Another Flying Winter

There is nothing better than taking off on a cool crisp winter morning in the northern parts of the USA. The airplane performs brilliantly. The summer thermals are gone. Density altitude is not a question. The sky isn’t full of those “namby-pamby” summertime fliers. One can enjoy the sights of the winter wonderland; land on the ice with the trusty ski-plane in the coves of the backwater river bottoms. Start a campfire and pull out that previously prepared thermos of chili with those little pieces of chopped-up hot dog meat and enjoy a winter time lunch. Don’t tell your doctor you just ate that. What about the tips on winter flying? Yes, I’m getting to that but I thought we would have a little fun first.

While you enjoy the campfire and a healthy lunch, remember the piston airplane doesn’t like to get cold. If it gets too cold it will protest by not starting when you’re ready to go. Just as your blanket retains your body heat, the engine blanket does the same and will serve well if the airplane must sit in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for more than an hour. Most of the wear on an engine occurs at engine start. Pre-heaters and engine heaters are worth their weight in maintenance bills.

If you don’t have skis on your Bonanza, you will probably depend on runways. The accident record still shows landings as the number one cause of non-fatal accidents. Planning, preparation and training will help the pilot through the winter landings with the largest consideration given to crosswind landings on icy runways. Proper technique is essential.

How cold is too cold to fly? Your operator’s manual will probably be silent on this subject. The opinions and subjective expressions will range from one end of the thermometer to the other. If you’re just a little “namby-pamby”—like me—you might think about zero degrees Fahrenheit as the “mixture cut-off and fireplace turn-on” temperature. Keep in mind that flying problems move in inverse proportion to temperatures.