Every flying season has its own set of pros and cons, but winter is a spectacularly unique time to fly. With higher performing aircraft, better visibility and gorgeous views of the landscape from above, among other things, you’re bound to enjoy a cold weather flying experience. In fact, flying in winter can be even more enjoyable than flying during summer — even if it is a little bit chilly outside.
So in the spirit of the season, here are six reasons why flying in the winter beats flying in the summer. Let’s get started!
1) Quicker Climbs, Faster Takeoffs
Colder, denser air improves both airlift and engine performance, meaning the aircraft gets more power. With more air getting into the cylinders, and a greater mass of fuel/air mixture, a plane can accelerate more quickly upon take off. You will notice that the plane has increased climb rate, reduced take-off roll, more lift (for the wings), and the plane is able to take off even when the ground speed is low. The propeller bites into the denser cold air. The greater air mass is thrust backward. This leads to more power and thrust. When the plane has more power, it can quickly accelerate upon take off.
2) Take Advantage of the Jet Stream
During the winter, there are strong winds that drive the jet stream south from Canada, bringing higher speeds to those aircraft operating above 10,000 feet. Pilots flying east may still add an extra 30 knots or so to their speed at the bottom two miles of sky, while pilots flying west can often mitigate the effect of headwinds by operating at the lowest possible height.
3) Visibility is Better
Visibility is drastically improved In winter (as long as you’re not flying through a snowstorm, of course), typically much better than the hazy days of summer thanks to lower humidity. In fact, much of the time, you’ll be greeted by clear air, sunshine and little to no clouds, even if it’s a tad cold. If you want to be able to see for miles from the cockpit, winter is the perfect time to fly.
4) Unique Beauty from Above
As visibility increases, so does your ability to take in the scenery from above. There’s nothing as breathtaking as flying on a clear winter day, where the earth seems to be endless. Every time you take your plane out for a flight during winter, you’ll be impressed with the fantastic views of the dramatic snow-covered landscape.
5) Less Air Traffic
Another benefit of winter flying is less air traffic. With less traffic in the air, fewer planes landing and taking off, you’ll feel like you have the sky all to yourself, plenty of space to practice climbing, turns, stalls and barrel rolls. Plain and simple, this means less stress for you as a pilot and more enjoyable time flying.
6) Less Turbulence
When heat from land bodies radiates into cooler air, this creates the effect we know as convective heat, or turbulence. Because there is less convective heat during the winter, the cold dry air contains less turbulence. During summer, there are more pockets of hot air closer to the ground that escapes to higher altitudes, causing bumpiness during flight. And, because of climate change, there is increasingly more heat throughout the year. Therefore, winter is normally the best time to fly in order to avoid bumpy air. Plus, with reduced convective activity, there is a lesser chance of thunderstorms, so if winds are low, then flights are usually much smoother.
Enjoy Your Winter Flying Experience!
Flying during winter can be just as enjoyable, if not more so, than flying during summer. You’re bound to enjoy a number of benefits, from improved aircraft performance to less air traffic to fewer planes in the sky and beyond. Enjoy your winter flying experience!
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