For most of us, snow covered hangars mean that it's time to turn off the pilot brain and focus on the holidays.  Spending time with family is great, but then you have to talk to your crazy uncle about his conspiracy theories and deal with your vegan/crossfit niece :)

Your you could try to find a decent day for a recharge and get away from the stress the holidays bring.

Here are some tips to help you fly safely and also not damage your aircraft when flying in colder temps.


1. Make sure to pre-heat your engine.
Starting a cold engine can cause as much as 300hrs of normal wear and tear.
Invest in a engine heater system, such as an Aerotherm or a Reiff System.
It takes an extra time investment to plan your day around heating your powerplant before your flight, but your engine and wallet will appreciate it!

2. Check the runway conditions.
I know it goes without saying, but just how you wouldn't drive in snow covered roads, black ice on your runway can have drastic effects.
Even at towered airports, check for the temps rising above freezing and then dropping in the last 24 hrs.
Do a manual inspection of the taxi areas and talk to your local FBO.

3. Know your regional weather patterns.
Just like summertime flying, winter weather can be very unpredictable and change at a moments notice. 
Do your due diligence and plan your trip around the correct forecast.
Insert quote about "cabin fever" causing poor decision making here. :)

4. Do a THOROUGH pre-flight.
I know we have the tendency sometimes to kick the tires and yell "Clear Prop" but in the winter time especially there are some serious consequences to overlooking danger signs. Unfortunately most pilots do not bring adequate survival gear with them and simple items like water, fire, and even snowshoes can make the difference between life and death in the event of an accident.

5. Check for wing frost.
Frosting on your wings and airframe can affect your angle of attack and reduce your lift by 30%.
Your normal takeoff roll may not be what you are accustomed to and this takes a lot of pilots by surprise.
Obviously storing your aircraft in a hangar is best, but if this isn't possible, tow your aircraft into the most direct sunlight as possible and check to make sure the frost has burned off sufficiently before flight.