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Thread: How cold is too cold?

  1. #1
    SchulerJL's Avatar
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    How cold is too cold?

    Getting "cold" here in Central Illinois this weekend, 5 Degrees Fahrenheit. Outside of the human factors - getting physically cold, what about the mechanical factors? Shock cooling, breather pipe freezing etc. How cold is it before you just leave it in the hangar and watch You Tubes of Supercubs? Love to hear form the Alaska/Canada members on this topic. I searched the threads and did not find anything on will not fly colder than... And how you change your power manipulation to accommodate for the low temps.

  2. #2
    Dave Calkins's Avatar
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    I would say "is there an inversion with much higher temps at your cruising altitude?"

    if so, -40 (F or C) is my cutoff.

    Obviously, getting the plane ready at 49 below can be miserable, but if you gotta go and it will be minus 15F at cruise altitude, it is doable.

    Have done it in that weather only a handful of times. Gentle power application and reduction, gentle landings and takeoff.

    AND , try not to spill your thermos once setup in cruise!! Ask me how I know!

  3. #3

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    I have a hanger so my plane is warm and dry when I get to it. My coldest overnight was in McGrath. -29 the next morning I had plane plugged in with covers on it. Oil temp was around 80 degrees. I took battery in for the night so it was warm, started fine. I did add some carb heat on takeoff roll and it did help add some power. Warmed up a bit at 500 agl did not need carb heat for rest of flight. My heater/defrost works good. When I am out for the if it is around zero and I stop for more than an hour I throw on the engine cover it will stay warm sor several hours. Other than block oil cooler don't do much special stuff do to cold weather
    DENNY
    Last edited by DENNY; 01-04-2017 at 06:57 PM.

  4. #4
    mvivion's Avatar
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    My cutoff for most personal flying has varied from -10F to nowadays around zero F. I've worked airplanes where our cutoff was -40, and flew a fair amount that cold, and a time or two some colder.

    When it gets that cold, things don't always work the same as at warmer....including us humans. Airplanes, properly set up and operated intelligently, do okay there.

    But, trust me, flying isn't much fun at those temps. Preflight and post flights tend to get shorter and less comprehensive. An off airport landing at those temps can mean a serious survival situation...I've slept out at -40, and it's no fun. One minor mistake at those temps can be life threatening.

    My current plane has a wimpy heater, so zero is plenty cold for me these days.

    Cover your oil cooler, preheat the engine, make sure your muffler and shroud was checked for leaks at annual, and dress for the weather, carry survival gear and you'll enjoy winter at above zero temps.

    MTV

  5. #5
    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post

    My current plane has a wimpy heater, so zero is plenty cold for me these days.

    MTV
    Mike, the 11 has a good heater, if you put the heat where you can feel it you'd be toasty



    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"

  6. #6
    Scooter7779h's Avatar
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    Real careful blow -30 but do a lot of -40. Agree with Dave usually it's a lot warmer a few hundred feet up, usually. Pilot reports help

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  7. #7
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Want heat from a Cub? Wrap the exhaust header under the heat shroud with an annealed door spring and secure with safety wire. Also install a fabric bulkhead behind the pilot or co-pilot to isolate the rear baggage. My -40 F mods for them plus an elephant hose to defrost whatever.

    GAP

  8. #8

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    I don't like doing anything in -40. If I'm flying in that temp it's because the weather turned cold overnight and I want to get home. Preflight and preheat are miserable in those temps. There's always something to do that can't be done with gloves on, not like any of us fly with gloves suitable for -40. Interior windows fog instantly when you get in. It takes a lot of prime to make it fire and more to keep it running. If everything goes well and it keeps running I sit there until oil and cylinder temps are good to push the throttle forward. Snow and ice are sticky when that cold so taxiing takes more power but lay the whip to it and the plane gets to flying speed pretty quickly with all that power and thrust from -6000 or lower DA.

    Given the choice I'll stay home when temps get below zero unless I know the weather will warm in the coming days. Day flying below zero? Naw, I'll pass.

  9. #9
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooter7779h View Post
    Real careful blow -30 but do a lot of -40. Agree with Dave usually it's a lot warmer a few hundred feet up, usually. Pilot reports help

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
    That's true particularly in the interior of Alaska. Problem is, if you have any kind of problem, guess where you'll wind up? I flew to the Yukon Flats one day to a seismic camp that was located on a big lake southwest of Birch Creek. Weather in FAI on the surface was -30. FYU was reporting -19 F. I was suspicious, but..... Took off out of FAI, climbed up into nice -20 F temperatures at altitude.

    I headed north and a bit later, I passed the White Mountains northbound in the 185 on wheel skis. The FYU AWOS still was reporting -19. I headed for one of the seismic crew's LZs that they had established on the seismic line. Arriving over the LZ, there were no aircraft there.....hmmmm. A clue, but I was clueless. So, I moved down to the next LZ....nobody there either. This outfit was operating three fixed wing and four helicopters....

    So, I proceeded to the main camp, on the ice of Chloya Lake. As I entered the pattern there, I could see all the aircraft parked on the ice. I figured they were having a meeting, or???? Anyway, I swung around to land.

    As I dropped below the trees, it was almost as if the plane had dived into water. And, the interior was almost instantly cold....

    I landed on the snow packed runway, turned around and taxied back to the parking area. I got out and it was obvious that it was really cold. Plugged the engine heater in, and threw the cover on the engine.

    I walked over to the official NWS thermometer that was mounted near the parking area.....temperature was -58 F. Lovely.

    Point is, the temperature at altitude was balmy, but you can't stay up there ALL the time.

    MTV

  10. #10
    courierguy's Avatar
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    Why don't I need windshield defrost on my exp?. Don't have it, just a single outlet by my toes, yet no fog on the inside glass, flying in 5 degrees. Plane kept in heated hangar, so I start out clear. Never been a problem.

  11. #11

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    Go park it outdoors in -40 temps for a few days. When you fly back into -18* it feels warm. Long sleeves-no coat weather!

  12. #12
    S2D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    My cutoff for most personal flying has varied from -10F to nowadays around zero F. I've worked airplanes where our cutoff was -40, and flew a fair amount that cold, and a time or two some colder.


    MTV
    I've noticed the same thing. I used to hunt at -25. now I don't even want to make that 20 ft trek from the house to the garage unless its above 0.
    I may be wrong but that probably won't stop me from arguing about it.

  13. #13

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    We don't have these discussions in the Southern states
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

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    S2D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OLDCROWE View Post
    We don't have these discussions in the Southern states
    Sure you do !! its starts out something like "do I want to go back to Montana again this winter? Lets see, the temp has been hovering between -15 to zero most of the month. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm NO !!!!!!"
    I may be wrong but that probably won't stop me from arguing about it.

  15. #15
    Scooter7779h's Avatar
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    If you follow IronDog, Iditarod, Iditasport as pilot you got to go so sitting at home is not option. Fly out of Fort Yukon and -40F is a flyable day. I don't like it as SB mentioned a lot of baggage & increased risk comes with it. -20 not so bad. No machine operation is easy below -20

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  16. #16
    Scooter7779h's Avatar
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    BTW I have 500lbs of drop bags to place at Puntilla, Rohn, Ophir and Poorman February 18-20 and be back at Rohn to check on 20th. Could use a hand for moving that ton. Avgas provided. Tall order for doing alone but going to have it all in McGrath. PM if someone wants some cold flying experience or is up for it.

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    If anyone wants to really learn to how to fly in the winter take Scooter up on his offer!!! I would pay extra to fly with him in that country any day of the week. I picked up a scar on my arm that may not let me fly by than or I would be first in line!!
    DENNY

  18. #18
    SchulerJL's Avatar
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    So what I'm hearing is; that at 5 Degrees F this weekend - no problem running the engine at that temp - just keep your butt warm.

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    As long as your carb delivers enough fuel and your muffler isn't leaking carbon monoxide into your cabin? Go find out how well your plane performs in that dense air and have some fun.

  20. #20
    SchulerJL's Avatar
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    Great advice, leave it rich and watch the CO detector. I never thought about the Idarod - lots of airplanes involved in that, and it's cold out - real cold. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    As long as your carb delivers enough fuel and your muffler isn't leaking carbon monoxide into your cabin? Go find out how well your plane performs in that dense air and have some fun.

  21. #21
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SchulerJL View Post
    So what I'm hearing is; that at 5 Degrees F this weekend - no problem running the engine at that temp - just keep your butt warm.
    And at that temp, be sure to thoroughly preheat your engine. Have fun!

    MTV

  22. #22
    spinner2's Avatar
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    I've done quite a bit of flying this winter in temps on either side of zero on skis. Working out of a hangar with electricity makes it easy to pre-heat and pre-flight check.

    It becomes a lot more work when your plane is parked outside or making an overnight trip out of it.

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    Wing covers especially become less than fun, especially if it is windy. This image was from an overnight trip last month. It was about -5º when I took this picture. Shortly afterward I pulled my covers and was getting ready to leave. Unfortunately my PC680 battery wasn't up to cranking the engine and I had to pull it and warm it for an hour. I've since added added a battery heating pad that I can plug in along with the engine heater. This is the little Honda 1000 watt generator and it is all I need for this task.
    "Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." Wyatt Earp

  23. #23
    Dave Calkins's Avatar
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    One advantage of a firewall mounted batt on Cessnas operated in winter is automatic batt preheat

    covers and preheating are a way of life in the backcountry without a hangar, just like fueling and checking oil. About 15 minites to cover up on my stopwatch.

  24. #24

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    Interesting comments about your batteries. One of my favorite features of Odyssey batteries is how well they work in the cold. The only time my battery struggles is when I haven't preheated the engine well enough to spin easily (my Reiff preheat doesn't do anything for the battery). I know it's controversial here (what isn't?) but rotating the prop a few times by hand helps with that.

  25. #25
    spinner2's Avatar
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    I didn't think there was a difference between the SBS J-16 battery and the PC680. But it was pointed out that there is, especially with cold cranking amps. The J-16 is rated at 680 hot cranking amps and 300 cold cranking amps. The PC680 is 520 hot and 170 cold. I'm going to switch to the J-16 from the PC680.

    The physical size and weight is the same for both batteries.
    "Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." Wyatt Earp

  26. #26
    slowmover's Avatar
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    At what temp do you all think about preheating batteries? I've got a 24v Concorde behind the baggage door in my 180.

  27. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by S2D View Post
    Sure you do !! its starts out something like "do I want to go back to Montana again this winter? Lets see, the temp has been hovering between -15 to zero most of the month. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm NO !!!!!!"
    You should wander South and see if anyone at Spartan rembers your hat!
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

  28. #28
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    Boys and Girls, Santa darned near froze his arse off on his Christmas, and there were some excellent suggestions given to me from some of you.

    Keeping the passenger happy...
    Tom Powell had an excellent suggestion for keeping Mrs. Claus warm in the back seat... My super cub has rear heat, which is a tube which runs to just under the aft side of the front seat. Tom suggested that the tube be stuck up inside the bottom of an old sleeping bag, so that the air inflates and warms the bag, which is wrapped around her. I was ready to try it but Mrs. Claus got cold feet (pun intended) and bailed on my for the flights...drove instead.

    Keeping the engine happy...
    It was -20 deg F, with wind 350 15-gusting to 20 knots for much of the flight on the Saturday of the flights. I had the elves put the Kennon engine cover over the engine cowling and limited my ground time to a tad over an hour at each stop.

    I modified my usual "hot start" procedure a bit. When it is zero or above I usually only crack the throttle a bit and the engine starts easily. I was given the advice to activate the starter and while the blades are turning advance the throttle to full forward, then back to the stop and then cracked. The engine started easily. I would be interested in hearing what starting tricks you fellows use in really cold weather.

    Preheating the engine...
    Speedo began an excellent thread on preheating...http://www.supercub.org/forum/showth...heat+preheater. In particular, look at the excellent comments regarding prop covers.

    I, like Dan, have the luxury of having a Tanis heater installed. However, several years ago I followed the suggestions of a thread here on Supercub.org for making a homebuilt engine preheater from an Army surplus ammo box and a MSR Whisperlite stove. I cannot find the thread from whence this idea came, but do have photos of the setup...
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    I have used this and it is amazingly efficient. The MSR stove burns avgas, so it is readily available. I know that the Red Dragon heater is well-liked by many, and there are threads here which address these.

    Keeping the pilot happy...
    Santa decided to put on his moisture-wicking polypropylene long handles on, then a pair of blue jeans, then snowmobile bibs. Winter boots completed the lower clothing ensemble. Windonhisnose suggested wearing his favorite winter coat...
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    This coat was given to Windonhisnose originally by his Department Chairman for use when he flew LifeWatch missions transporting high risk moms to the tertiary center. The hood is spacious and easily permits me to have my headset on, with the hood over it.

    Lastly, make darned sure you have a winter survival kit packed and stocked. I go through mine at the beginning of cold weather flying each year, just to make sure something hasn't been removed be meddling elves...

    I am hoping that Mrs. Claus will be willing to make the winter flights with me next year, and I am still trying to coax her into suiting up in one of those nice little Ms. Santa outfits should I get the temps up enough in the back of Santa's Super Cub...Ho, Ho, Ho!

    Santa
    Likes JohnnyR liked this post

  29. #29
    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Santa, I forgot to tell you about the pocket emergency heater, fits in your pocket as stated and is easy to activate. And it's inexpensive. All you need to do is pick up a tube of Ben Gay next time your in the store and put it in your flying jacket pocket. So when the temps start chilling down your core and your worried about hypothermia just take the tube out of your pocket and apply it where you would normally use Preparation H and you'll to toasty all over.

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"

  30. #30
    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    Santa, I forgot to tell you about the pocket emergency heater, fits in your pocket as stated and is easy to activate. And it's inexpensive. All you need to do is pick up a tube of Ben Gay next time your in the store and put it in your flying jacket pocket. So when the temps start chilling down your core and your worried about hypothermia just take the tube out of your pocket and apply it where you would normally use Preparation H and you'll to toasty all over.

    Glenn
    Major LMAO! Thanks, Glenn, Santa needed that!

    Ha, Ha, Ha!

    Randy

  31. #31
    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    I reached out to Darrel Starr, our resident engineer, regarding the subject of cold weather flying. Specifically, I asked him to provide any thoughts he might have, as a former chief engineer for Caterpillar Corp, regarding the effect of low temps on the metallurgy involved in our aircraft. I hope he can shed some light on this for us.

    I know I have been told that things become "more brittle" when it is cold, but the jest of my conversation with Darrel is that this really isn't the case with the temperatures we operate at, even in the -30's and -40's. Darrel, correct me if I misinterpreted your comments. He did point out that the Caterpillar equipment that operates in the Arctic do provide some challenges, but those appear to be related primarily to engine operations and not to the structures of the heavy equipment.

    I was taught that in cold temperatures we need to be ever so careful in our landings, making sure we don't "stress" out the gear, etc, when landing. While that is always desirable, perhaps it is not any more important at -40 than it is at +80.

    Randy

  32. #32

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    The coldest temp I've ever seen in south central Alaska was on New Years about 15 years ago. Middle Yentna River cabins were reporting -54. My cabin was -45. Managing equipment in those temps is less about the equipment factor and more about the human factor. Our dexterity and patience are limited in the cold. It isn't that things break as much as that we break them. Doing everything slowly in those temps is an acquired skill. Not just with airplanes but with snowmachines, GMC pickup trucks, or whatever. Experience in the cold makes us careful. The colder it is, the more careful we get.

  33. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    And at that temp, be sure to thoroughly preheat your engine. Have fun!

    MTV
    After preheating with propane blower in my J3, the carb heat cable would freeze and not move once in the air flying. I don't have this issue with my PA11.

  34. #34
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePA11 View Post
    After preheating with propane blower in my J3, the carb heat cable would freeze and not move once in the air flying. I don't have this issue with my PA11.
    A problem with propane heat is that it creates a lot of moisture. USUALLY, that moisture quickly evaporated from engine heat once the engine starts. I can't recall the differences in J-3 vs PA 11 cowling sand controls, but that control was likely exposed on the J-3 and thus cooled even after engine start.

    one of the concerns with overnight combustion heat such as catalytic heater is that it puts a lot of moisture in the cowl. If for some reason you can't fly in the AM, that moisture will re-freeze. May not be a big deal, but...

    When parking overnight in the boonies, I shut down with mixture, then move mixture control back to full rich. One less thing to freeze up in the wrong position.

    MTV

  35. #35
    PerryB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    Santa, I forgot to tell you about the pocket emergency heater, fits in your pocket as stated and is easy to activate. And it's inexpensive. All you need to do is pick up a tube of Ben Gay next time your in the store and put it in your flying jacket pocket. So when the temps start chilling down your core and your worried about hypothermia just take the tube out of your pocket and apply it where you would normally use Preparation H and you'll to toasty all over.

    Glenn
    You can be the beta tester for that one! I did something along those lines with gasoline once and it weren't much fun.
    After Monday and Tuesday, even the calendar says WTF !

  36. #36
    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PerryB View Post
    You can be the beta tester for that one!
    Already did. I wrestled in high school, someone painted the bottom of my jock with Icy Hot ( same as Ben Gay but no smell ) while it was in my equipment bag just before I got suited up.

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"

  37. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    Already did. I wrestled in high school, someone painted the bottom of my jock with Icy Hot ( same as Ben Gay but no smell ) while it was in my equipment bag just before I got suited up.

    Glenn
    So, did you win your match?

  38. #38
    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by N86250 View Post
    So, did you win your match?
    Ha, it was at practice. At a match the coach would rub a big finger full of Vic's vapor rub on the roof of your mouth to improve breathing. If you got tangled up and could exhale in your opponents eyes it would blur their vision for a few seconds. Ah the good old days.

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"

  39. #39
    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post

    When parking overnight in the boonies, I shut down with mixture, then move mixture control back to full rich. One less thing to freeze up in the wrong position.

    MTV
    Excellent idea, Mike. I should have thought about that.

    Randy

  40. #40
    Lisa Martin LMartin's Avatar
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    If it gets down into the single digits and we're just playing, we skip it because we can't get the oil temp up to 180*, even with the oil cooler covered. Part of needing to go play is getting the moisture out of the engine. John's working cut off is -20*f (if it's a job that really needs to be done). Below that, survival time is too short if there would be a problem.

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