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Prepare for Winter
Several places around the country enjoyed the first snowfall of the season this past week. And with temperatures rapidly dropping, you should consider getting ready for the winter season. Whether you are planning on flying or not, here are some tips to keep you and your airplane a little bit happier during the cold, dark months ahead.
Hopefully you are not putting your airplane into hibernation during the winter; but if you are, make sure you talk to your mechanic about pickling the engine. Pickling is slang for a special procedure laid out by engine manufacturers to protect an inactive engine from rust and corrosion. Also, if the airplane will be on the ground for an extended period, it is clearly best to park it in a hangar. If you don't have that option, make sure you get a nice cover to protect the exterior and interior of the airplane.
On the other hand, if you enjoy flying in the cool crisp air the winter months have to offer, you should still have a chat with your mechanic to see if your airplane's engine manufacturer recommends a special oil for the engine or other fluids for other systems designed specifically for cooler climes. There may also be some systems that require attention. The most obvious one is the anti- or de-ice system or systems, if you are fortunate enough to have them. Make sure your anti-ice fluids are full and that there are no leaks. If you have a boot-style system, make sure the boots inflate properly. And if the system is electrical, make sure the panels heat up.
The days are shorter, so carry a flashlight at all times, and make sure the interior and exterior lights and pitot-heat are working. It is also worthwhile to keep a soft cloth handy for wiping off condensation from the inside windows. Since you are likely to use cabin heat, make sure you have a functioning carbon monoxide monitor in the cockpit. And test out the cabin heat before you have to take an extended trip. Keep some extra clothing and a blanket in the airplane in case the heater fails or you end up making a forced landing. You should also keep an insulated engine cover in the airplane to keep the engine warm while you enjoy your $100 hamburger or keep your airplane parked temporarily. An engine preheat system is another item you may want to invest in, if you don't already have access to one.
While these items and others will keep you and your airplane a little more comfortable in the cold, flying in the winter months requires a lot of extra attention in most of our 50 states. But that is a topic for another day.