U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


November 2001 




Thought for the month.....
Age is our reward for planning ahead.

Winter Operations.... There was a layer of frost on the windshield of my son's SUV the other morning, the first of the season. Before he earned his drivers' license, I would tell him how important I thought it was that all the windows were cleared of frost and snow before venturing out onto the roads. The first frost of the season should also get us started thinking about what lies ahead for winter flying. Preparation for winter operations needs to begin before really cold weather is on us.

Multiviscosity grade oils may be authorized by the manufacturer for use in piston powered aircraft operating in all temperatures. If we prefer to use a single viscosity oil, and lower temperatures are expected, we should consider changing to the lower viscous oil, even if it means changing the oil before the scheduled time. Sure, oil isn't cheap but the alternative is even more expensive. Congealed oil in the oil cooler, and oil galley's and passages could result in reduced lubrication at a critical time, most notably during start up. Equally important is the residual lubricating oil on the cylinder walls and pistons. The proper oil prevents cylinder wall scoring. Inattention to engine lubricating can result in early overhauls or cylinder replacement.

Some aircraft have "winterization kits". These kits are usually no more than restrictions to the cooling air inlets and cover plates that are placed on the oil coolers. Be sure to display any placards the aircraft manufacturer may require when installing the kit. We have to remember if we use winterization kits and fly into warmer conditions the aircraft manufacturer may require those kits to be removed.

Engine preheat may be worth the time and cost if the temperatures warrant it. Not only does it get the oil to a temperature that permits it to flow easier; it will also shorten the engine warm-up period. Aircraft engine components expand at normal operating temperatures to the engineered fit tolerances so that the oil rings will seal better and give the proper cylinder compression. Another advantage to a good preheat will be the residual heat that should enter the cabin. Raising the cabin temperature a few degrees can help in reducing condensation on the inside of the windshield.

We can determine the state of charge of the aircraft battery by checking the specific gravity of the electrolyte using a hydrometer. A fully charged battery should exhibit a specific gravity of around 1.275 at about 70º F. Hydrometer readings will be accurate in temperatures from 70º F. to about 90º F. For every 10º F. below 80º F. subtract .004 specific gravity points. Some hydrometers have a thermometer and correction scale built in so that a temperature correction can be determined instead of performing the calculation. The specific gravity will vary according to the electrolyte temperature. The battery electrolyte level should be checked and if it is low, distilled water should be added to bring the electrolyte to the proper level.

We should also consider our own well being. If we are not prepared for flying in the cold, the total man/machine system is being set-up for failure. The dry atmospheric conditions in cold weather can result in dehydration. A reduction in our body's hydrated condition can cause headaches, muscle cramps, and other uncomfortable states of wellness. The caffeine contained in coffee or colas has diuretic properties further reducing body liquids. Let's not set ourselves up for a self-induced stressful flight.

Other factors go into physical preparation. Are we dressed properly for the environment? If we find ourselves at a landing site not of your choosing, do we have what is needed for survival? An emergency survival kit can be assembled in a small coffee can, and easily carried aboard any aircraft. A suggested list of items would include a metal container with a lid. This container can be used to heat water, make tea, use as a digging tool or polished as a signal mirror. There should also be a small folding knife; a candle; matches (wrapped in plastic); 2 large garbage bags; and a solar blanket or two. These can give us body protection from heat loss. Electrician's tape will help hold it all together and a whistle or other loud signaling device will be helpful, assuming of course, we don't have a cell phone.

The Internet is a great place to get ideas for preparing for winter flying. A place to start is http://www.faa.gov/ats/afss/newyork/WINTER-T.HTM.
I found this site by using a search engine and typing "winter flying". Let's not make "unpreparedness" a subcategory of pilot error.

Upcoming Events

November 29
Cape Girardeau Airport
Cape Pilots Club Bldg.
Land Survival
7 to 9PM

December 6 (Date Change - this one is final)
AOPA Air Safety Foundation
Fuel Awareness
Florissant Valley College, Multi-purpose Room
7PM to-9PM

January 19
27th Super Safety Seminar
8AM to 1PM
Because of security concerns, Boeing will not be able to provide building 33 for our 27th Annual Super Safety Seminar. Jeff Larrick, the AIAA co-sponsor and Boeing representative, has coordinated with St. Louis University and they have graciously offered the use of an auditorium on that date.

I will have the actual building number and location in the near future, but I wanted to alert everyone that something different is happening. Obviously, when a change like this happens, attendance usually suffers. Please pass the word to your various organizations and encourage participation at the 2002 event. I'll be sure to provide a detailed map with directions and parking.

Fred Harms

Steven Long
Airworthiness Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4830