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Maintenance: Preparing for Winter Operations

Geography is an important factor in preparing business aircraft for winter operations because it predicts the nature and magnitude of seasonal challenges.

“When we are at home base, it’s easy: put the airplanes in the hangar to keep the ice and snow off of them. On the road, it’s a different story,” said Greg Hamelink, chief of maintenance and ground operations for Stryker Corp. in Kalamazoo, MI, downwind from the snow machine that is Lake Michigan.

Staying ahead of Mother Nature is essential. Too much snow on an airplane’s horizontal stabilizer and aft fuselage will put almost any airplane with a tricycle landing gear on its tail, added Hamelink.

Facing a snow event in Denver, “we moved the airplane to a different airport not too far away that had hangar space,” said Hamelink. But sometimes there’s no time to get ahead of the weather, as was the case not long ago with an ice storm in Dallas, when area airports ran out of deicing fluid.

Crews should look beyond the galley and aircraft fluid systems when preparing for freezing temperatures, Hamelink noted, starting with onboard medical kits, which can contain temperature-sensitive items.

“It is important not to forget to close the drains on the ice drawers, as they will continue to drain water that will freeze in the drain lines.”

Chris Behn CAM, Manager of Global Aviation Maintenance, Deere & Company Aviation

Thorough winter preparations should include discussions with flight crews on what should be removed from the aircraft when it remains outside overnight, and a process should be in place to ensure that these items are on board before departure.

Blair Diamond, chief inspector for Amway Aviation in Grand Rapids, MI, begins preparing for winter in September by looking for any revisions to the FAA-approved deicing programs and the current FAA holdover-time guidelines.

“Once I have that information,” explained Diamond, “I update our winter operations manual and get it out to all the technicians and pilots,” who load it onto their iPads. In addition, all the techs undergo in-house classroom/PowerPoint refresher training that concludes with a multiple-choice exam.

After inventorying the Type I and Type 4 deice and anti-ice fluid in the hangar, Diamond tests these fluids and sends samples to the manufacturer to make sure they are up to specifications. He also distributes deicer application and receiving logs in which the technicians record how much fluid is being applied.

“I tally up the total amounts each month to survey our inventory and for the airport’s environmental reports,” said Diamond.

Based at Illinois’ Quad Cities Airport, Deere & Company Aviation begins its winter preparations in October with a winter operations course for its maintenance and flight crews, said Chris Behn, CAM, manager of global aviation maintenance.

“It establishes cold weather mindset and reviews the procedures” for the airplane’s potable water (including purging) and other fluids that can freeze after reaching their destinations, said Behn. “It is important not to forget to close the drains on the ice drawers, as they will continue to drain water that will freeze in the drain lines. We [also] stock the airplanes with collapsible crates for taking galley supplies into the FBO.”

The winter preflight briefing looks at the destination weather and the need to purge and remove items from the airplane, Behn added. “If we encounter something unusual on a flight that is a hazard, we document it with a safety report, which is the first step in sharing information and mitigating a recurrence.”

Review NBAA’s other winter prep resources at

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