A Student Pilot's Guide to Navigating Slippery Runways

A Student Pilot's Guide to Navigating Slippery Runways

As the weather begins to turn and true winter presents itself in many parts of Canada, now is a great time to broach this topic. For student pilots undergoing flight training, the prospect of encountering a slippery runway adds an extra layer of complexity to their learning experience. Managing adverse weather conditions is a crucial skill that every aspiring aviator must acquire. In this blog post, we'll explore the unique challenges faced by student pilots when dealing with slippery runways and discuss strategies to ensure a safe and successful landing.

1. Understanding the Basics

Before taking to the skies in adverse conditions, it's essential for student pilots to grasp the fundamentals of runway maintenance and weather monitoring. Learn about the various de-icing agents used, familiarize yourself with contamination removal procedures, and stay informed about weather changes that might affect runway conditions.

2. Stay Informed

As a student pilot, constant vigilance is key. Stay in close communication with your flight instructor, flight school, and airport authorities to receive real-time updates on runway conditions. Understanding the ever-changing weather dynamics will empower you to make informed decisions during your approach and landing. Runway Surface condition NOTAMS, PIREPS from other pilots, and braking action reports can all contribute to improved situational awareness and safety.

3. Enhanced Training Programs

Flight training programs for student pilots should include modules specifically designed to address slippery runway scenarios. Level Flight addresses this in the Flight Operations module, where we discuss runway surface condition NOTAMS and performance calculations for contaminated runways. Simulators can replicate challenging weather conditions, allowing students to practice takeoffs and landings in a safe and controlled environment before facing real challenges in the air.

4. Develop Decision-Making Skills

Learning when to modify or abort a takeoff or landing due to adverse runway conditions is a critical aspect of a student pilot's education. Instill a mindset prioritizing safety over completing a flight, and create an environment of open communication between students and instructors about any concerns or uncertainties. This is perhaps the most important of all of these factors because it culminates them into one. I once heard a pilot say, if you don’t know for sure that what you’re about to do will work, don’t do it. Yes, it may carry some risk, but if you think there’s an 80% chance I’ll be able to stop on this contaminated runway, I like my odds; you need to think again. It's always important to remember your own personal limitations when making go-no-go decisions. 

5. Hands-On Experience

Practical experience is invaluable for student pilots. Providing opportunities for hands-on training in adverse conditions under the guidance of experienced instructors allows students to develop the skills and confidence necessary to handle slippery runways effectively. This is especially true for commercial pilot students since you will undoubtedly face challenging weather conditions during your career.

6. Pilot Briefings

Before each flight, ensure that, as a student pilot, you receive a comprehensive briefing on the current runway conditions and any anticipated changes. This pre-flight preparation will help you plan and execute takeoffs and landings with confidence, knowing you are equipped with the latest information. Brief with other pilots to help develop your decision-making skills. When briefing, always keep threat and error management (TEM) in mind and have a plan of action for changing or unforeseen conditions.

A Well Rounded Pilot

For student pilots, mastering the art of navigating slippery runways is a crucial step in becoming a proficient aviator. The aviation community, including flight instructors and flight training programs, plays a pivotal role in shaping the skills and decision-making abilities of the next generation of pilots. By integrating specialized training, emphasizing real-world scenarios, and fostering effective communication, the journey to becoming a skilled aviator becomes both educational and empowering. Aspiring pilots equipped with the knowledge to handle adverse conditions will undoubtedly soar to new heights in their aviation careers.

Begin your pilot training journey with Level Flight's newly designed Private Pilot Online Ground School. This new course will provide you with the knowledge you need to take the first steps to becoming a competent aviator. Reach out to us by filling out the online contact form or head over to the course catalogue to get started today!


No. The saying you get what you pay for is oftentimes applicable here. Do your homework, choose a program that is modern, provides many avenues of delivery, and does not simply run you through a PowerPoint presentation. The use of high-quality technology to deliver superior ground schools comes at a cost. This might be reflected in the cost of the ground school but can be well worth it.

If you follow a structured routine that will allow you about 6-8 hours of activity within the course per week you should be able to finish within a few months. Be sure to choose an online ground school that will give you access beyond that time so you can use the ground school as a study resource when preparing for your Transport Canada written exam.

No, we specialize in online ground school and aviation e-learning. We deliver high-quality e-learning which allows you to learn where and when you want. Many flight schools don’t run ground school courses that fit into your life but would be a great school to train with. By separating your ground school and flight training provider you can find the flexibility you need.

Take Flight Now

Level Flight is Canada’s best online ground school. It is our mandate to provide higher quality, more engaging training for Canadian Student Pilots. If you are seeking the exhilarating freedom of flight for a hobby or with aspirations of a career in the skies, Level Flight offers the best ground school experience available. Sign up for our online learning platform now and discover the adventure that awaits you at Level Flight. 

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