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Aviation Learning Center Document Winter Flying Tips - P-8740-24
Author: FAA Date: 1996
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A landing surface can be very treacherous in cold weather operations. In addition, caution is advised regarding other hazards such as snow banks on the sides of the runways and poorly marked runways. Advance information about the current conditions of the runway surface should be obtained. If it is not readily available, take the time to circle the field before landing to look for drifts or other obstacles. Be aware that tracks in the snow on a runway do not ensure safe landing conditions. Often snowmobiles will use runway areas and give a pilot the illusion that aircraft have used the airport and the snow is not deep.

Ski wheel combinations are popular and very convenient; however, forgetting to use the landing gear appropriate to the runway surface can be embarrassing.

In level flight, due to their relatively "dirty" profile, skis will cut cruising speed to some extent. In addition to some loss of aerodynamic efficiency, skis have other disadvantages. They require more care in operating because bare spots must be avoided to keep from wearing the bottom coating of the skis, although the bottom coating must be renewed on some skis periodically. There is now an anti-friction tape that is very useful for this purpose. Skis equipped with the anti-friction coating do not freeze to the surface like those that expose bare metal to the snow. Another method of keeping skis from freezing to the snow is to taxi the aircraft up onto poles placed across and under the skis. This prevents them from touching the snow for most of their length.

Extra care in use of skis during takeoff and landing is also recommended. Rutted snow and ice can cause loss of ground control, even failure of skis or landing gear parts. Deep powder snow can adversely affect ski operation. Prolonged takeoff runs in deep powder are expected and it may be deep enough that no takeoff is possible under existing conditions. In this case, experienced operators pack a takeoff path with snowshoes, or taxi back and forth until an adequately packed runway is available.

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