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Winter Flying Tips: Think Strategically for Safety

Winter Flying Tips: Think Strategically for SafetySoaring high above a snow-covered countryside can be one of the most beautiful and satisfying experiences of a pilot’s career. But winter flying — especially in New England — presents its own unique set of challenges and dangers.

Besides the threat of icing, winds can be gusty and weather systems can move quickly. The key to safe winter flying is to think and prepare strategically. Here are some more winter flying tips in addition to the tips we presented in last month's issue, to help ensure your cold weather flights are as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Dress for where you're going, not departing from. The first rule of dressing for winter flying is to pack and dress for where you’re flying to, not where you're departing from. Dress for survival. Even if it’s a relatively warm 50 degrees at takeoff, the weather could be much colder and windier when you land. Know the weather ahead of time, and prepare for worst case scenarios, such as an off-airport landing. Dress warm enough to wait for search and rescue, and be prepared to walk in the terrain you're flying over.

Pack a survival kit to stay warm and dry. In case of an emergency, you'll have to move fast to protect against hypothermia. A smart survival kit should include things that will keep you warm and dry, including cold-weather sleeping bags, a sharp hunting knife, energy bars, strike anywhere matches and fire starter in a zip lock bag to keep them dry, a signal mirror, a few large heavy duty plastic bags to protect against heat loss and a portable locator beacon in case you need to send signal for help. Also consider a flight-tracking device to communicate with friends and family of your status, and to provide a data track in the event of an unforeseen diversion or accident.

Make sure you have quality engine and wing covers. If you’re going to park outdoors in temperatures that may go below freezing, make sure you have a good set of wing covers. They will help prevent the buildup of frost or ice on the flying surfaces, including the horizontal tail. You should also wrap the engine in an insulated engine cover to protect it during an outside overnight stay. Make sure it’s good quality to stay in place in high-wind conditions.

Check all the lights and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure all the airplane lights are in working order. Also check the batteries in your flashlights, and make sure you have plenty of spares on hand. Also make sure your plane is equipped with a working carbon-monoxide detector. As the weather gets colder, pilots use the cabin heat more. If the muffler system has a leak, CO is odorless, colorless and deadly.

During your preflight inspection, be sure to thoroughly inspect the exhaust system of the aircraft. Look for cracks and loose clamps and talk to your mechanic for tips on what to look for.

Ask BAC about Winter Preparation and Safety

If you have questions about cold weather preparation, contact Business Aircraft Center at (203) 748-7000 or visit our Private Aircraft Services page.

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