Winter flying is not particularly hazardous if you, the pilot, will use a little extra caution and exercise good judgment in analyzing weather situations. By observing the following precautions, winter operation of your aircraft will be safer. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with your aircraft and engine handbooks in order to intimately know all systems and the recommended winter operation procedures. Be aware that low temperatures encountered in the winter can change the viscosity of engine oils, reduce effectiveness of the battery, and precipitate metal failures in various component parts of you aircraft with little or no warning.

Conduct your preflight planning and flight preparation with an attention to detail appropriate for the intended operation. Winter daylight hours are few; plan your flight accordingly. If your night experience is limited, be aware that night operation in winter can impose a special hazard all in its own. In making your business appointments, always give yourself an out by informing your contact that you intend to fly and will arrive at a certain time, unless the weather conditions are unfavorable.


A VFR pilot should avoid taking chances if the weather is marginal. Stay on the ground! Marginal weather operations in the winter are doubly hazardous. A pilot may be severely handicapped in selecting an alternate course of action or change of destination. Study the trend of the weather religiously in order to operate with maximum safety. Check all available weather information. Never fly into snow or rain showers which obscure the terrain. Use good Judgment! Make the 180-degree turn before you lose forward vision and become a statistic. Do not attempt to fly on instruments or on top of an overcast unless you are instrument rated, and current, AND flying a properly equipped aircraft.

Never attempt to take off with frost, ice, or snow on the windshield, wings, or control surfaces of your aircraft. Be forewarned, many pilots flying aircraft that have been parked outside overnight have inadvertently been placed on instruments following a takeoff in beautiful VFR weather. The condensation of moisture in the heater ducting can completely fog the windshield from the inside. When conducting such an operation, make sure that the heater and air vents have purged the moist air prior to takeoff. Winter conditions cause the local weather to change radically in a short period of time. A local fixed-base operator or Accident Prevention Counselor has the best advice about local flying conditions. Use their experience and knowledge for your own benefit!

Have the following items checked for winter operations: cabin heater system for operation and leaks (CARBON MONOXIDE CAN BE DEADLY), exhaust system, windshield defrosting system, engine idle-speed, carburetor heat, and brakes. During let-down, it may be difficult to keep the engine warm enough for high power operation, if needed. It may be desirable to use considerably more power than normal during approaches to avoid excessive engine cooling. A rapid throttle operation may result in engine failure.

Be alert during winter months for white-out conditions. You could find yourself in instrument conditions with a complete loss of visual contact due to snow covered terrain, haze and falling snow. Depth perception may be faulty when attempting to land on unbroken snow-covered surfaces or at night in marginal weather conditions. You, the pilot, have complete responsibility for the Go/No-Go decision based on the best information available. DO NOT let compulsion take the place of good judgment. Carry blankets, flares, and survival gear in case of emergency. Even in the summer months it can be very cold in the mountains, so...BE PREPARED. A
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