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  Home > Newsletter > Tech Tips: How to Prepare Your Plane for Winter, October, 2011

Tech Tips: How to Prepare Your Plane for Winter

The mornings are getting cooler — a reminder that it’s time once again for northern pilots to start preparing their planes for winter. Whether you’re planning cross-country flying or not much flying at all, winter flying is all about assessing and managing risk. Here are some important tips and strategies to prep your plane. These do not supercede having your aircraft professionally serviced and maintained. For questions and information, contact BAC’s service department at (203) 748-7000 or visit BAC’s service page.

  • Know the weather. Obviously, weather is the crucial variable in winter flying. It’s important to understand meteorology and keep track of upcoming weather patterns that could affect your flying. Start checking weather patterns three days prior to flight, but keep in mind patterns can change rapidly.

    There are several useful weather tracking websites out there that offer forecasts, Doppler radar data, satellite imagery and useful aviation tools. Some of the best are the Aviation Digital Data Service at http://aviationweather.gov/adds/ and the FAA-sponsored Direct Access User Terminal Systems (DUATS) site at www.duats.com. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association offers free online weather information for members at www.aopa.org. Also check out the Weather Underground at www.wunderground.com and The Weather Channel on cable for helpful insight into national weather trends.

  • Preheat your engine. One of the most important things to do before cold weather flight is to preheat the plane’s engine, especially if it is not housed in a hangar. If you use a combustion-type preheater, you’ll need to stay with the plane while it’s heating, as they can catch fire.

    If you have access to electricity, an engine-mounted preheater can work well, but do not leave it plugged in all winter. To be safe, you’ll need to get to the airport and start pre-heating well in advance of take off. Another alternative is an Internet-enabled, cell phone-activated preheater, which allows you to start the heater before you arrive. Again, don’t leave the plane unattended for long.

  • Change the oil. Even if your plane isn’t ready for an oil change, change it anyway — it’s important to remove contaminates in the oil. First, take the plane on a short flight to get the engine oil temp up, then return to the airport and change the oil. Inspect and clean the oil suction screen in the oil sump and remove, cut and inspect the oil filter. After changing the oil, run the engine for several minutes to check for leaks and circulate oil throughout the engine.

    Once the plane is back in the hangar, do not turn the prop. Pulling the prop makes the pistons go up and down inside the cylinders which may be wiping the oil off the cylinder walls, increasing the likelihood of corrosion. Also cover the intake or inlet to the air box with duct tape and foam rubber balls in the exhaust pipes to prevent outside air from getting into the engine and reducing the chance of air mixing with moisture, which leads to corrosion.

    Important: Mark them well and remove them before starting the engine! Also, a warning against ground running: Running the plane on the ground will not heat up the engine oil sufficiently to burn off contaminates — it will promote internal condensation, which leads to corrosion.

  • Remember, planes need coats, too. If you keep your plane at an outdoor hangar, consider investing in wing covers to prevent frost, ice or snow buildup on the body. It takes some extra pre-flight prep time to remove, but you also won't have to remove snow and ice from the wings and flight surfaces. Order soon before frost begins.

Important note: The winter preparation tips above are suggestions and not a complete winter preparation list. To be safe and smart, contact Master Aviation (BAC valued Tennant) about servicing your plane. They can be reached at (203) 790-5226.

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