• Published
  • By Col. Creig A. Rice
  • AETC director of safety
During my time at 13th Air Force, we ran Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, resupplying the National Science Foundation's Antarctic mission. Our folks were exposed to temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The picture above was taken in the tunnels that run under the South Pole Station and the temp was minus 56 ... my eyebrows even had icicles. The need for cold protection in that environment was obvious, and our folks prepared accordingly. But as fall turns to winter across the Air Education and Training Command area of responsibility, sometimes we become oblivious to the obvious.

On a cold morning how many times have you left your heated home, climbed into your car, cranked the heater on and gutted it out while the car warmed up? Maybe you took a light jacket, maybe none at all because you thought that you didn't need one since you would be spending the day inside a climate-controlled environment. But what if your car breaks down and the temperatures are below freezing? Would you have planned differently? Would you have taken a warmer coat?

It only takes one instance where you find yourself unprepared to impart some real-world wisdom.

In the flying business, we use the saying "Dress for egress." ... Meaning that it may be warm inside the cockpit of an aircraft, but if you have to eject or make an emergency landing in freezing temps, you'll be wishing you had that cold-weather gear.

It's as if the different seasons dull our senses; and by the time we get through spring, summer and fall, it takes us a bit to get into winter mode.

Common sense tells us that winter will be accompanied by the same old hazards: freezing temps, snow, slippery roads and icy ramps, just to name a few. But it's not long after winter weather moves in that we start getting reports on the season's first cases of frostbite or hypothermia or first vehicle accidents on slick highways.

Should hunters need to be reminded to dress warmly and carry waterproof matches with them? Should drivers need to be told to slow down and follow at a safer distance in icy or snowy conditions? Should pilots need to be advised to follow their cold-weather checklists when the temperatures dip? In a perfect world, no. In reality, most definitely, yes.

In this issue, we delve into ways people get hurt sledding (page 12). An obvious rule of sledding should be "ensure your path is free of obstructions." So it's interesting that we have examples of Airmen who have injured themselves slamming into everything from trees and rocks to concrete barriers and telephone poles. On the flying side we have a story of a pilot who ignored the obvious; he didn't follow his cold-weather checklist and ensure the fuels system icing inhibitor was added to his aircraft's fuel (page 25). The result? Ice formed in the fuel, blocking its flow and leading to a chain of events that destroyed the aircraft and killed all 14 people on-board, including 13 members of the same family.

So as the temperatures grow colder, take a moment to reset the gray matter and tune in to the obvious hazards that come with winter. We at AETC safety wish you a safe and happy holiday season!