I am a stranger here myself

Winter Weather Flying

Winter provides unusual weather conditions, depending on where you reside. In California, where I learned to fly, temperatures very rarely dipped below  freezing. When it rained, it did, cats and dogs, all day. There was less likely a chance to fly on that day. Preheating the aircraft engine was hardly ever needed. At least I never needed to do so in the years I flew there. Occasionally there was frost, and we had to defrost manually (See Miles of Runway), but that was the extent of my winter weather flying experience.

snowFlying in the east coast, on the other hand, is a whole different matter. It rains, it storms, it thunders, it freezes and it can snow excessively sometimes! Snowmaggedon. Nor’easter. Polar Vortex. Bombogenisis. Williwaw. Can it get any crazy than this?

Icy runways and taxiways are hard to handle … A Cessna 172 can’t taxi on an uncleared taxiway that has 1+ inches of ice. It slides and slips… just as a car slips and slides and ends up in a ditch!

If you are new to winter weather flying as I am, you need to pre heat the engine if temperatures fall below freezing temperatures (20 degrees Fahrenheit). Runways and taxiways might be slippery and have less than normal braking condition. Small GA airports might not clear taxiways and runways. Always check before your next flight, the condition of runways and taxiways. Always pay close attention to ground personnel on where to park and taxi.

It always pays to have common sense!

Some key points to keep in mind for winter weather flying:

  • When temperatures dip below freezing, it is necessary to preheat the engine.
  • Plan extra time for preheating and getting the engine started
  • Beware of runways and taxiways at destinations which might not have been cleared!
  • Single engine airplanes like front wheel drive cars can’t handle “iced taxiways” or “iced runways”!
  • Be aware of piles of snow on taxiways after a snowstorm.
  • It pays to learn and be aware of unusual winter flying!
  • Most importantly, always carry insurance (owner or rental)


Useful Links:
Winter Weather Flying from FAA Safety
Cold Weather Operations from AOPA
Tips on Winter Flying

6 thoughts on “I am a stranger here myself

  1. Karlene January 28, 2014 / 4:10 am

    These are some great tips! We received a fuel freezing temp message flying over the ATL last night. We have a procedure…but fuel can turn to gel.


    • flynthings January 28, 2014 / 9:35 pm

      Strange weather lately… ATL is expected to get 2in snow today I think.


      • Karlene January 29, 2014 / 2:34 am

        Oh wow. Yesterday my ATL was the Atlantic… lol… today we carried the crew to the airport in AMS because they cancelled the AMS ATL flight due to weather. I think our world is freezing!


      • flynthings January 29, 2014 / 2:53 am

        Absolutely! I concur!
        But it has been 3 years since Snowmaggedon and I’ve been told it only snows every 6 years in the Mid-Atlantic! There is hope yet, having experienced first hand the cold of the Midwest!


  2. Steve January 28, 2014 / 10:30 am

    I sympathize entirely. I moved to the mid-Atlantic from Texas (though by way of NJ). And in order to preheat my plane with my existing equipment I would have to tow (drag) my plane about 150 yards to the nearest electrical outlet. In other words, I only fly when it has been above freezing for a few hours…


    • flynthings January 28, 2014 / 9:37 pm

      Lately Texas seems to be seeing a lot of cold temperatures… So far only pre- heated 1 time. I too don’t fly too much when it is cold. It is nicer when it is warm and sunny 🙂


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