Are Your Skis Ready to Fly?
Winter flying, and specifically ski flying, can be a whole lot of fun, but it also poses some significant issues for pilots and mechanics. Year round, but especially as we head into winter in the northern areas, we get questions from pilots and mechanics about parts and maintenance for various ski models. Frequently, the question arises whether we have a particular part in stock. The answer is often yes, but depending on the model, it can sometimes be a little more difficult to answer. We are able to provide parts for all of our current production model skis, and we do have some parts for out-ofproduction skis, but in any case, we will do what we can to find the parts if they are available.
As with many things in aviation, significant repairs can often be avoided with thorough ongoing maintenance, and operating practices. While your skis or floats may not be mounted on the aircraft at the time, they too require an annual inspection. The annual inspection includes examining for corrosion, lubricating bearings, replacing worn components, frayed cables, or stretched bungees, and replacing the LDR ski bottoms if necessary. Inspecting the ski arms and other components for cracks or damage should also be done at this time. Every year we have customers that lose the data tags for their skis, and making sure they are securely attached is a lot easier than trying to replace one if it gets lost. If your skis are hydraulic wheel-skis, make sure all the hydraulic lines and fittings are secure and in good condition. Service the hydraulic powerpack and/or hand pump prior to ski installation, and remember to check hydraulic fluid level periodically throughout the season.
Pilots can also do much to keep their skis and aircraft in good working order. Making gentle, broad turns on snow when operating with the skis down helps to minimize side-loading on the skis. This is both gentler for the skis and safer for the pilot and passengers. A review of Section 8 in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook titled “Handling, Service, and Maintenance” will provide some information for winter operations. A review of the ski flight manual supplement or ski section of the pilot’s operating handbook is a good refresher on procedures and considerations for ski operations. Some pilots don’t live in an area where they have the opportunity to experience flying with skis, but for those who do, there are many opportunities that open up during the colder months with some careful planning, preparation, and care.