt to straighten the aircraft out and give the rudder a boost with prop wash.)

H. Be prepared to shut down engine if sliding off runway or taxiway becomes imminent.

I. Avoid taxiing through slush/standing water. If unavoidable, ride brakes through water/slush to prevent freezing.

J. Avoid taxiing with flaps extended (especially on low wing aircraft). Frozen debris may accumulate and interfere with complete flap retraction in the air.

K. Treat snowy/icy runways as you would a soft field. Use soft field taxi/takeoff/landing techniques.

L. Limit operations in gusty conditions.

M. Use a clear patch for run-up. If unable, perform run-up on the takeoff roll; be prepared to abort.

N. Plan for much longer takeoff and/or landing distances. (Deep snow could prevent acceleration needed for takeoff; thin ice could mean stopping on available runway is not possible.)

O. Accumulations of ice on landing gear may interfere with gear retraction. Wet or slushy landing gear should be cycled a couple of times to ensure that gear does not freeze into the retracted position.

P. Minimal braking on landing. Pump brakes if necessary as opposed to holding continuous pressure.

Q. Use caution braking on “patchy” (alternating clear and ice covered) conditions to avoid blown tires.

R. Leave flaps/spoilers extended on landing for maximum aerodynamic braking.

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