Points to Consider for Winter Flying
With a change of seasons comes a change of thinking about the weather that we will now be flying in. While we had a relatively mild summer that only saw a few very hot days, some turbulence and occasional low cloud; winter weather brings about a new set of challenges to flying safely. The hours of daylight are reduced, winds can become much stronger and icing is a real possibility. The following is a brief on a few points for flying at Soar Aviation.
Daylight: Daylight savings ends on the Easter weekend as clocks wind back an hour on Sunday April 5. The hours of daylight will continue to get shorter as we head into winter solstice, with civil twilight only available from about 7am till 6pm in June in clear skies. Remember if you are making a VFR Flight, plan to arrive at least 10 minutes before the end of daylight, or earlier if your flight time is more than 1 hour, or if the terrain or the weather could reduce the light. If you are delayed, make sure that your departure is not too late to meet this requirement. Fog: Morning fog reduces both visibility and the available daylight, therefore read up on the different types of fog and how to look for signs of fog formation. Wind: This month both Melbourne and Sydney have seen days of severe wind. Our Foxbats weigh less then 300kgs when empty and can lift off with as little as a 35kt gust of wind, so it is imperative that they are tied down securely and the controls are locked between flights. During pre-flight on windy days, do not leave the leave the aircraft unattended without ensuring the aircraft is secured. When taxiing the aircraft, maintain a slow speed and ensure correct use of aileron and elevator input to prevent the the wind from picking up a wing or tail and tipping the aircraft.
Icing: Although we are not subjected to the same level of snow and ice as our northern hemisphere counterparts, we still need to follow the same precautions. With aircraft parked outside special attention should be given to anywhere where ice can build up and obstruct operation. This includes pitot tubes, heater intakes, carburettor intakes, elevator, rudder and aileron controls. Wear protective gloves when removing frost built up on the aircraft, as frost bite is possible if you are not careful. Do not use hot water to remove ice, instead use cold water and a cloth to remove it. In flight, ensure proper use of carburettor heat as this can be used as both an anti-icing and de-icing control when used correctly.
Engine Handling: Cool temperatures raises the viscosity of oil which will mean it will take longer for the oil to warm up and properly lubricate the engine. With Foxbat engine startups, as soon as the engine runs adjust the throttle to achieve smooth running at approx. 2500 rpm. Check oil pressure has risen within 10 seconds (or a little longer on very cold days) and monitor oil pressure. The throttle should only be increased at steady oil pressure above 2bar/30psi. With engine starts with low oil temperature, pilots need to observe the oil pressure as it could drop again due to the increased flow resistance in the suction line. The throttle should only be increased once oil pressure remains steady. The warming up period should be run at 2000 rpm for 2 min, then continue at 2500 rpm on the Foxbat.
Your Health: It is flu season and if you have one, please don’t share it with us. Don’t fly when you are feeling ‘under the weather’ as flying with blocked ears and noses can be uncomfortable to say the least. Therefore stay safe and keep your safe grounded. Winter flying isn’t all doom and gloom as often days of crisp blue skies and little wind often appear and provide a perfect day to fly. Taking note of the environment and following the above advice will ensure its a great day, but as always play it safe for as they old adage goes: ‘It is better to be down here wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here’.