Angel Flight East News

A Pilot’s Guide to Beating the Heat


A huge thank you from Angel Flight East to our volunteer pilot, Bruce Morse-Ellington, for writing this hilarious and informative guide. We appreciate all that you do for AFE, Bruce!


Beat the Heat with the following six step program:

Tired of kindly asking your Angel Flight East passengers to hold open the door to the plane for a breeze while you taxi toward the runway in the stifling heat.  Ever had to wait your turn in line for ninety minutes on the taxiway during rush hour at one of the nations busiest airports.  Teterboro airport during “The Push,” comes to mind.  The thought of installing an after market air conditioning system, that works much like whats in your car, may be out of the question since it costs as much as a small car, involves a lot of down time and weighs considerably more than the homebuilt variety.  Well, if you happen to have $235 available and are a little handy then build yourself one of these:



Yes, it’s a homebuilt portable aviation air conditioner! It’s completely portable and self contained. It does not rely on the aircrafts electrical system. It weighs in at forty pounds, including ice. It can easily fit in the baggage compartment or belted in to one of the rear seats. The air conditioner does not require any FAA approval since it is portable and doesn’t require any modifications to the aircraft.  Sure you can order one online from one of the major pilot supply stores for more money but it will not push as much cold air and you will not have gained the satisfaction of building your own aircraft air conditioner.


Step 1: Go to one of the big box hardware stores and purchase the following:

-18v battery operated cordless fan made by Rigid
-Battery and charger sold separately
-28qt Igloo roller cooler
-Four inch PVC pipe long enough to clear the rear seat
-PVC elbow
-PVC male reducer
-Rubbermaid container for making your own block ice ***Do not use dry ice***
-10 ft extension cord


Step 2: The fan retrofit (hardest part, I promise)

-Detach the base of the Rigid fan using whatever means necessary and cut the two wires from the fan to the base leaving enough wire remaining for splicing. The base also houses the control switch and battery which will enable the pilot to turn the fan off once you’ve reached a cool enough altitude and also to change out the battery if needed.
-Splice in a length of extension cord long enough to reach from the coolers location in the baggage compartment, to the control switch location, preferably under the pilot seat.  A typical 18v battery lasts about five hours of continuous high speed operation.  I keep a fully charged spare on hand at all times.



Step 3: Modify the cooler

-Cut two holes in the lid of the cooler using whatever means necessary. One for the fan and one for the PVC air discharge.

There are many sizes and shapes of coolers you can use depending on your particular cabin/baggage compartment arrangement. I fly a Beech Bonanza K35 which has a rather small cargo space so I chose the small 28 quart roller cooler. This still leaves room for luggage and cools plenty well.



Step 4: PVC

-Cut the PVC pipe to the desired length that suits your cabin/ baggage compartment overhead needs. Attach the PVC male reducer to one end and the PVC elbow to the other end.



Step 5: Put it all together

-Place the fan in the big hole so that it forces air in to the cooler.
-Attach the PVC pipe male reducer/ elbow combo into the small hole.  This will discharge the cool air into the cabin.
-If the holes are cut properly the fan and the PVC pipe should fit snugly eliminating the need for any adhesives.



Step 6: The Ice

-I prefer to freeze a small rubbermaid tub of water large enough to just fit in the bottom third of the cooler.  It will last several days and transports easily to the hanger in the morning. Simply dump the block of ice in the cooler and leave the tub in the hanger.  A ten pound bag of ice minus the bag will do just fine but will not last as long.  Frozen plastic water bottles are convienent and easy to transport but do not cool as well due to the insulating nature of the plastic bottle.  Do not use dry ice because as it melts it releases toxic gasses.

-Hey, if you’ve made it to the point where the Homebuilt Portable Aircraft Air Conditioner is installed in the plane, you and your Angel Flight East passengers are all buckled in and you go to turn the unit on and realize you forgot the ice don’t sweat it.  Turn it on anyway because the air blowing behind your neck will offer some relief anyway.  Ask me how I know.  Have a safe and cool flight!


The information provided by our volunteer pilots on is for general informational purposes only. Your use of the site and your reliance on any information provided is solely at your own risk.