Prepping for Cold Weather Flying

Falling temperatures and shorter days certainly signal to those of us in the northern climates that winter is coming fast.  With the colder weather comes hazards that must be considered when flying.  To get ahead of the game, it’s best to prepare now.


Clean the Exterior

Take advantage of these last few autumn days to detail the exterior of your plane.  Cleaning off any bugs, dirt or visible corrosion on the windows or paint will deter snow and ice from clinging to these pollutants when temperatures begin to dip.  A fresh coat of wax on the exterior will also help your aircraft cast off any ice or snow while on the ground during preflight.  When cleaning the windows, be sure to use a cleaner made specifically for aircrafts.  One that cleans, protects and won’t scratch or leave a distracting film.


Change the Oil

It’s definitely a good idea to start the winter season with clean, uncontaminated oil running through your aircraft’s engine.  And during the chilly winter months, you need to ensure that you have the proper viscosity, especially if you are running a single grade.  Changing the oil early rather than later in the season will certainly save you from the possibility of frost-bitten fingers! 


Give Your Batteries Some Attention

Starting with the main battery, have it tested to be sure it passes a capacity check.  If not, it’s best to replace it.  Next, you may want to consider replacing all other batteries such as those found in your flashlights, headsets, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.  


Keep Yourself Warm – Safely

Of course you know to layer up your clothing for warmth during the winter months.  But keeping yourself and any passengers comfortably warm inside your plane normally means utilizing heat that comes from a shroud around the exhaust manifold.  Before your first flight of the frosty weather season, it is vitally important to carefully inspect the exhaust system and be sure you have a CO detector (with fresh batteries) in your cockpit in the event there’s an exhaust leak.


Be a Scout – Be Prepared!

Of all the miscellaneous items found in the cabin of your airplane, those that should stay for the winter include a parka, heavy blanket, lighter and other cold-weather survival equipment (just in case.) 

As for the aircraft itself, ideally it should be stored in a temperature-controlled hangar during the wintry months.  This would eliminate the possibility of ice or snow accumulating and thus save time and effort in having to clear the exterior before climbing into the cockpit or having the plane de-iced before takeoff. 

If your aircraft is stored outside, preheating the engine/engine oil a couple of hours prior to takeoff is an excellent idea.  This practice will help to preserve the life of the engine.

While your plane is warming up, take time to carefully review the aviation weather forecast and note any icing warnings.  Have an alternative route plan in case you do encounter icing, whether that be descending below the freezing level or climbing above it, as the warmer air may be above you in certain situations.


Time to Fly

Now that you and your passengers are properly bundled up and your aircraft is ready to go, remember that runway or taxiway braking action may be reduced.  Check to see if the tower has any RCR (Runway Condition Report) or PIREPs (Pilot Report) if it’s snowy or icy.  Painted surfaces on the ground, asphalt, and non-grooved concrete become slick faster than grooved concrete.  Be extremely careful when walking to the plane and take it slow when taxiing.

Now is the time to seize the moment and show your plane some love before winter hits.  It is sure to pay off in the long run with less headaches, less delays and more enjoyment of your time up in the skies.

If any of your air excursions lead you to Toledo, Ohio, you’ll be pleased to know that Grand Aire operates the only 24/7/365 full-service FBO on the field at KTOL.  We offer de-icing services as well as available space in our heated high tail hangars.  Give us a call at 1-800-70-GRAND or email our team directly at