The approach in freezing drizzle was going well until the Cessna 310 touched down and began to roll. Then, the caustic combination of crosswind and the ice-crusted runway sent the aircraft skidding into a snow bank built up by plowing along the runway edge.
“The nosewheel folded up under pressure from the snow bank. I had both props strike the ground and skidded to a stop just off the edge of the runway,” the cargo pilot reported to the Aviation Safety Reporting System.
As this and many similar winter accident and taxiing mishap reports show, even a proficient pilot armed with the destination’s latest braking action reports should weigh the options carefully when copious accumulations of snow narrow airport movement areas and raise snow banks to notam-worthy heights.
Start reviewing today. Think you know your aircraft pretty well, and can recite V speeds, emergency procedures, useful load, and so on from memory? Without peeking, what is your aircraft prop’s ground clearance? Its wingspan? Would you have needed to be concerned about a notam recently in effect at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, advising, “TWY F CLSD TO ACFT WINGSPAN MORE THAN 50FT”?
Not if you fly a Cessna 206, with its 35-foot, 10-inch wingspan; it’s a closer call for a Piper Cheyenne III (47 feet, eight inches). Definitely Foxtrot was to be avoided by a Beech King Air B200 (54 feet, six inches). Pilots of any aircraft would have wanted to know that incursion risks were elevated because “TWY ALL EDGE LGT OBSC” and “TWY ALL SIGNS ALL OBSC.”
Hazards like these were not strictly northerly concerns. Twenty-four-inch snow banks made the late-February notam lists in Lynchburg, Virginia. Foot-high snow ridges arose at Alabama’s Huntsville International Airport as the cold and snow pushed southward. A pilot arriving at Huntsville’s 12,600-foot-long by 150-foot-wide Runway 18R/36L might have had to land on patchy thin slush, with the runway “plowed and swept 70 feet wide and plowed 120 feet”—conditions rare enough to make the local news.
IFR flying, compared to the fair-weather alternative, can deliver you to a destination well before its cleanup operations are complete (or sometimes, even started). So before you bid a fond, final farewell to a ferocious winter, practice the tasks and check the specs that will keep you tracking the snow-covered painted line.