Preparing for Winter Operations

The following article appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of Business Aviation Insider, the member publication of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and is reprinted with permission.

When the warm days of summer begin to fade and autumn is just around the corner, it’s time for business aviation maintenance personnel to start preparing aircraft to fly in winter weather.

Image courtesy of Morgan Anderson Photography

Image courtesy of Morgan Anderson Photography

“You never want to be caught off guard,” said Edward Mursko, AP, IA, CAM, an aircraft maintenance manager with 3M Aviation who manages three Gulfstreams. “In Minnesota, winter can start in October. We can start seeing morning frost in September, so you need to start preparing for winter operations near the end of August.”

Peter Stodolski – the assistant director of maintenance for a flight department of a Fortune 100 company in the Northeast that flies two Dassault Falcon business jets and two Leonardo AW139 helicopters – said his flight department also begins preparing for winter operations in late summer.

“We start in September. Knowing the aircraft will soon be using contaminated runways, we start by checking the conditions of the tires and braking system. Since the aircraft will soon be subjected to ice, deicing fluids and rain, we make sure the exterior is clean and waxed. We try to reduce every variable that could potentially be a gotcha for us during cold weather operations.”

Mursko explained that his flight department looks at the entire operation – not just the aircraft – when preparing for winter operations.

“We are a standalone operation, and our employees perform all ramp activities, including deicing. We maintain a Type I deice truck, as well as several Type IV dispensing rigs attached to scissor lifts,” he explained.

“Our focus in late summer and early fall is on training, so our crews can complete in-house deice training covering regulations, deice operations and other site-specific procedures,” continued Mursko.

“We will also service our deicing equipment and test the quality of the Type I and Type IV products we use to ensure they meet manufacturer specifications.”

Stodolski said his flight department’s pilots and maintenance technicians also undergo extensive training each year in order to be ready for whatever winter weather may bring.

“I’ve got to give kudos to our pilot group, as every year around September they have what is essentially a safety standdown where they meet to discuss cold weather operations,” said Stodolski. “This gets them into the mindset that it will soon no longer be 80 degrees and sunny on the ramp.

“They review published deicing procedures and look at what the OEMs require,” continued Stodolski.

“They even discuss what to do to prepare the aircraft if it has to be parked outside in the freezing cold overnight at a destination,” added Stodolski. “This recurrent training helps us maintain a high level of safety.”

Once winter weather arrives, Stodolski noted that having maintenance personnel maintain constant communication with flight crews about the health of the aircraft keeps everyone in the flight department on the same page, which minimizes the challenges of operating in inclement weather.

In the final analysis, Mursko said preparing for winter operations is really all about effectively managing risk, and, if properly prepared, winter operations should not have a significant impact on normal flight operations.

Review NBAA’s winter weather resources here. (And, be sure to check out Neil Singer’s presentation about Winter Ground Operations and Runway Performance at the CJP 2021 Annual Convention in Indian Wells!)