With winter on the horizon, its time to start thinking of things like ice, snow and sleet. Three things that can cause real danger to the casual pilot, and are best avoided. I had flown in to Monroe airport (EQY), just east of Charlotte, to be together with my wife for a weekend. As there was no hangar space available, I had to park the plane, a Cessna 340, next to a hangar outside in the cold. There was the possibility of some snow or ice, so I kept my fingers crossed. After spending a nice two days with my wife, it was time to fly back to Wilmington (ILM), just forty minutes away to the east. As there had been some precipitation, rain snow and even ice, I was concerned about what we would find. As it turned out, things were not good. There was a covering of light snow and ice over the entire plane.
It was Sunday evening, so no help from the FBO, which was closed. My wife and I just started out getting off what we could. We were dressed warmly, and fortunately had gloves on. We sure needed them as the hand broom just dealt with the snow. The ice would have to gotten off by hand. This was accomplished by banging on the ice where ever it was reachable. The areas of most concern were the airfoils, particularly the leading edges. Amazingly most of the ice on the rounded portions of the wing and tail, did break off when struck by our gloved hands. The flat portions of the wing did not want to cooperate, and we didn’t want to dent them either. I believed that getting the front portions of the ice off would suffice. Props had electric deice strips so no worry there. The plane was not heavily loaded. Take off would be done with some excess airspeed to offer a bit of a cushion, in case lift was lost.
Before climbing into the plane, I hugged my wife and reassured her, that I would test things out before actually lifting off. This was done to avoid stalling the plane due to the presence of residual ice. Taxiing out to the runway, I had a good feeling, that all would be OK. After a brief run-up, with prop heat on, I applied full power, feet pressing hard on the brakes. Things felt normal and off I went. The plane accelerated normally, so I gently applied pulled on the control wheel. The nose started to lift and airspeed seemed about normal, so I continued the take off. Climb appeared normal, and I even saw some of the residual ice break off the wing. Good riddance. And that was that. I felt quite lucky about how things had turned out. On landing at Wilmington I phoned my wife, and was pleased to leave an ”arrived safely” message. The reason for the message, was that I got to Wilmington before my wife drove back to our home in Charlotte.
Icing shouldn’t be treated casually. Each plane can respond to icing in a specific manner. Differing airfoils, power plants etc. all contribute to unique handling characteristics. The best advice I can offer is to avoid ice if you can.