Summer in Florida proves more challenging than winter for flying. While it’s generally feasible to fly year-round (as we can see in nearly all flight school ads), the extended daylight hours in winter contrast with the limited 2-3 hour windows in summer, sometimes nullifying flying altogether.
Anticipating thunderstorms around 2-3 pm became my routine every day. They are very well visible from long distance though, and they usually move in a very predictable manner. Moreover, heavy rain right now does not mean that we won’t have a perfect weather in about an hour. Flight planning in summer presents some challenges.
Today was a great day, but the air was burning hot. The only available aircraft was N4642J, the sleek black one, and despite great visibility and high ceiling I decided to fly IFR, just for practice.
Preflight checks and runup were routine. In a climb I contacted ATC and activated my flight plan. After a while during the climb, at about 4000 feet, the oil temperature surged dangerously, nearly hitting the red zone. Swiftly reacting, I stopped climbing, reduced power for better cooling, started to turn back and cancelled my flight plan.
Monitoring the oil temperature and flying towards our airport, I was checking nearby fields, knowing I had enough altitude to make a wise choice for a safe landing, but it’s always better to reach an airport if we still have at least partial engine power. My engine seemed to work normally, even despite of the instrument indications.
The engine temperature started to drop, which meant that most probably I would have a normal landing. I maintained caution and prepared for it with some altitude margin in case of any engine issues. The engine endured, allowing me to execute a standard landing and taxied to the ramp.
However, considering the abnormal temperature behavior, especially for a planned cross-country flight, I deemed it prudent to subject the aircraft to further inspection. Leaving a red ticket for the maintenance team, I essentially grounded the aircraft until further inspection. I was not that desperate to fly today (and hope I will never be) to take these risks. Better safe than sorry.