Cold Weather Checklist

Modify your winter checklist with a few common-sense items.

Tip Cold Weather Checklist

Tip Cold Weather Checklist

If you're flying in a part of the country where the TV weather personality uses terms like "wind chill," "arctic blast" and "polar vortex" you'll want to modify your winter checklist with a few common-sense items. Warm clothing is a must — you ought to be able to easily walk to safety in the event of a forced landing. Likewise for ice, snow and frost removal from your airplane — and that goes double for ice on control surfaces and in important nooks like the static port and pitot tube.

You might be tempted on a frigid day to speed through your preflight. Just make sure you don't skip anything important. Look for fuel dye as an indication of fuel leaks, and try to keep the tanks full to keep out moisture. Ice in fuel, by the way, looks like floating dust.

Also remember, a cold battery will be weaker unless fully charged. Cold oil will be thicker. Once you get the engine started, let the oil warm until it thins and pressure is normal (check your POH for proper procedures).

You'll also want to confirm before departing that nothing important is frozen – such as the fuel selector knob, which has happened to a few misfortunate pilots. Remember too that gyros need to warm up to get up to speed.

A CO detector is an important safety device for winter operations, when you'll be using cabin heat.

It's also a good idea to adjust your weather margins in winter, when weather systems move more quickly and turbulence, icing and other hazardous conditions can appear without warning. Try to fly into improving weather, and never trust the forecast, especially for icing. Always be aware of the location of better weather conditions. Remember, when temperatures dip, an easily survivable situation can quickly escalate into a life-threatening emergency.

Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.