Winter Flying

A response blog about learing to fly in winter in New York.





We usually don't like to give attention to Facebook/social media spamming/trolling/baiting comments, but one that we received this week hit home (literally!) and i wanted to write up a post describing in detail how and why we responded.

We posted a job opening on Facebook about needing Flight Instructors, which, incidentally, we still do (especially at our Westchester County Airport location) and it was shared to a flight school student in a warmer country who commented:

"Hahha... New York! There is no flying 6 months due to snow and freezing temp [ . . . ] Lol".

I of course understand that this was a baiting comment, and I am also unsure of why someone would take their valuable time to spam/troll on our community page, but I also wanted to take the opportunity to actually give credence to this person's statement and suss out some responses.

I responded as follows:

"On the contrary, we are open and flying all year round, and there are actually certain benefits that come with getting a full flight school education that includes learning to fly in winter months. Some of the benefits of training in the winter in New York include real-time learning about winter preflighting, engine preheating, de-icing procedures, taking off in snowy conditions, crosswind landings, assessing weather conditions and go-arounds and learning how to visually inspect the aircraft in real weather - and when to postpone flying altogether. We have had very mild winters here recently with only a couple of recent snow days, but if the snow is too much to fly in, you can use that time for ground school, sim and classroom study.

Mechanically, the cold is not so bad; in fact, airplane engines produce more power when they take off in cold air. You can feel more power, thrust and performance-- experiences that you would gain during the winter months flying in New York.

When you become a pilot, you will invariable have to tackle weather conditions of all kinds, so training in an area that notably has all of these conditions built in will make you a better and a safer pilot. One more benefit to winter flying -- there are less pleasure flights taking off from many of the smaller airports, which means less traffic and more practice time for students."
...
I asked our head of operations if this was a suitable response, and he was happy with the points I made, but added that the poster could also ask his instructor in his warmer country to teach him how to read the weather reports from JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark and ask where he is in his training that he doesn't know that.

This brings me to the recognition that there is some trepidation when people think of flying in New York in winter, and I'd like to bolster the points I made above as well as expand on them.

Flying in Summer vs. Winter

Thrillist asked a pilot about many different topics, and we'd suggest reading through the whole linked article, but I'd like to quote one passage in particular:

"Safest season to fly in?
Bunn: It doesn't matter much. In summer, passengers encounter more turbulence associated with storms. In winter, storms do not build up vertically to cruise altitude. Overall, then, a bumpier ride is more likely in summer than in winter. Though a bumpy ride isn't unsafe, many passengers feel unsafe when the ride gets rough."

"Every Question You've Ever Had About Flying, Answered by a Pilot" -thrillist.com



Training for Everything

The Points Guy offered a commentary about flying in winter storms, and concluded that training and planning is the most important aspect:

“Taking off or landing in a snowstorm can be challenging, but it’s well within the boundaries of what we’re trained for.”
"How Do You Fly in a Winter Storm? Pilots Explain How it Works" -thepointsguy.com



Gaining Experience

Flying Magazine presented a harrowing account of real winter flying (in Ohio/Indiana) where the winter storms can be brutal.

"I also learned, as a friend is fond of saying, that there are some experiences that are available only to those who are willing to have them."
"Flying Lessons: Once Upon a Winter" -flyingmag.com



Understanding the Weather

Flying Magazine comes at us again with an article to explain that if you understand and approach winter weather with familiarity, you'll be a more informed and prepared pilot. And ultimately, isn't that why you want to go to a well-rounded flight school to begin with?

"Winter comes to play with a long list of unpleasant traits, but with the proper preparation, planning and equipment (not to mention an abundance of caution), flying on those shortest days can be profoundly rewarding. In fact, when you’ve pulled off a well-planned and carefully executed flight despite the cold, the wind and the snow, you have done something to be proud of. Moreover, the lessons learned about planning, preparation and risk management can be applied to your flying every season and every day of the year."
"Winter Flying: Here’s how to cut through the ice and muck and finally fly more this winter." -flyingmag.com



Winter Weather Flying Tips

I'd like to also recognize Bret Koebbe of Student Pilot News, who compiled a list of tips that everyone who pilot's an aircraft should read.

"As the season transitions from fall to winter and the temperature is consistently below freezing, unique challenges are presented to pilots. Flight training doesn’t need to stop in the winter though; in fact the colder months provide some great opportunities to expand your knowledge on weather and aircraft operations in less than ideal conditions. There are other benefits too, including improved aircraft performance and nearly unlimited visibility on clear days."
"Seven winter weather flying tips" -studentpilotnews.com

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