Jump to content

Four Season Flying

Recommended Posts

In the fall, in most of the northern Unite States, the summer temperatures and clear skies get replaced with colder temperatures and low ceilings. As pilots, we all have to be keenly aware of these changes, and what its going to look like when our carburetors become an icing factor, precipitation starts to stick to the helicopter, and systems begin to suffer from the frigid temperatures.


If you live in the training environment like we facilitator/instructors and pilots-in-training do, then we have to learn and teach with these threats to our safety in mind.


Carburetor icing, skids frozen to the concrete, windscreens glazed over, white out conditions and drained batteries. All of this and more can jeopardize our opportunity to fly. We can't be having that, so we become diligent in prevention. Masters of prevention really. Here are some tips for the upcoming blast of cold.


Aircraft- Last year at this time, we started ramping up for the cold weather by outfitting our helicopters with a warming package. First, keep them in a heated hangar as long as possible before flights. Second, install block warmers on the engine, or sump heaters for the oil. Third, plug those lead-acid batteries into a trickle charger over night and save them from ever draining due to cold temps. And lastly, be sure to keep precipitation from freezing to the aircraft, especially on important and hard to see places, like the top of the rotor system. And if you are running a carbureted aircraft, become intimately familiar with carburetor icing conditions, prevention and anything that could help avert a disaster.


With proper prevention, these birds will be fully capable of their missions while being safe.


Flight planning- there's no better decision made, then the one that prevents you from finding your way into harm's path. By this, I mean that we should be making very educated, well briefed, pre-flight go/no-go decisions. I can't count on any of my fingers or toes how many flights I've cancelled due to inclement weather, and I in no way feel bad about that. Choosing to call a training flight due to poor weather should be nothing to feel bad about, safety is our number one goal in primary training, not bravado. Spend as much time as needed to read weather reports, talk to flight briefers, converse with other pilots about the current weather, and really be convinced that you should be flying in the weather reported. The ceilings and visibility regulations are just the beginning of making a go/no-go decision.


The Pilot- our skill set as pilots can only be increased with experience and education. I've been in inclement weather, and I'll admit that it was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. But I learned from each scenario, and can make better decisions now because I've experienced questionable weather. One of the best lessons I've learned is to not ever test my own personal limitations. If weather is suggesting something less than I'm comfortable with, I have no qualms sticking out the weather and waiting for a better time of day or week to fly. My personal limitations factor in precipitation type, temperatures at my flight level, what visibility is reported compared to what visibility I can see myself and more. I've also learned how to trend weather, not guarantee it by any means, but by trending similar days and weather configurations, I can now recognize some cloud movement and growth patterns and make educated flight decisions. I've also watched ceilings fall extremely fast, precipitation come from seemingly nowhere, and picked up ice on my windscreen in unexpected conditions. Weather is extremely unpredictable, and I would never make a decision to fly without first doing a thorough preflight weather brief.


As this weather comes, and will eventually go, we need to reintegrate ourselves with our cold-weather ops, refresh ourselves with literature pertaining to cold weather and inclement weather, and really submerge our mentality back to winter weather.


We only get to make a bad mistake once in this career, as it can so often end in disaster. With a little prevention, a keen mind to the weather, and knowing as much as possible about weather fluctuations, we can prevent a bad day. Check back on those old weather books and become friends with Aviation Weather online. Don't ever be afraid to call your Flight Service Station briefer, and at the very least, watch your local news weather reports daily.


Please feel free to tell your best/worst weather story, and let others know what you know and learned. Our experiences are some of the best lessons we can teach.


Heads up, mind right.





  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

Best weather story: Flying in Arizona means weather is practically never a factor.


Worst weather story: At 500' agl looked out to the south and saw a haboob maybe 20 miles in the distance. Thought, "Well, I guess thats all for today" Turned around, landed and pushed the helicopter into the hangar. Easy peezy.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...