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Operations

Prepare Now for Winter Operations

Rich Boll, chair of the NBAA Access Committee Flight Technology Working Group, believes that operators should not wait until October or November to start preparing for winter operations. He remembers the year he flew to Casper, WY the week after Labor Day and encountered eight inches of snow upon arrival.

Boll recommends that pilots should start their winter preparations now by watching NBAA’s Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) videos (nbaa.org/talpa) to refresh their winter mindset.

“Pilots should also review the Runway Condition Assessment Matrix and know how to assess runway contamination based on its runway condition codes, which range from 0 to 6,” said Boll. Pilots who fly aircraft whose manufacturer has not provided TALPA-compliant performance data can find the correction factors in two FAA documents: (1) SAFO 19001, Landing Performance Assessment at Time of Arrival and (2) SAFO 19003, Turbojet Braking Performance on Wet Runways.

Also, “pilots should review their approved flight manuals for any limitations and performance implications of deicing or anti-icing systems,” said Dan Ramirez, a member of the NBAA Safety Committee. Ramirez led a team that updated the NBAA Training Guidelines for Single-Pilot Operations of Very Light Jets and Technically Advanced Aircraft this past year to address findings from a business aviation accident investigation.

“Icing contamination often awaits jets at altitude, which means they are always potentially facing winter ops,” noted Ramirez. “Pilots must have a thorough understanding of how aircraft systems work – and when they are required – no matter the season or operating environment.”

In August, aviators should start looking on the FAA’s website (faa.gov) for the new holdover-time guidelines. The agency’s Flight Standards Service typically issues updated winter icing and anti-icing guidance during that month.

“It lists all the changes in holdover timetables, fluids and new procedures,” explained Boll. Also, Part 135 and 91K operators with an approved deicing program should “make sure it’s up to current standards and the crews are up to speed.”

Ramirez believes that regardless of what aircraft they fly, all pilots need to exceed the regulatory minimums and pursue knowledge and scenario-based training that enhances the practice of their aeronautical decision-making and threat and error management skills.

“Pilots must have a baseline understanding of weather and aircraft systems, and they must update it annually because, like holdover times, things change every year.”

DAN RAMIREZ Member, NBAA Safety Committee

“Pilots must have a baseline understanding of weather and aircraft systems, and they must update it annually because, like holdover times, things change every year,” Ramirez explained. This should include a new list of personal minimums and performance parameters. Before a flight during which runway contamination may be a factor is often the best time to assess the impact of aircraft performance and develop a Plan B.

These are not the only details pilots should review before flight, said Ramirez. “Pilots visually check the tires before flight, but appropriate tire pressure is critical to minimize the potential for hydroplaning. In a number of winter accidents, the tire pressure was over or under what the manufacturer recommended.”

“Finally, pilots should review cold-temperature-restricted airport operations procedures, which are published in the Aeronautical Information Manual,” said Boll.

If applicable, business aircraft tenants should be familiar with their home airport’s snow and ice control plans, suggested Brian Lewis, director of operations at Colorado’s Centennial Airport, recipient of the 2019-2020 Balchen/Post Award for excellence in airport snow and ice control. “Reach out to the airport operations department to discuss any changes to the snow and ice removal plan from the previous year.”

At many airports, FBOs are responsible for clearing ramp areas, and “some airports have only a single connector between the tenant hangars and the taxiway,” noted Lewis, so aircraft operators need to coordinate with the responsible staff to make sure the way is clear when they need to depart or arrive.

Winter storms can last for days, said Darren Large, Morristown (NJ) Municipal Airport’s director of facilities and operations, so he urges operators to work with airport officials to make sure access is possible in severe conditions.

“We’re a 24/7 airport with a 15-person snow removal crew,” said Large. “With the need for crew rest, managing a multiday [winter weather] event can be complex. With few overnight flights, running 24-hour snow-removal operations isn’t always feasible. If you don’t need to operate between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., please work with us so our crew can rest. But if you need to operate, coordinate with the airport and we’ll make it happen. We also appreciate all pilot braking-action reports because they indicate trends and help us plan on whether we need to plow, broom or put chemical down.”

Both Lewis and Large urge transient flights to keep current on NOTAMs, and to call the airport operations office for updates and real-time recommendations during winter weather.

“I can tell a pilot that I can get the airplane to its hangar,” said Large, “but I can also tell the pilot that everyone will be lucky to get much farther because outside the airport no one can keep up with the snowfall.”

Review NBAA’s winter weather resources at nbaa.org/weather.

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