The cold temperatures that winter brings can be more than a nuisance for helicopter operations.
1. Review guidance for cold-weather operations. Most OEMs, both airframe and engine, have published guidance relating to the conduct of operations when conditions are near, at, or below freezing temperatures. The FAA has also published various guidance in the form of SAFOs, SAIBs, and other communications. Schedule some time to review these and ensure you are operating in compliance.
2. Check for moisture. A key issue affecting safety of flight is the accumulation of moisture in fuel systems, engine control systems, and almost any type of sensing system. Temperature changes can affect the amount or location of water accumulation. Does your aircraft require the use of a fuel additive such as Prist or something similar? If so, under what conditions?
3. Conduct a safety stand-down. Hold a safety stand-down to review your company’s SOPs, as well as industry best practices. Include both maintenance and operations personnel. Everyone needs to be on the safety team!
4. Learn from your mistakes. If you have any past company history relating to cold-weather operations, talk about what happened, why did it happen, and how we will avoid it happening again. We aren’t inventing new ways to have accidents, so let’s learn from our old ones.
5. Help the new guys. If you have new pilots or maintenance technicians on staff, be mindful that they may not have experience operating in your environment. Make sure they get the extra training or oversight they need. An operation where 98 percent of your colleagues know the right way to do things is not acceptable.