By James Williams, FAA Safety Briefing Magazine
As I write these words, summer’s protracted assault on our comfort has finally appeared to ebb for the year. But that means a new season is lurking just around the corner: winter. By the time you can read this, you may already be within its grasp. The good news is that winter has some key benefits for aviators. Cooler temperatures mean denser air and better performance both aerodynamically and mechanically. However, as discussed elsewhere in these virtual and physical pages, there are challenges that disrupt our winter wonderland. So how do we prepare?
In this circumstance, we have a solution. The FAA has compiled a Winter Flying Resources page specifically intended for general aviation. This page contains resources from across the FAA and in multiple formats. Let’s take a closer look.
Leading off is a series of YouTube videos from our 57 Seconds to Safer Flying, From the Flight Deck, and The Rotorcraft Collective series focusing on winter flying safety. These brief and bite-size samples from our established series offer helpful winter-centric info and can be an excellent way to get started with your preparations.
There are challenges that disrupt our winter wonderland. So how do we prepare?
From there, you can jump into more long-form written content. This includes several blog posts, articles, and presentations on winter flying by the FAA and even an entire issue of FAA Safety Briefing from 2014. The topics cover tips on everything from clearing all aircraft surfaces before a flight to more advanced subjects like winter survival should the worst happen.
The New Tools section provides resources for pilots preparing to operate aircraft in winter conditions. Currently, the articles focus on the FAA Weather Camera program. The Weather Camera program originated in Alaska as a safety mitigation to prevent weather-related accidents by placing internet-connected cameras in mountain passes to allow pilots to visually check conditions at any time without incurring any risk. The program was very successful and was rolled out across the state. After that success, the FAA looked to implement it elsewhere, including Hawaii and other sites in the lower 48. The cameras display not only a current image for each heading, but also a clear day reference image so pilots can better determine conditions.
Another good resource to check out is the FAA’s Aviation Weather Handbook. Updated in 2022, the Aviation Weather Handbook combines the information from what used to be six separate Advisory Circulars into one handy publication. It covers not just weather theory and how to get weather information, but also features an entire chapter on icing. The handbook is a great way to get a deeper understanding of any weather topic that attracts your attention.
While these are not an exhaustive list of all FAA’s winter flying resources, they do provide a great baseline for you to start with. Even if you’re an experienced winter weather flyer, it’s always good to brush up every year. You can think of it as a prelude to a safe and successful winter flying season.
Is there a topic you don’t see that you think should be included? Let us know. We’re always looking for good ideas that will help everyone be a better four-season flyer.
James Williams is FAA Safety Briefing’s associate editor and photo editor. He is also a pilot and ground instructor.