When you close your eyes and imagine your perfect flight, chances are you don’t picture yourself wearing a giant winter jacket trying to stay warm in the cockpit. While most of day dream about summer flying, the winter months can be just as rewarding especially if you have the proper equipment with you. We asked our Facebook and Instagram followers what they include in their winter flight bags. Here’s what they had to say:
1: Gloves/handwarmers: This is pretty obvious but you’d be surprised how many pilots we see preflight an airplane in 20° weather without gloves on! To properly preflight an airplane you need to move the control surfaces, open oil doors and drain the fuel sumps downs amongst other tasks. That is a lot of time for your fingers to be exposed to the elements. If you don’t want to be bogged down with heavy gloves in the cockpit, have a second lighter pair with you for internal use. Make sure they are optimized for use with tablets so you can still use all your gear and apps without having to remove your gloves.
2: Electronic CO detector: Carbon monoxide poisoning is consideration when flying in the winter. This is because most of us are using the cabin heat in the airplane. The heat is pulled from a shroud that encompasses the muffler. The hot exhaust gas heats up the muffler which in turn heats the air in the shroud. When you open the cabin heat, you are drawing that hot air into the cockpit. The problem occurs if there is any seepage of exhaust gas into the heat shroud. Carbon monoxide can leak into the hot air, which is then pulled into the cockpit. CO is tasteless, odorless, and colorless making it impossible to detect unless you have a purpose built detector in the cockpit with you. All Horizon Aviation aircraft have mechanical CO detectors installed though some of our pilots augment their flight bags with electronic CO detectors as well. These electronic detectors make audible and visual alarms should they detect any CO in the cockpit.
3: An extra pen: One of our pilots wrote that they include an extra pen in their flight bag in case one freezes. Can’t fault that one! Copying down a clearance is awfully difficult to do if your pen doesn’t work.
4: Extra battery for electronic tablets: If you are on a longer cross country and you use a tablet to keep you situationally aware, bring an extra battery with you to power your tablet. Power levels in tablets and phones tends to deplete faster than normal in colder temps, which could make for an unfortunate experience of losing those devices midway through a flight.
5: Emergency equipment: This might be less necessary in Southern New England but many pilots include emergency winter survival gear in their flight bag. If they experience an off-airport landing they may be exposed to the elements for an extended amount of time before they may be rescued. They need to stay warm and dry at all costs. To that end, a compact blanket, firestarter, and survival knife might make the difference.