The following stories from the January 22, 2010, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.
How many ice hazards do you guard against when preflighting your aircraft in winter? One hazard may catch your eye as soon as you approach the tiedowns: frost. You know that even the tiniest bit of frost must be removed before flight because it can kill lift and render your aircraft unflyable, as discussed in the Jan. 17, 2003, “ Training Tip: Frosty the no-go man.”
Another potential ice hazard may be visible on the ground. Snow from ramps and taxiways can melt and refreeze on aircraft brakes. Taxi slowly and brake sparingly. Is your aircraft really prepared for the snowy conditions? “If winter weather brings snow and ice to your region, remove your airplane's wheelpants in the fall. Wheelpants can pack with snow and then lock up one or all wheels,” wrote Steven W. Ells in the December 2000 AOPA Pilot “ Airframe and Powerplant” column. “Wheelpants prevent a thorough preflight inspection, and when the brakes freeze after taxiing in snow and ice, the pants make it very difficult to break the wheels loose.”
Another ice hazard may be stealthier, but its effects won’t be. That’s ice that has found its way into your pitot-static system. The typical case is ice plugging the pitot tube, rendering the airspeed indicator inoperative. Combating this is part preflight, part accident-prevention training as described in the July 1999 AOPA Flight Training feature “ The blocked pitot exercise.” (In warm weather, another obstruction, such as an insect, could cause the same problem.)
Below-freezing temperatures require that you approach your fuel contamination checks with a different mindset. “Sometimes, ice in the fuel system can cause more problems than water. Ice crystals can block a fuel filter, and water in a fuel system has been known to freeze a fuel selector valve in one position. If water freezes in a fuel tank, you may draw a perfectly good fuel sample, but after the ice thaws, you might still find water in your fuel,” explained “ Checking fuel samples” on AOPA Flight Training Online. Among the page’s helpful pointers is this precaution: “If you expect the weather to turn cold, sump the tanks before the mercury hits the freezing mark.”
Ice—don’t let it slip you up during winter flying!
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Question: I have been a private pilot for about a year now. I was flipping through my logbook and realized I had forgotten to log a few flights. Will this be a problem?
Answer: The FAA only requires you to log flight time as proof of currency or to meet the hour requirements for an additional certificate or rating. You are under no obligation to record all of your flight time. Logging all of your flight time is recommended if you plan to make a career out of flying, or need to qualify for insurance minimums. Check out our subject report, Logbooks and Logging Time.
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.