What’s your favorite season to fly? If you’re like many general aviation pilots in the Northern Hemisphere, summer may be your top choice. Between the sunny weather, long days, and fly-ins to popular destinations like Oshkosh, there’s a lot to love about the summer flying season. However, there’s also something special about taking to the skies during the autumn, especially in those precious few weeks before the winter chill sets in.
Here are three great reasons to love flying in the fall:
In terms of comfort and performance, autumn is often considered the sweet spot for general aviation aircraft. Preflighting your aircraft is easier when it’s not sweltering out, plus you can expect less turbulence and fewer thunderstorms. The lower temperatures of fall also mean the air is denser, and as a result, density altitude is lower. With a lower density altitude, the aircraft propeller can produce thrust more efficiently, the wings generate more lift, and the engine produces more power. This all adds up to shorter ground rolls at takeoff and increased climb performance compared to the summer months.
At the same time, the drop in temperature comes with additional considerations for flight safety. Just as you take the time to warm up your car, it’s important to warm up your airplane’s engine for smoother starts. Using a multi-point aircraft preheating system will evenly heat and protect your engine, ensuring that all critical engine parts are heated to the ideal temperature range from the inside out. Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily need to be freezing for your airplane to benefit from preheating. Many pilots choose to preheat when the outside temperature drops below 50°F (10°C) to reduce run-up time and wear to the engine and starter.
There’s no denying that the changing colors of fall are even more breathtaking from the cockpit. In fact, “leaf peeping” can be a great excuse to fly your airplane to a new destination. Of course, the East Coast is known for fantastic fall foliage, but you can also spot stunning leafy views over Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio (the home of Hartzell Propeller!) This fall, consider taking a new passenger up to experience a beautiful first flight — and don’t forget the camera!
You may not be headed back to school this fall in the traditional sense, but now is a great time to learn new flying skills and improve your proficiency. AOPA has a wealth of training and safety resources to help you further your education and become a better, safer pilot.
If you’re thinking about becoming a pilot or even earning a new rating, why not start flying lessons during the fall? While the summer months are typically the busy season for flight schools and aircraft rental companies, autumn can be a quieter time to focus on learning at your own pace.