What to know for safe winter flying

Jen Boyer HAI at Work

Photo: Courtesy Airbus

Feb. 16, 2021

Pilots at HAI@Work webinar share how to stay safe in cold-weather operations.

HAI President and CEO Jim Viola kicked off the Feb. 11, 2021, HAI@Work webinar with some sage advice: “Knowing how to respond to winter operations helps determine whether you fly another day.”

California Highway Patrol (CHP) Flight Instructor and Safety Officer Kevin Vinatieri agreed, sharing some of his insight built from 25 years of flying with the CHP and 20 years with the US Army. He flies his CHP AS350 B3 out of Auburn, California, serving a region that includes the Lake Tahoe area of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where he’s involved in a significant number of search-and-rescue missions in all kinds of weather.

Vinatieri shared his team’s top three preparation considerations before flying: weather, performance, and plan.

“Also, we talk a lot about aircraft limitations, but I like to emphasize personal limitations,” Vinatieri told webinar participants. “You need to know your personal limitations and follow them.”

Scott Boughton, owner of Palisade Aviation and vice chair of HAI’s Training Working Group, made a detailed presentation that offered a treasure trove of advice, tips, and insights every pilot flying in cold weather should heed.

His key message was the value inherent in preparing for flight, knowing the hazards, and having a plan.

“There’s no such thing as poor weather—just poor clothing choices,” Boughton said. “The same can be said of preparing for winter flying.”

Boughton broke down winter weather preparation into segments of the flight, touching on such important points as:

  • What personal gear and survival equipment to carry
  • How to identify where icing can happen (hint: it’s not always that easy)
  • How to identify and avoid the dangers of potential ice ingestion
  • Where to find your aircraft’s and systems’ temperature limitations
  • How to use available resources to properly start an aircraft in the cold
  • Potential hazards to safe taxiing and takeoff
  • Tricks to avoiding flat-light hazards
  • How to recognize danger when flying in snow
  • Techniques to safely approach and land on snow
  • Potential hazards to shutting down in cold weather.

For a more in-depth look at how to prepare for winter flying, watch the video of the webinar in its entirety.

Please join us on Feb. 18, at 6 pm eastern (UTC-5), for our next HAI@Work webinar, “Mil2Civ Transition: Finding a Job in the Civil Helicopter Industry.

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