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Winter Prep and Safety Checklist

Winter Prep and Safety ChecklistThe temperature is dropping, and if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to get your small aircraft ready for winter flying or storage. Even if you plan on flying, chances are your plane will sit more than in the warmer months. The importance of properly winterizing your plane should not be underestimated — it is a matter of safety for crew and passengers, and will also prolong the life of the aircraft.

Please note: the following are general repair reminders, but not a complete service list. It is important to reread your particular aircraft’s flight manual, especially the sections on winterization. Also read the guides, air worthiness manuals and service bulletins put out by the FAA and manufacturers for winter servicing and flying.

Hangar your plane. If possible, hangar your plane for the winter — or at least a night or two before you plan to fly. If the craft will be stored outside, cover the windows, canopy, wings, horizontal tail, and prop blades. These are the most critical external flying surfaces, and covers will reduce damage caused by cold, rain, snow, and ice.

Clean and grease. Clean the airframe of mud, slush and dirt to prevent build up in wheel pants, elevator hinges. Then apply grease to the airframe to prevent metal to metal contact and ensure mechanisms operate smoothly. Grease also provides excellent protection against weather and corrosion, seals against dust and dirt and enables additives to be evenly held in dispersion. 

Change the oil. One of the most logical and important service steps is to change the engine oil, even if you don’t plan on flying in winter. Oil left in the engine can become acidic when combined with water, causing corrosion and the pitting of components. This can lead to rust in the oil and grinding when the engine starts up. This reduces reliability, and can lead to expensive repairs — all for the cost of an oil change. So, change the engine oil to multigrade, or your manufacturer-approved cold-temperature oil.

If flying in cold weather and high altitude flights, be especially observant of oil temp and pressure. If the oil pressure or oil temperature moves significantly up or down in flight, you may be experiencing oil cooler plugging or bypassing.  If this occurs, repair immediately.

Use and check covers and plates. Make sure pitot head covers, static vent plugs, control surface locks and tie-downs work properly. Pitot tube covers and static vent covers should be used to prevent dirt and insects from forming blockages. Also, placing blanking plates over engine intakes and exhausts will reduce the amount of moisture that gets into your engine, and help prevent corrosion.

Fill fuel tanks and close valves. Fill the fuel tanks to prevent the build-up of condensation in the tanks over winter, which can lead to corrosion and potentially expensive tank repairs. If your aircraft will be hangared, make sure you have permission to store your aircraft with full tanks. Make sure the fuel cocks are closed and master switches are off. You may also want to remove the battery to prevent any leakage current from draining it.

If flying in cold weather — find out if your aircraft requires iso-propyl alcohol in the fuel for operation in low temperatures. After refueling, let the fuel settle in the tanks, then check for water in the system.

Install a winterization kit. If you are going to fly during the winter or at high altitudes, install a winterization kit to deflect the cold air and keep the cylinders warm. Winterization reduce airflow through the oil cooler and reduce the chance of oil cooler freeze-up. Some manufactures recommend baffles, winter fronts and oil cooler kits for their aircraft during low temperature operation. Be sure to remove the winterization kit when it’s no longer needed.

If a winterization kit was already installed on your aircraft, make sure it was properly signed off and placarded. If installation approval is not provided by the kit’s manufacturer, FAA approval may be needed.

Other things to do and check:

  • To keep the plane secure and keep the brakes from seizing up, chock the front and back wheels and release the parking brake. 
  • Confirm drain holes are clear of dirt and debris to prevent standing water from freezing and causing blockages.
  • Make sure that the plane’s anti- or de-icing systems are operational.
  • Turn on the cabin heater, heated pitot and demister to make sure they work.
  • Renew the carbon monoxide detector and have the system checked for cracks.
  • Check the carb heat and alternate air inlet, especially before takeoff.
  • Check that all the airframe, propeller and windscreen systems work correctly.
  • Check that inflatable boots inflate properly, especially on the tailplane.
  • Check that the battery is fully charged, and the alternator is working properly.
  • On flight day, wear warm clothing and water proof footwear. Be sure to pack a cold-weather parka, heavy blanket and winter survival kit on the plane.
  • Before takeoff, get an up to date aviation weather forecast and note any icing warnings.
  • Make sure your route plan is accurate and you have an alternative in case you encounter ice and snow.
If you need assistance, contact Business Aircraft Center to speak with one of our crew members. To learn more about BAC’s service department, visit our Aircraft Services page.

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