The last two flights have left no doubt it’s getting deeper into winter here. High 30s to low 40s isn’t terrible on the ground, but it can get a little painful in the air if you aren’t dressed for it.
I hate cold. And I really hate all the bulky clothes you need to combat it. Gloves are the worst. I’ve been avoiding breaking out the thick gloves as long as possible but the time has come. The problem with heavy gloves comes mostly from the loss of feeling during launch. Difficulty manipulating radios and touchscreens in flight is an inconvenience, but good control at launch is critical. You have to kite with new gloves before you fly with them.
My last few flights were with light gloves. It makes for a better feel, but you pay the price with a little pain. The real danger of cold is losing fine motor skills and a tendency for poor decision making. I’ve noticed both of these in my flying.
Your throttle hand is the worst. It’s always working and always open and exposed and in contact with an aluminum handle. It’s also the hand that needs the most discrimination in it’s actions. Throttle equals thrust which controls your climb/descent rate. At altitude your thrust isn’t critical. Climbing or dropping 10′ while flying at 300′ isn’t a big deal. That same variation flying at 15′ can lead to problems pretty quick.
Brakes can be used for small quick adjustments to altitude, but the effect is temporary. When you pull both brakes you can trade airspeed for a little lift, like pulling back on an airplanes yoke. And just like an airplane, if you use it too much you will bleed off too much airspeed. Eventually your going to stop flying and stall the wing. It’s a balancing act that gets tricky when your losing blood flow to your arms and hands. This means you have to constantly evaluate your physical condition as well as all the other variables if you choose to get low.
You also have to consider how far you are from your LZ. You might be in good shape right now, but how will you be after fighting a headwind for the next 30 minutes to get home. Those fine motor skills get real important during landing. I misjudged my wind last Sunday due in part to wanting to get on the ground and warm up. This lead to coming up a little short and having to bust through the brush at the edge of my LZ. It all worked out, I just had to run out the landing a little longer to keep from dropping my wing on the scrubby bushes. Being off by 2 more seconds could have created a much bigger problem.
From here on out I’ll take the discomfort of bulky cold weather gear over the possible bad effects of getting too cold.