Friday, December 7, 2012

Aircraft Winterization

Storing  Airplane for the Winter

Preparation - Prior to storing the airplane for the winter, wash the exterior of the airplane and apply a high quality wax. This will protect the paint and help prevent accumulation of snow and ice. Survey all items in the cabin. Check for items or equipment that would not survive the frigid temperature of winter. Also look for water bottles or containers with liquids that could freeze and burst leaving your airplane a mess when the temperature warms back up.

Storage - Storing your airplane in a hangar is best, and if it is heated all the better. For airplanes that will be staying outside for the winter it is good to give some thought to the location the airplane will be moored. Consider the prevailing winds; the airframe and flight controls will endure less stress from the winter winds if the airplane is parked into the wind.

Tie the airplane down in an area where it won’t be prone to damage caused by snow drifts or plows. On windy days or during snow removal on an airport ramp, snow plows and wind can move a lot of snow, so don’t let your airplane get buried under that snow.

Mooring - Ensure that the airplane is parked where there are dedicated anchors to secure the airplane to the ground. Tie the airplane down at each wing strut, at the tail and at the nose gear. Tying the airplane down at the nose gear will assist in preventing the nose from coming off the ground either from wind or snow accumulation. The parking brake should be disengaged. Install chocks in front of and behind the mains. If the airplane is not going to be moored on the concrete or asphalt ramp, put shoring material like plywood under the tires to prevent them from sinking into the ground. Install a surface control lock over the fin and rudder in addition to the aileron and elevator control lock at the control yoke.

Covers and Plugs - All openings in the airplane should be plugged, covered or closed. This will prevent the accumulation of snow and ice in critical areas. Considered the engine cooling air inlets and cowl flaps. Cover the Pitot tube, static ports, fresh air and heater inlets.

Batteries - Batteries should be fully charged prior to storing the airplane. This includes the main, standby and ELT batteries. Consider removing the batteries from the airplane and storing them in a heated facility if your airplane will not be flown during the winter months.

Fuel Tanks - Fuel Tanks should be filled to full capacity to prevent condensation. If air is present in the tanks, condensation is inevitable and will lead to the buildup of water in the bottom of the tanks.

Engine - Engine oil should be drained and new oil installed. Old oil can be quite acidic which, when combined with water from the atmosphere, causes corrosion. This can lead to pitting of components like cam lobes lifters and cylinder barrels. If the airplane is going to remain inactive for more than 30 days, consult the latest revision of Textron Lycoming Service Letter L180. This information can be found at

Winter Operations - If you plan on operating your airplane through the winter, use the suggested storage tips when your aircraft is parked, and consider these tips before and during operation.

Airframe and Control Surfaces - Remove all frost, snow, and ice before attempting flight. Deicing is best accomplished by moving the aircraft to a heated hangar. When this is completed, make sure the water from the melting ice does not run into the control surface hinges or crevices and freeze when the aircraft is taken outside.

Fuel - Fuel contamination is a concern especially during the cold weather months. When an airplane has been warm and then is parked in the cold, an increase in the possibility of condensation of water in the tanks exists. Drain fuel frequently from the quick drains. If fuel does not drain freely from sumps, this would indicate a line or sump is obstructed by sediment or ice. Isopropyl alcohol or Diethylene Glyco Monomethyl Ether (DiEGME) may be added to the fuel supply. Review Section 8 of the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for guidance on the quantities to use.

Oil - Besides being changed at regular intervals, consider using a lighter grade of oil based on the temperature versus viscosity range table that is in Section 8 of the Pilot’s Operating Handbook.

Engine Operation - When air temperatures are below 20°F (-6°C), use a pre-heater and a ground power source whenever possible to obtain positive starting and reduce wear of the engine and electrical system. Preheat will thaw the oil trapped in the oil cooler, which may be congealed prior to starting in extremely cold weather. If the engine does not start during the first few attempts, or if engine firing diminishes in strength, the spark plugs may be frosted over. Preheat must be used before another start is attempted. It should be noted that during cold weather operations the oil temperature indicator may not be in the green band when all of the pre-takeoff checks have been performed. Follow the recommendations in the POH when this condition is experienced.


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