My long-suffering family, friends, and colleagues have all acquired eye-rolling familiarity with the “Susan-hates-winter” grousing that erupts as predictably as the change of seasons each year. I grumble at wearing coats. I shiver pathetically in the icy winds. I don’t find any beauty at all in that stuff called s-n-o-w — an ugly four-letter word that brings discomfort, danger, and all kinds of inconvenience.
I take hope in years when the venerable Farmer’s Almanac predicts a mild winter. Just to be on the safe side, I dust off my annual “Petition to Abolish Winter” and badger people to sign on. Sadly, Mother Nature has so far refused to entertain weather petitions of any kind. But I am nothing if not persistent.
Winter wuss that I am, the opening “Fly, Flee, or Fold” article in this issue of FAA Safety Briefing had particular resonance with me. Since there may be kindred spirits out there, allow me to share thoughts and practices for each of the three options.
Winter weather makes me grumpy, but not flying makes me really grumpy. There was a time when I was like the proverbial postman: neither rain, nor snow, nor howling winds could keep me from my appointed rounds with whatever airplane I had arranged to fly that day. I have deeply ingrained memories of the numerous days when I suffered through painful preflight inspections, and shivered still more once aloft. Unfortunately, GA aircraft heating arrangements like those in the older models I mostly flew back then are not very robust. The Starbucks outlet nearest my home airport made a fortune off my post-flight debriefing sessions.
No more. Even before I hit the half-century mark, I had already decided I was too old for unnecessary suffering. GA flying is supposed to be fun and, given how costly this particular brand of fun can be, I’m no longer willing to pay lots of money to be miserably uncomfortable. My solution is to keep a sharp lookout for winter days congenial to GA flying (i.e., clear, not too cold or windy) and schedule my flying accordingly.
My twist on flying south for the winter is to make frequent airline flights to the American southwest. Nothing makes me smile more broadly than marching off the Sky Harbor Airport jet bridge into the warm winter sunshine of my adopted home state, Arizona. One of the many advantages of Arizona is that “flee” and “fly” are not exclusive. On the contrary, the world-famous nice winter weather in the southwest makes it a mecca for flight training, and I’ve indulged in a variety of flying opportunities on my various visits. In addition to completing a standard aircraft checkout at the local flight school, I’ve used my Arizona time for sessions of highly-specialized flight training (e.g., upset recovery training and formation flight training). If you’re among those who flee to a more congenial climate, check out the flight schools in warmer climates. You can use the time to keep your skills sharp, to explore new territory, and to learn new skills.
On those unpleasant winter days when I can’t fly and I haven’t made arrangements to flee, I cue the Kenny Rogers song about knowing when to fold `em. But folding doesn’t mean you have to sit by the television. On the contrary, dreary winter weather can offer great opportunities to sharpen the mental skills associated with flying. You can study for a new certificate or rating. You can refresh your knowledge of forgotten techniques and procedures. In my case, I (re)learn a lot from seasonal scans of publications like the Instrument Procedures Handbook, and there’s no shortage of new material coming online – literally. You can take free courses for WINGS credit on FAASafety.gov, or the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s website.
Another option for “folding” time is to “fly” an aviation training device. These sessions allow you to keep existing skills sharp, to learn new ones, and to practice abnormal and emergency situations in ways you could never safely accomplish in a real airplane.
Last, but not least, you can use the dreary weather “fold `em” time to indulge in any of the many wonderful books about the art, science, poetry, and magic of our favorite activity. If you need a starter reading list, try anything by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Richard Bach, Ernie Gann, Beryl Markham, and Antoine de St-Exupery. By the time you’re done, we’ll also be done with winter. (FAA Safety Briefing – NovDec 2014)