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Tips For Winter Ops

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With regards to the battery, an automotive battery blanket works well at any temp's I've run into. I know that if I'm ever in doubt of the camp genny or a circuit breaker popping the best thing to do is pull the battery right out, (you can put it right into your sleeping bag if you like).


We used to fly around in the winter with a garden sprayer of isopropyl alcohol and the winter covers - just in case. Check with your engineer on where it's safe to use the alcohol. Intake plenum may be bad. I saw a set of blades once that had been deiced with the survival axe, also bad.


Good question for this time of year. The important thing to keep in mind while stooging around in the Canadian winter is just how uncomfortable it'll be spending a night in the bush if your not prepared.



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To diminish the effects of the "snowball" try coming into a higher than normal hover-about 15 feet-and working your down very slowly to blow all the loose snow away. Never ever lose sight of your reference whether it be a flagging stake, a tree or a wellhead. Upon landing a gentle touchdown and a very gradual lowering of the collect as you never know what may be lurking unseen under the snow to punch through your belly. Once on the ground do a very good seating check-try moving the cyclic slightly as well throughout the seating check. If you are using the same sight repeatedly over the course of the day land in the skid gear marks that you left before as you know it is safe and it is good practice. Try not to have anyone walk directly beside the skid gear as I have had a machine that sat quite nicely for a period of time sink on one side with people continually going back to get something out of the baggage box. Make sure your heater works-the time to check is not 87 miles west of Rainbow Lake in -30C and yes that is from experience. Enjoy your winter and fly safely.

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Window covers = not good. Put a small car heater in the cockpit if the weather is clear. Do not put any heater in there if it is snowing. You will create a messy ice ball. In clear weather, the heater will keep the windows frost free. A cover will just scratch your windows up pretty bad over the whole winter.


Blade covers = good if you are expecting melting, freezing, icing etc. I never usually bother with blade covers if it is really cold and you will only see frost. Normal frost comes off the blades right away at start up. If you are in doubt though, it is always safer to just put them on than to not. If you are a keener, just put them on all the time and eliminate that 1% chance when you will guess wrong.


Battery = battery blanket if you have reliable power. Remove it and take it with you if you don't have reliable power. This is only really necessary if it is very cold. -15 or below depending on the quality/condition of your battery. This can be a huge pain. (If you ever yanked a B205 battery every night, then you know what I mean.)


With the mediums, we would plug a battery blanket in if we could or remover the battery if there was no power. We would just run a Herman for an hour or so on the engine, tranny, and cockpit in the mornings. This works great but requires getting up fairly early. My latest job, flying a 407, they had a TANIS heating system installed. I can't say enough about how nice these setups are. You plug in one cord and the whole aircraft stays warm even up to -45C. Greatest winter tool ever.


As for de-icing. Warm windshield washer fluid in a spray bottle works great. The -40 stuff is the best. If you did all the stuff right with your covers, you hopefully will not need this step though.


As for landing in possible whiteout conditions, this should be trained extensively at any company that conducts winter ops.


The techniques that have served me well over the years are these:


-Always expect a whiteout if there is alot of snow. If you expect it, it won't bite you in the ***.


-Always pick a spot to land by the treeline or some other dark reference object. perform a good no hover landing and be sure of the slope before hand. Keep your eyes focused on your reference point and don't over shoot it.


-Never ever, ever roll off the power if you don't have to. If you have to shut down then seat that thing very well and pound it down to the belly if you can. I have watched a jetranger roll over 100 feet in front of me once because the pilot thought he was on a solid layer of snow and decided to roll to an idle to wait for his passenger. You can't be too paranoid about this kind of thing. It's like landing on log pads. Don't trust your seating! If you aren't on concrete or solid ground, keep it at 100%.


- When you depart, don't screw around. As soon as your clearing check is complete and you know you aren't snagged, go up and out of the snow ball as quick as possible. White out is your enemy.


- A general rule of thumb with icing is if it is below zero and foggy, your blades are icing up. This is almost always true so don't screw around with fog. There are so many factors involved with this and you won't see a big performance loss until the last 2 feet or so of blades get the ice. It builds up from the center out. You need that whole inner disc to autorotate.



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All exellent points...I would like to add that having put the covers on or not, Try and make sure that you leave yourself enough time to get the machine ready in case you have "guessed wrong" (Covers frozen to the blades or maybe no covers and a crusty snow layer on machine). Also, Be VERY careful coming up on the first flight of the day. Obviously you should be careful all the time, but I have witnessed some VERY hairy close calls because the skids were still glued down. I like to do sort of a modified seating check to ensure the skids are freed up before lifting off if I suspect the skids are frozen to the ground (I hope that makes sense). Anyway, have a great winter all. Fly safe.

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At weather conditions down to about -5, where it is possible to get freezing rain, do not put blade covers on. You won't get them off.


In that situation, what I do is grab a pail of hot water.

With a sponge, soak up some hot water, squeeze it on the blade to temporarily melt any snow or frost build up, then wipe it off with the sponge before it freezes up again.

Then wipe dry with a clean rag.


Go down each blade with this process, repeat for each blade.


If it's colder and no chance of freezing rain, install blade covers.


I will also squeeze some of the hot water from the sponge onto the windshield, then wipe it off quickly before it freezes up again.

You will have a spotless windshield in freezing weather.


Keep in mind, the water can only be as hot as your hand can withstand. If it's too hot for your hand, you can crack a windshield.


I tend to take the battery out.

On an A-Star, put it on the transmission deck beside the oil tank. Put a buddy heater overnight keeps the oil tank and the battery from freezing.

Extremely cold weather, we use a 'Condor' heater that runs off jet fuel. Up to 3 outlets, one for engine, one in transmission, one in cockpit, aimed at the cyclic stick.

Plugs into an electrical outlet, also runs off a Honda generator. (If you're going to be in camp for any great length of time.)

15 minutes of preheat and the aircraft is toasty.

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