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7 Ways Cold Winter Air Affects Your Airplane

This story was made in partnership with AOPA. Ready to join the largest aviation community in the world? Sign up and become an AOPA Member today.

Here's how cold air affects your airplane, and what you can do to reduce wear and tear this winter...

1) Tire Pressure Decreases

Cold temperatures will result in a decrease in air pressure. If you last added air to your tires during the summer, it's probably time to check your tire pressure.

Corey Komarec

2) Longer Warmup Times

Before takeoff, you'll need to make sure your engine (oil and CHTs) have heated up within limits. The colder the temperature of the air, the longer the warmup will take.

Swayne Martin

3) Turbocharged Engines Might Over-Boost With Full Power

If you're flying a turbocharged airplane that was calibrated at a warm, summer temperature, be careful when departing from cold airports. Adding the same amount of throttle could over-boost the engine.


4) Preheating Procedures

On just about any piston-engine plane, pre-heating the engine must be thorough and extensive. If only one part of the engine is properly heated, other components could remain cold, resulting in congealed oil clogging other parts of the system.


5) Propeller Governors

The colder the air, the colder the oil. And if you're flying a constant-speed prop, the cold oil will result in noticeable sluggish propeller control.


6) Standard Shroud Heaters Won't Warm Quickly

If you're flying a piston airplane with a standard muffler and shrouded heating system, cold air will make it tough to get the airplane warmed up. Until the engine significantly heats the muffler, you'll need to keep your gloves on inside the plane!


7) What About "6 Pack" Instruments?

Flying an airplane with vacuum-powered instruments? You may want to spend extra time heating the inside of your cabin and cockpit. As vacuum-powered air spins the gyros at a high rate of speed, they'll be sluggish until the gyro's lubrication is heated. Spinning gyros too quickly at too cold of temperatures could result in instrument damage.


How else do cold temperatures affect your airplane? Tell us in the comments below!

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