Winter Flying

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One of our Cessna 172s in Devils Lake, ND on a December morning flight.

Some of the best flying can be done in the winter months.  This time of year offers many clear days, smooth, stable air, and low density altitude for great engine performance.

However, there are a few special considerations that go along with cold weather operations.  Though it may be tempting, don’t rush the pre-flight.  Carefully check the pitot tube, fuel vent, stall warning, and all other openings and intakes to make sure they’re clear of snow and ice.  All flying surfaces must also be completely clear of any frost, ice, and snow accumulation, and you may need to take time to pre-heat the engine.

Check your POH for details on cold weather operation, and remember to take care when starting the engine without pre-heat.  Prior to starting on cold days, pull the prop through several times by hand to “limber” the oil (and make sure the mags are off when you do that!).  Oil has a higher viscosity in the cold and it is more difficult for the engine to turn over, therefore starting can drain the battery more quickly and cause more wear and tear.

We recommend you check out this great article for a detailed description of everything you need to be aware of when planning for winter flying: http://www.oregon.gov/aviation/docs/tips_on_winter_flying.pdf.

Many recreational pilots simply choose not to fly during the winter, but if you bundle up and take a little extra care getting your airplane ready, you will be rewarded with some of the smoothest flying you’ve ever done.

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