Out with Dwayne
The Places You'll Go
Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
Ice Man Cometh
the time nears for the US to set it's collective clocks back to
standard time, the country's pilot's who fly in the upper three
quarters of the US should be converting from a summer to a
winter mindset. Those who ply the winter skies know that engine
preheats, numbing preflights, done while skidding around the
airplane on a slippery ramp, and boosting recalcitrant engines,
will be facts of flight during this season.
While for the
last several years my winters have been thankfully spent where
ice is something you make sure you have plenty of before a
party, I have enough memories of my frigid flying days to last a
lifetime. Strangely, out of the many winter flying hours spent
on instruments in cloud, my recollections of winter flying that
I would classify as unpleasant almost all took place on the
ground, or in the very early stages of flight, before entering
The winter's ice and snow covering the ramp makes
every step a potential fall and makes moving an aircraft by hand
an opportunity for a YouTube video. I can't count the number of
times I have ended up on my back or worse, on my back under the
airplane I was attempting to pull with a tow bar.
have always hated cold weather. The very act of having to bundle
up like Ralphie in 'The Christmas Story' irritates me before I
ever get out the door. I resent the fuss and bother of multiple
layers restricting my movements and the aggravation of actually
putting on all the various items that are supposed to keep you
warm, seems worse to me than being cold, at least while I'm
still inside and warm. As a consequence, I don't wear enough and
I am usually cold all winter, and when I'm cold I'm grumpy.
there is also the ice that waits in the sky and this ice can be
way more dangerous than a fall on a slippery ramp. It starts as
a faint line on the leading edge of your wing that you notice in
the dim gloom of the gray that surrounds you, forming it seems
out of nothing and growing by the minute, sometimes by the
General aviation aircraft are at most, equipped
to safely experience airframe icing only long enough to get out
of it. Even with the Known Icing options, most aircraft cannot
sustain even moderate icing indefinitely. The five years that I
spent as a Multiengine Demonstration Pilot for Cessna, based in
the Northeast allowed me to experience plenty of airframe icing.
Winter didn't slow the requests for demo flights nor the
necessary traveling of my territory, and about the only
cancellations I made were when the destination airport had
closed because of snow accumulation or by going below minimums.
Flying the well equipped, (for the time) Known Icing
Approved airplanes allowed me to dabble cautiously in the ice,
seeking altitudes and locations where the accumulation would
stop or slow to acceptable levels, and in those five years and
hundred of hours of winter flying, I don't remember an occasion
of high pucker factor.
I do remember one January
approach at Portland Maine, when the icing was reported as
severe, but the cloud deck was relatively low. I decided that
with the deicing going I could safely make the approach for the
short time I would be getting ice. It worked out well, but I
remember being unable to open the cabin door of the 421, until
the ground crew came and chipped me out. Over three inches of
ice projected from the spinners of the airplane.
another winter flight, I was flying a 414 from Morristown, NJ to
Latrobe, PA, when the right engine began to lose oil pressure.
As usual, flying the pressurized twins had allowed me to be on
top of the clouds, and when the pressure left the green I
decided to shut the engine down to avoid damage and land at
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. With the engine caged, I entered the
clouds at seven thousand feet and immediately started gathering
ice. The approach and landing went fine, but I still remember
the unusual sight of the feathered prop blades growing crowns of
As I said, the two times that ice really got my
attention (code for scared me silly) didn't involve accumulating
ice in flight, but was caused by ice on the airframe that was
there when the flight began. I know, I know, you don't leave the
ground with ice on the airframe, but I was young and had only
READ this, not experienced it. I have found there is a great
void of understanding be-tween the two, especially for young
I was flying an early high-gear 182, in fact
one of the very first, when Cessna simply moved the main gear
back on a 180, added a nose wheel and voila, created the 182. I
had accumulated maybe 500 hours, had a Commerical license, but
no instrument rating and of all things, pos-sessed a Part 135
certificate that said I could take people's money for flying
them places, as long as the sun was shining.
customer, who was also one of my flying students (great lesson
for my student here) was scheduled for an evening meeting in the
little midwestern town, so we arrived late the pre-ceding
afternoon and stayed over.
The early spring
temperature was freezing when we arrived at the airport about 7
AM the next morning and the airplane had a layer of frost on the
upper surfaces. I knew enough to remove the frost, but it had
rained the night before and droplets of water were also adhered
to the wings and tail. We easily removed the frost by sawing a
rope across the surfaces, but the frozen droplets were unmoved.
story short, I flew anyway and scared myself into the following
week. By the hardest efforts of both the airplane and I, we
managed to struggle back to the runway we had just departed.
Lesson learned; do not fly if there is ANYTHING adhering to your
aircraft. And I never did again, at least not knowingly, and yes
there is one more story about ice here.
to a winter morning when I was working for Cessna. I had just
preflighted the 340 I was taking that day and was removing the
previous night's inch or so of slushy snow from the wings of the
airplane. The temperature had risen above freezing so just one
push on the snow at the leading edge of the wing would send that
section of snow sliding off the trailing edge like an avalanche.
Clearing the wings was short work, but the tail on the 340 sits
high and proud and without a ladder I could only reach the front
foot or so of the top of the horizontal stabilizer. But, I
thought, since the snow was melting, the air from the props on
takeoff would make short work of the slush on the tail, wouldn't
It was an assumption that almost killed me. It
turned out that there was a 3 or 4 degree difference in
temperature from the low area where the FBO sat, and the end of
runway 18. The slush did not slide, it refroze.
never flown anything that wanted to remain on the ground as
badly as that airplane did. Disbelief stayed me from aborting
when I should have, and finally it was fly or die at the end of
the runway. The airplane left the ground at 120 knots and
started a grudging 200 fpm climb while feeling laterally as
though it was balanced on a beach ball. When the airspeed
reached 125 I retracted the gear, hoping that it didn't upset
the fragile aeronautical balance I had. The airplane didn't fly
any worse, and once clean, the rate of climb grew to 500 fpm. I
gave my Creator thanks that this would not be the day that I
would die, and promised myself then and there that I would never
again take an airplane into the air without being positive it
was squeaky clean.
forty years later, I've never broken that promise.