Slow is fast: Cold weather ops

  • Published
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Safety Office

Napoleon once said, “Dress me up slowly, I’m in a hurry” and the Roman Emperor Augustus used the moto “More haste, less speed.” Both of these military leaders understood the importance of executing “slowly,” being methodical, and taking time to observe their surroundings. 

As we wrap up 2019, changes in weather patterns, temperatures, and longer hours of darkness increase risk to the training mission of Altus AFB. Here are three areas in which we can focus this winter season to mitigate operational risk.

Know before you go

Weather. Understand and brief how it could impact your mission. Patterns change quickly in the colder months so make sure to plan for contingencies. Know the threats you could be up against and your options when things go wrong. A little preparation before stepping to the jet, or even going camping for the weekend, can make a big difference in a safe effective operation.    

Don’t rush the preflight

Especially when it’s cold outside, resist the temptation to hurry, which increases the likelihood of skipping items on your checklist. Take your time and be aware of any extra tasks you may have to perform in colder months, including cleaning the airplane or vehicle of snow, frost, or ice.

Icing kills!

If equipped with anti-ice equipment, flying in icing conditions for short durations is tolerable. However, even small amounts of frost or ice accumulation on the aircraft is extremely dangerous. Ice on flight surfaces increases aircraft drag and reduces lift! Lift: Good! Drag: Bad! We mitigate this risk by following checklists and taking the moment to let the windshield defrost.

Ultimately, cold weather ops is about managing seasonal risk. Frostbite, hypothermia, reduced dexterity, dehydration – these are the symptoms of not planning and realistically evaluating your environmental conditions. When risk in a training environment is assessed too high, don’t be afraid to fly the mission another day. 

Like Napoleon, we win by deliberately approaching the challenge; prepared for the risk it brings. Stay #AltusSafe this winter! When there’s ice, remember: slow is fast.