Don’t Give Winter the Cold Shoulder
By Larry Fields, (Acting) FAA Flight Standards Service Executive Director
This time of year presents pilots with somewhat of a recurring conundrum: Do I fly, or do I fold? While some are content with tucking in their airplanes for a long winter’s nap, others embrace the change of season, taking advantage of the uncrowded skies, boosted performance, and winter’s unparalleled natural beauty. Regardless of which category you might fall into, you’ll want to heed some important guidance on the many nuances and risks of cold-weather operations. This issue of FAA Safety Briefing is a great place to start.
As stated above, those willing to scoff at the falling mercury and take to the skies in winter are often rewarded with several nice perks. But at the same time, there are many risks inherent with winter flying that pilots need to be aware of, especially if you’re new to this type of environment.
The subject of icing quickly comes to mind as a leading foe for winter flyers. In the feature, “FIKI Wiki,” we cover the dangers of structural icing and take a look at some newer, as well as some tried-and-true methods of aircraft anti- and deicing that can help keep you safe. A more insidious form of ice that can collect in your carburetor is covered in detail in the article, “Breaking the Ice.” Beware, this nemesis to carbureted piston engines can sneak up quickly and can affect aircraft in a much wider range of weather conditions than structural icing.
In the feature “Surviving the Season,” we take a look at what it takes for both you and your aircraft to be fully prepared for winter climates. We cover some cold hard facts on cold stress prevention and appropriate attire, as well as offer advice on keeping your survival kit stocked with the right gear.
And for those who might decide to fold up shop for the winter instead of braving the elements, we’ve got you covered with some tips and techniques on how to safely store your aircraft in the feature, “Putting Your Aircraft to Bed.” There’s a lot to consider with this process, including potential hazards that might be present, and where and for how long the aircraft will be stored. Incidentally, this extended downtime offers an excellent opportunity to brush up on some aeronautical knowledge areas that might need polishing.
There’s much more than just this magazine to help you get ready for the unique challenges of winter flying. The FAA has a host of other helpful resources available online.
For example, check out FAA’s winter flying resources page at bit.ly/FAAWinterResources. Here you’ll find quick access to some great winter videos on how to predict icing conditions and the Winter Weather Challenges episode of our popular From the Flight Deck series.
There are also links to many winter safety articles, including this one at bit.ly/3sITJQi that offers 14 items you should add to your winter safety list and a series of articles on the FAA’s weather camera program, which has locations in many snow-bound areas like Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, and Utah.
The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) website at FAASafety.gov is another great resource for winter weather information. Try taking the Inflight Icing online course at bit.ly/ALC-33 to test your knowledge or peruse the Winter Flying Tips brochure at bit.ly/45P8Fuw.
While cold-weather operations do have their share of unique risks, don’t let that dissuade you from enjoying the many benefits this type of flying can offer. With the right mix of knowledge, preparation, caution, and good judgment, winter flying can be wonderful. Safe flying!
FAA Safety Briefing: Winter Flying Safety
Magazine Feature Articles
The Winds of Change
Wind Turbines and Their Effects on the National Airspace System
The Wait is Part of the Journey
Aeromedical Advisory: a checkup on all things aeromedical
Tis the Season … To Get Ready for Winter
Checklist: FAA resources and safety reminders
Don’t Roll the Dice with Ice
Vertically Speaking: safety issues for rotorcraft pilots