HowardDeeversIce is for Drinks!

Howard Deevers

Winter flying in Arizona is much easier than in the upper Mid West, most of the time. How many times have you heard, "When it's bad in Arizona, it's REALLY bad?" True enough. We need to be alert to possible icing conditions, even in Arizona.

In February I had the pleasure of bringing a Cessna Turbo 182 from Vermont to Tucson. The plane was only 4 miles south of the Canadian border. Cold? You can bet on that! And getting there from Tucson was as much of a challenge as getting back. The major snow storm that halted travel in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and much of the northeast was right in the way. Fortunately, Delta Airlines did not cancel our flight from Atlanta to Boston. It was snowing pretty hard in Boston when I arrived. I then continued on by changing planes to get to Plattsburg, NY. Of course, the plane had to be "de-iced" before departing from Boston.

The storm did not affect much north of Boston, and was off shore by the next day. It was cold in upper Vermont. There had been snow in the area, and doing the run up before takeoff was tricky because the ramp was still slightly snow covered and the plane wanted to skid around with the high RPM, but we got the job done and completed the check list. After takeoff the oil temperature seemed to be too high, so we returned and had a discussion with the mechanics there. Two hours later we decided to go ahead and just keep track of the temperature.

The oil temperature did stay just below the red line, and we continued south toward Albany, NY, direct to Akron/Canton Airport in Ohio, arriving just after sunset. We stayed overnight with my son that lives very close to the airport. The next morning we added one passenger to our flight plan, my son, and headed toward Nashville, TN. The day was clear, but very cold, and the aftermath of that storm was evident as we traveled south. Headwinds were very strong along the route at 6000 feet, and even stronger at higher altitudes.

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After a brief fuel stop in Nashville, we filed an IFR flight plan to Texarkana at 6000 feet again. This time we were in IMC at 6000, so I asked for 8000 hoping to be on top. Again the headwinds were the biggest problem, and at 8000 we were at the freezing level, in and out of the tops. With the strong headwinds also came some turbulence and occasional ice in the clouds. At one point the windscreen iced over, but after getting out of the clouds it cleared up quickly also. A quick calculation showed that making Texarkana with adequate fuel reserves was not likely, so we diverted to Little Rock, Arkansas. Ground speeds were only 80 knots most of the time. After crossing the Mississippi River, things improved, but the headwinds were still there. We landed just after sunset in Little Rock and stayed the night there.

If you have never experienced ice on your plane, you might not know why I say, "Ice is for drinks." I have had serious ice on a plane at least 3 times in the past, and did not want to have that happen again. This ice was minor, and went away quickly. However, had it not gone away, I would have declared an emergency and gone to the nearest airport to get out of it. Ice is for drinks, not for airplanes.

Departure from Little Rock was clear and not so cold. The headwinds had also moved away, and we made it to Abilene, TX. Looking at the weather in Western Texas, we decide not to attempt any further travel to the west. The next morning I checked the weather carefully, again. Midland, TX, was low IFR with fog and freezing fog. South of there was snow, but north of Midland looked pretty clear, so we flew around the weather to El Paso for a fuel stop. Western Texas and New Mexico can be a mix of cold weather, freezing rain, and even snow. You would think that being this far south the weather would be very nice, but it's not always the case.

El Paso was warm, and so was the rest of the route to Marana NW Regional Airport, our final destination. After slow travel over the Mid West, we got a small pay back with some good tailwinds from El Paso and no more ice.

When learning instrument flying many years ago, I had some good instructors that were very proficient on weather as well. I have been surprised more than once by icing that was unexpected. After getting ice on the plane enough to require deviation to an alternate airport, or to warmer weather to get out of the ice, I am very cautious. Ice is for drinks, not for airplanes.

To learn more about weather look for an ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION weather seminar near your location. The APA and the FAASTeam do safety seminars somewhere in the State every month. Check the website for locations and subjects. And, don't forget to "bring your wingman!"

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