FAR91-103 Preflight Action – Requires you to be a “Know It All”, pertaining to any flight. For winter operations a few worthwhile contractions should be familiar in your Notam aviation vocabulary.

Contractions from the AIM 2010 (5-1-3) used in “NOTAMs.”

BRAG Braking Action = Good – Suggests caution, conditions could change
BRAF Braking Action = Fair – Always be on guard
BRAP Braking Action = Poor – Be extremely careful
BRAN Braking Action = Nil – Reconsider Plans or change Airport(s)
FRNZ SLR Frozen Slush on runway(s)
IR Ice on runway(s)
LSR Loose Snow on runway(s)
SIR Packed or Compacted Snow and Ice on runway(s)
SLR Slush on runway(s)
SNW Snow
SNBNKS Snow Banks – Along runways, also watch the taxiways
WSR Wet Snow on runway(s)
WTR Water on runway(s) – Could freeze at anytime, especially after sundown


Note: During the winter snow and ice season, it is always a good idea to call ahead too the local FSS, FBO and/or a local flight school. Check on hours of operation for fuel, storage, pre-heat and ground transportation, etc.


Taxi / Takeoff / Landing Tips*:

1. Whenever the taxiway is wet or slippery, reduce your taxi speed accordingly. Take precautions to avoid jet and prop blast, and watch for snow ridges and unplowed areas. Such hazards can snag a wheel and pull you off a taxiway or runway. To avoid an inadvertent slide during your run up, find some dry pavement on which to plant your airplane’s wheels.
2. If the runway is slick, snowy, or slushy, a soft-field landing is your best approach. Extra prop-wash makes the rudder and elevator more effective, and you have the positive control response needed to make corrections during the flare and touchdown. A contaminated runway reduces braking action, and your landing distance can easily Double. Be prepared to go around rather than land long.
3. Select your touchdown spot based on the runway’s condition. In some cases, landing off centerline may be a good option if it puts you on dry pavement. Balance this decision against your touchdown spot’s proximity to snow banks at the runway’s edge. If you must land on a slick runway, remember that on patchy ice or snow, heavy braking can cause a wheel to lock and a tire to blow. Landing with a slow touchdown speed will reduce your need for heavy braking.
4. Slippery runways can make crosswind operations especially difficult because wheel friction may not enable you to maintain directional control. Unless the pilot operating handbook makes other recommendations, a rule of thumb is to use one-half the manufacturer’s demonstrated crosswind capability as the limit when landing on a slippery runway. A better choice, perhaps, would be to divert to an airport with better wind and/or runway conditions.


*Note: Tips were taken from AOPA’s Flying Smart Jan.97 article “Tips for Winter Takeoffs and Landings”


Additional Reading:


AIM 4-3-8 Braking Action Reports and Advisories

When available, ATC furnishes pilots the quality of braking action received from pilots or airport management. The quality of braking action is described by the terms “GOOD, FAIR, POOR and NIL,” or a combination of these terms. When pilots report the quality of braking action by using the terms noted above, they should use descriptive terms that are easily understood, such as, “braking action poor the first/last half of the runway,” together with the particular type of aircraft. Note: Reporting braking action as NIL, will close that runway, so be careful of your reports. When tower controllers have received runway braking action reports which include the terms poor or nil, or whenever weather conditions are conductive to deteriorating or rapidly changing runway braking conditions, the tower will include on the ATIS broadcast the statement, “braking action advisories are in effect.”