It Snow, Let It Snow...
During severe weather conditions,
airport management's best snow-removal efforts can be defeated, even as
maintenance crews scramble to keep ahead of the snow and ice accumulation
on aircraft movement areas. In our first report, the snowplows had not
yet arrived to clear the cargo ramp when an air carrier cargo crew tried
to taxi without benefit of a clear path:
- Snow had
been falling since mid-afternoon. The cargo ramp had not been plowed.
There were 4-6 inches of snow on the ramp, with no markings visible.
The only lights visible were two green centerline lights on the taxiway
ahead of us, and there were no edge lights on the ramp. We taxied forward
to where we believed we would be able to turn to runway 9. We tried
to stay on what we believed to be the ramp. However, we had already
taxied off the prepared surface but did not realize it. We were notified
we were in the grass by ground personnel.
We probably should have asked for a "follow me" truck or just
As our reporter notes, seeking
ground guidance is always a good idea if airport surfaces are not clearly
visible or marked.
It's in the (Snow)
Our next reporter, an air taxi
Captain, was happy to find the runway well-plowed--but where did all that
plowed snow end up? The Captain found out:
- The runway
was snowplowed, with dry pavement and about 7-8 foot snowbanks. The
width was NOTAMed at 60 feet wide, and was reported by the Airport Manager
to be 60-70 feet wide. Our airplane has a wingspan of about 44 feet.
On takeoff roll...there was an [engine] power surge which pulled the
aircraft to the left. Upon correcting with right rudder and differential
power, the plane went to the right and touched the right wing tip to
the right side snowbank. I aborted the takeoff, [but] the aircraft spun
to the right, hitting the nose and stopping with the nose and the left
wing tip in the snowbank. Damage to the aircraft was to the nose radome,
the skin behind the nose radome, and the nose landing gear linkage.
It turns out that the plowed area was offset five feet from the runway
centerline. Without a normally-positioned centerline for reference,
a pilot could easily line up slightly to one side, resulting in a similar
incident, even without the problems of the asymmetrical power surge
and the subsequent correction.
Life's a Beach
Once the airport surfaces have
been plowed and the snow removed, the next step is sanding. In the next
report, the airport maintenance crew did its job a little too well according
to this First Officer, who landed on enough sand to start a beach.
- During preflight,
our paperwork had a NOTAM reporting braking action poor by a B-737.
ATIS reported ... runway plowed and sanded. Approach or Tower told us
that braking action was [reported] fair-to-good by a previously arriving
commuter. When we landed, there was almost no braking. The Captain used
full reverse to decelerate. A large cloud of dust engulfed the airplane.
So much dust filled the cabin [that] the flight attendants discuss ed
evacuating the airplane.
Prior to touchdown, I observed a lot of sand on the runway--perhaps
enough to actually cause a reduction in traction. The temperature was
33·F--possibly causing ice melting and refreezing. Runway condition
reporting is confusing. If we had known exactly how "poor"
the runway was, we never would have attempted a landing.
The flight crew learned two
days later that both engines needed to be replaced due to sand ingestion.
A pilot's best defense against slippery landings is to prepare for the
worst, which in this case meant making decisions according to the original
"poor braking action" report from the B-737.
Round-Robin Only Half-Legal
A general aviation pilot's
return leg of a round-robin trip was cancelled when the airport manager
closed the airport due to the snow and ice. However, later in the day
when the sun came out, the pilot took it upon himself to rescind the closure.
Not a good decision...
- The airport
manager had gone home for the day, and I decided to go after a good
look at the runway and a high-speed taxi on it. I decided the runway
was safe and took off from an uncontrolled airport that was NOTAMed
closed by the airport manager.
I thought uncontrolled meant uncontrolled, but I was wrong. Just because
an airport is uncontrolled, if it is NOTAMed closed, even without an
"X" on the runway, you cannot take off or land. The airport
manager called my manager, and I lost my job. I just hope I don't lose
my pilot certificate over this.
The painful lesson learned
by our reporter: a pilot does not have the authority to re-open a closed
People in the aviation business
may confront additional sources of the usual holiday stresses -some external,
some self-imposed. Our first report provides a sample of the external
frustrations encountered by Center controllers when faced with a blitz
of holiday traffic, and how well the workload can be handled when the
team works together:
- The airports
were very busy with departures and arrivals. Weather was VFR in most
of the sector...with frequency congestion at all times. The computer
system had been changed so that flight plans would drop from the computer
at 2 hours instead of the normal 3 hours because of the influx of traffic
over the holidays. Equipment problems were abundant. Experimental equipment
had been placed in the facility for communication help, but had not
yet been certified for use. Also, the sector radar had been incorrectly
certified and therefore was shut off, making the [nearby area] an area
of non-radar coverage below 15,000 feet. For unknown reasons, [local]
departure messages were not being forwarded to the Center computer system.
It was extremely confusing because we Center controllers did not know
when the local departures were coming to us. During all this chaos and
many IFR operations, the other two controllers did a remarkable job
of keeping up with all the traffic flow and effectively providing service
to all aircraft.
A general aviation pilot, on
the last leg of a two-day cross-country trip, succumbed to some self-imposed
holiday pressure. The reporter admitted to being "mentally and physically
fatigued, and with a severe case of 'get-homeitis' due to the holiday."
When the weather did not cooperate with the pilot's holiday plans, all
the pre-flight planning--and the fuel reserves--went down the drain.
- My weather
briefing had forecast quartering tailwinds, which unfortunately were
not the case. The winds had shifted to a direct headwind, blowing strong.
The fuel tanks were reading a quarter-full. According to the flight
time and the fuel gauges, I believed I had plenty of fuel to reach my
destination. I was about 10-12 miles from home, and 2 miles past Airport
A. As I experienced more turbulence, I noticed my fuel gauges were reading
lower than moments before, and my engine began to run rough. I turned
toward Airport A, then suddenly my engine stopped. The restart attempt
was a failure, so I called Airport A and declared an emergency. A normal
approach to landing was performed, coasting to the side of the runway
to wait to be assisted off by a tug.
To prevent this type of situation, always allow more time, be prepared
to make an extra fuel stop, keep a current weather update, and never
allow "get-homeitis" to push you and your airplane into a
situation you may regret.
ASRS receives many reports
on this subject, but get-homeitis during the holidays may be more pronounced
than at other times of the year. The added factor of unexpected winds
and weather increases the potential for incidents or accidents.
A familiar autumnal locale--the
campus football field--was at the heart of an ASRS reporter's troubles.
a photography flight], the chief architect requested that we circle
a nearby campus and take photos of a new building and football field
he had built there recently. I deviated north and circled the campus.
Not having planned for this deviation, I did not check the exact distance
from XYZ airport, but judged it to be more than 5 miles. The campus
is actually 4 miles from XYZ airport according to the sectional chart.
When we were finished, I resumed my course toward ABC. ABC Approach
told me that XYZ Tower wanted to talk to me...as I had entered XYZ airspace
without prior permission. ABC Ground gave me a second message to call
them on the telephone.
At the time, I didn't want to distract my attention long enough to look
up XYZ frequency. In hindsight, I should obviously have called XYZ Tower.
Good operating practice would
suggest consulting a sectional chart for the area and, as the reporter
notes, letting the Tower know that the aircraft's location is close to
Class D airspace.
Recently Issued Alerts On.
traffic conflicts on a New York STAR
lighting problems at an Alabama airport
of coordination lights in a California Tower
signage problems at a Pennsylvania airport
obstruction lighting on a Michigan tower antenna
1996 Report Intake