Every year we see great articles with tips to help us as we fly in the winter months. Facts are presented about carb icing, wind chill, and the cautions regarding frost on wings are all great refreshers. Here are three items I think about, before I fire up my Cessna.
1. The air we breathe
. Most pilots understand that many aircraft are equipped with cabin heat shrouds that surround the exhaust. Yes, we know and understand the risks of carbon-monoxide poisoning. But how many times do we check the expiration date on our carbon-monoxide detector and think about its placement? I used to place my detector in a location high on the panel, so I could readily check for any issues. The problem, I later learned, with that model of airplane was notorious for having air leaks; fresh air leaked into the cabin! I’m sure many of you can relate, but how could a detector adequately work if it was in a “fresh air zone”? Now I place my detectors in the immediate vicinity of where my cabin heater brings in air. That way, hopefully my fresh air leaks won’t mask a potential problem.
2. Thinking about others
. AOPA’s experts and many others have written excellent checklists for survival items to bring along on winter flights. These are great, but, again for me personally, I have to consider the additional needs of those flying with me. When I take my family flying, I now have two young children to consider. And while the default survival items make sense, I consider the unique needs of children. For example, in the event of a forced off-airport landing (and no injuries), having two frightened children eating their favorite snacks will go a long way in helping calm some nerves.
3. Reconsidering my route
. When flying in the winter, I especially consider my route, so I can obtain help from others. I love direct GPS as much as anyone, but sometimes going direct puts me over sparse farmland. What if I have to make an off-airport landing, will someone see me or will I be easily found? I’ll consider modifying my route so that I can fly closer to airports along my trip or along a highway—especially if I’m flying with my family and children. It might add a few minutes to my flight, but having airports (even better if they’re towered) or other signs of civilization nearby could make a difference if I unexpectedly needed help on the ground.
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