Winter Flying

There is a saying here in Canada. We have the best restored classic cars. Why?
Because we can work on them 6 months of the year.
The winter of 2016/2017 will be no exception. To think this time last year I actually had to put wheels back on a few of my planes because we had no snow.

Yep we're talking about winter flying and some of the considerations you want to make before you expose your kit to the elements. (Chuckle)

Skis, gloves, hats, mittens and a very white plane.

- Multiplex FunCub in Canadian Winter Camo Spec

Honestly flying in the winter is not all that bad but things can go wrong quickly if you are unprepared for the cold. Here are a few tips I've learned over time.

First - Leave the hand launched birds at home.

A couple of years ago I damaged my beloved EFX Racer and gave myself frostbite.

The launch and flight went well but when it came time to land my hands were too numb and I nosed the plane over into the hard ice. Broke a motor.

- Crunched my Durafly EFX Racer

Leaving the hand launched planes at home really is only warranted during those extreme cold days but if there is a chance your hands will become too numb you are safer to fly with a transmitter mitt and use planes that can launch/land on the snow. (Or hope someone and assist with a hand launch.)

Second - Have 2 sets of gloves.

When I fly I tend to wear a set of thinner gloves. Even if I'm using a transmitter mitt.

They offer protection from the cold without being too bulky to fly with. That said you have to be aware of how long you can fly before your fingers get too cold.

- Thin gloves help but watch your fingers for exposure over time.

Once I’ve landed the plane I switch over to my thicker pair gloves and always give my hands/body a chance to warm up after a flight. Often you are stationary for 5-10 minutes and suddenly discover your toes and fingers are getting too cold. Keep moving around.

- Dressing in layers is very important during the winter


Third - Buy a good transmitter mitt.

There are many options in the marketplace and even some awesome DIY ideas.
I like using the transmitter mitt for 3 main reasons.

One. It protects my hands from the cold/wind while I'm flying.

- The mitt comes out even before the snow flies in the colder months.

Two. I can safely set my remote down in the snow and not worry about it getting wet.

Three. If it starts to snows it is no big deal. Hands and radio are protected.

- FT Sea Duck loves the snow.

I've used 2 different mitts so far. The "boy shorts" and more open style glove cover.

They both do the job and work well to cover the radio and guard you from the elements (to a degree).

- The “winter quad”.


Four - Keep it simple.

Be selective of your planes. One of the things I realized when flying during the winter especially with a transmitter mitt on is you are a little more restricted with hand movements.

I tend to go with a more conservative approach with the planes.

I already have my radio setup so the rates and flaps toggles are all the same location and really those are the only 2 switches I have to throw during a flight.

- E-Flite Pawnee is a good winter flyer.


Five - Less is more.

Generally I expect my flights to be shorter in the winter. Less punishment on the batteries, planes and fingers.

I usually shorten the flight anywhere from 1-2 minutes and often spend the last minute practising my final approach. Conditions change rapidly and keeping your fingers nimble vs numb is a good thing.

- Durafly SkyMule can fly for well over 8 minutes.


Six - All about the power.

Pay attention to your packs. Specially the transmitter.

For my flight packs I transport them in a soft foam cooler. They rest in a hard plastic container and on extremely cold days I will heat a gel pack and put that in case to help keep the ambient temperature at a more acceptable level.

- Happy batteries mean no surprises during a flight.

Expect less punch from your batteries. They do warm up in flight but be aware of the potential you might not get the power you are expecting. If I'm going for back to back flights I often will keep the next battery inside my jacket so it stays warm and I frequently check the cell counts after a flight to see if I'm pushing them too hard.

- Power to climb?


Seven - Dry them off.

One of the nice things about winter flying is unless you dunk the plane in a snow bank things in general don't get too wet. I like to keep the planes outside until I'm ready to leave the field. Knock/shaking all the snow off before loading up. When I get home I always inspect the internal bay for any dampness and set the planes up to dry. After many years of winter flying, with a few good crashes I've never seen any ill effects of winter flying.

- The Skipper went down but we found it after only 15 minutes of searching.


Eight - Just do it. Have fun but be safe.

There is no reason not to enjoy flying during the winter.
If the conditions are right go for it.
Just taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your kit.

Always take into account the wind chill. The biggest thing you need to guard against is frostbite and exposure so watch over yourself and your flying buddies.
Remember we do this for fun right.



What do I fly?

I prefer tail draggers with skis but tricycle planes can handle the snow just as well.

Check out HobbyKing or your local hobby store for ski options and give winter flying a chance. Even a hand toss planes work well but be mindful of exposure or ask someone to launch for you.

- One of my favourites.

Currently my winter fleet consists of the following:

Durafly Tundra, Durafly Skymule, HobbyKing Skipper, Multiplex FunCub, E-Flite Pawnee, FliteTest Sea Duck, FliteTest Sea Otter and a ParkZone Corsair.
I'm trying to decide which plane will get the FPV treatment other wise when the weather is nicer I do fly fpv with my wings or the Bixler 2.

What planes do you winter fly?
Do you have any other tips or tricks?

- One cold Canadian.

About the Author
Andre Profile
Andre Rousseau RC Pilot and video producer. "Build, crash & repeat." Ottawa, ON, Canada