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General Aviation Winter Flying Tips - How To Keep Your Engine and Yourself Warm!

Updated: Jan 14, 2023


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Winter flying can bring some of the smoothest flying weather and can be pleasant to fly if you are well prepared. The airplane performance is also better during winter thanks to the lower density altitude that comes with the colder temperatures.

However winter VFR flying needs some special considerations to keep the plane and yourself warm.


Rotax Aircraft Engine Pre-Heaters

First, let's talk about keeping the aircraft engine warm. Cold engine starts can cause damage to the engine over time. Whether you are renting from a flight school or have your own aircraft, pre-heating is recommended to keep one of the most important components of your aircraft as healthy as possible.

Here are 3 Engine heaters we use or have used in our flight schools. For all the 3 systems mentioned below, it is recommended to place an insulated blanked over the cowling and heat the engine for a few hours.

1. Tanis Aircraft Engine Heaters

Tanis Aircraft Products makes pre-heaters for a variety of engines. Tanis heaters , relatively speaking, are more expensive compared to the other options mentioned below. This Rotax 912/914 Engine Pre-heater is a multi-point configuration heater.

Here is a product review video from Rotax Owner describing how the Tanis heater works on the Rotax engine.

2. Reiff Engine Heater

Reiff Preheat Systems is a lower priced engine pre-heater. The Reiff heater does not have attachments on the cylinders as the Tanis heater. Nonetheless, engine starts have been easy using this pre-heater. I have used this heater on an aircraft stored in an un-insulated hangar and have had no issues. As mentioned, a blanket over the cowling is strongly recommended.

3. Hornet Aircraft Heaters

If you are looking for somewhat of a portable solution that is not tied to one plane, Hornet Aircraft heaters are a great for this purpose. This is a solid and safe heater and designed specifically for aviation use.

This aircraft claims to be

  • Certified for use in areas containing combustible gases

  • Fireproof

  • Certified IPX7 - Waterproof

  • Self temperature regulating heating modules

  • Specially engineered to safely heat high value assets

I use this heater regularly for our flight school planes on Rotax engines and can see it is well build and certainly does the job.


Keeping Yourself Warm In the Cockpit

Another challenge with winter flying is keeping yourself and your hands and feet adequately warm. Here are a few methods I use to stay warm:

  • Wear Layers: Simple, but effective. Wearing 2-4 layers on both the legs and upper body can really help fight the chill.

  • Mini-Hot Water Bottles: If you have the luxury of heating up water before flying, filling up the small hot water bottle and putting it inside your winter jacket will definitely keep you comfortable for a couple of hours

  • Grabber Hand Warmers: These mini hand-warmers are great to keep in the pocket and warm up your hands when needed. These little warmers last for several hours so 1 pack will last an entire day. A caution however against using Toe-Warmers made by the same company. The chemical reaction occasionally gets too hot in the shoes and it is not easy to take them off in flight. For this reason, I stopped using the toe warmers but the hand warmers work great

  • Heated Jackets: Although I have yet to try one of these, I have been tempted to purchase a heated jacket to try it out. Definitely on the never ending list of flying toys to purchase

If you have any other tips to share, please leave comments below!

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