Pilot's tip of the week

An Overlooked Icing Trap

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Subscriber question:

"I'm planning a trip where the airplane will sit outside overnight and it might snow. What do I ask when I call the FBO so I'm confident I won't get stuck there waiting for the snow to melt off?" — Theo T.

Paul:

“When flying into a strange airport during the winter where you might remain overnight or longer, a forward look at de-icing the airplane is a must.

If the airplane gets rained or snowed on, or has a heavy layer of frost, will you be able to stick it in a hangar to thaw it out? If there is a hangar, what hours is it available and does that accord with your plans? And are you okay paying for it? While you’re at it, ask if pre-heat is available, you might need that, too.

Failing that, what kind of deicing stuff can you bring along in the airplane. Even a stiff brush of some kind is helpful, as is a soft scraper that won’t scratch the windshield or damage the paint. If you fly a T-tail or a high wing Cessna, a step stool of some kind to get up and inspect the top surfaces is a good thing to have along. Some owners carry fabric wing covers, and they’ll do the job, too.

Skip any of this and you risk putting yourself in the trap off departing with an ice-contaminated wing or tail surface that maybe doesn’t look that bad. But just after rotation, you might find out the hard way how bad a little frost can be.

Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you how I know.”

Are you comfortable departing with some frost on the wings and/or tail?

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