Tips from an Alaskan Pilot:
How to Keep Warm
during Winter Operations
BRRRR! Start your engines!!
It’s February in Alaska, so there’s no real surprise that the temperature hasn’t ventured much above 0F, and typically hovers around -20F. Since we still have people to move, school sports trips, and groceries to deliver, I have been figuring out some tips, tricks, and “life hacks” for operating at these temperatures. There are some things you must do-like properly preheat your engine, avionics, and gear boxes. That in itself could be its own post! Today we are going to talk about things I do to stay a little more comfortable when I’m flying a plane that can’t keep warm.
The coldest thing to hang on to is metal. Unfortunately, most yokes are made of aluminum! Sometimes I keep a hand warmer tucked in my sleeve. I can hold it against the yoke during noncritical phases of flight, rather than letting it rob my body heat.
I wear my hat over my headset. It might look a little dorky, but keeping my head warm and is worth it!
I put my hood up over my headset and hat. Like a wetsuit helps trap water against skin so body temperature warms it up, the hood will keep the air trapped around my head, and my body heat rises.
Don’t wear gloves during heavy workload phases of flight. Most pilots I talk to really don’t like wearing gloves to fly. Even very thin gloves obscure the kinesthetic sensations I am used to while flying. This can be distracting, and potentially dangerous.
I store my gloves against my body. I don’t want to stick my cold hands into cold gloves, and I have found a little bit of body heat goes a long way. When I am cruising and my hands get really cold, I will put one glove on so my hand can warm up a little bit.
Find shirts with thumb holes. It’s easy to pop my hand out when needed for takeoff and landing, and it adds a little protection without the bulk of gloves.
Toe warmers are good for more than toes! I will stick a set on my socks, and on the inside of my sleeve against my wrists. This helps warm the blood going to and from my fingers, making it easier for my body to recover from the cold blood coming from my fingers, and making my fingers less cold by having a little warmer blood circulating through them.
I keep my phone against my body. I like to listen to podcasts and pull it out to snap a picture (when it’s legal). These smartphones don’t love cold! I have had my phone shut down because it got too cold sitting on the seat next to me.
I pack a thermos of something warm to sip on. Broth or puréed veggie soup is my favorite, as it counts as a little bit of heathy nutrition as well as warming my insides. Keeping warm takes a lot more calories! I like a good quality thermos like fiftyfifty or hydro flask.
Invest in good quality gear if you will be operating in cold weather conditions regularly. My rule of thumb is to buy one new piece of gear a year. This way, things don’t all wear out at the same time, and I don’t break the bank my first year! Another good option is to set a dollar limit. You can also get some good stuff secondhand to fill in your collection if you are just starting out, and I always get some “disposable” items at Costco for cheaper.
In Alaska, I figure I have November-March of hardcore winter conditions. Five months out of the year is worth being
comfortable, and I can budget it into the busier summer months if needed. You need to invest in keeping yourself warm,
safe, and happy!
Liz & Aubrey's Favorite Cold-weather gear
follow Liz's journey in the last frontier
A Note about Pilot Liz
Liz is no ordinary pilot. This Alaskan bomb-shell not only handles her sweet husband and 2 boys with all of her loving grace, while juggling her flying career zipping around "The Last Frontier", she also has a huge heart in helping to bring awareness and help to stop Human Trafficking. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in the United States. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Its an uncomfortable topic for most, but Liz is adamant about doing her part to help those who may not have an opportunity to voice their need for help. if you wish to learn more or donate to help stop Human Trafficking, Click here to see Liz's donation page.
- Keep the Shiny Side Up,