Logbook Stories

from my "Standard Pilot Master Log"


We Beat Out the Blizzard of '93

March 13, 1993

On March 12 Tom and I flew the Lear and some pilot service clients to Worcester, Mass (which for some East-coaster reason is pronounced "wooster", though to me, that's a city in Ohio). The trip was scheduled as a RON with a return to home at 5:00 pm the next day.

The next morning I checked the weather and elected to contact our lead passenger and advise him that if at all possible he should wrap things up and plan to depart no later than noon, because if we couldn't get out ahead of the monster snowstorm heading our way, we would probably be there for at least three days until they got dug out.

By noon it was already snowing heavily, and blowing, too, and all the remaining airline flights scheduled for the day had been cancelled. We convinced the tower to remain open until we could depart. However, one complicating factor was that they weren't going to do any more runway plowing, so the snow was accumulating and drifting. But another even more complicating factor was that the FBO hadn't turned on the heater on their deicing truck, and further, they discovered it wasn't working at all. So all that ramp service had to deice us with was cold glycol. Now, cold glycol isn't going to melt ice, nor is it even going to do much to prevent it from forming if the temperature falls too low. And as the snow falls, the glycol that hasn't dripped off the airplane is getting diluted by the falling snow, the combination turning into slush getting pretty close to freezing onto the airplane.

The passengers showed up around 1:00 and we boarded and had ramp service brush off the wings and spray us once more, very thoroughly, as best they could with the cold glycol. We got our clearance, taxiied out to the runway, and before calling for takeoff clearance, I had Tom get up out of his pilot's seat to make one last visual inspection of the wings. After he strapped in, I gave Tom a takeoff briefing somewhat off the standard briefing. Basically it went something along the lines of: 1) we're not aborting for anything past 80 knots except engine failure; 2) if we have to abort for engine failure after that we're probably going off the departure end of the runway; 3) after liftoff, I'm going to level off in ground effect and build speed before climbing; 4) we're going to leave the gear down for a while to blow the slush off the wheels before retraction; 5) in any case, we're not returning to ORH.

The takeoff roll was awfully rough due to hitting snow drifted across the runway, though the airplane still accelerated pretty well. It's a Lear, after all. The passengers were all members of a Lutheran fraternal organization and they were all back there praying for us. I think it helped. We followed the remainder of the takeoff briefing, and proceeded on our way home. After landing at home base, taxiing in, shutting down and deplaning, a lineman pointed out that we had skinned and blown out a tire on one of the main gear. I honestly don't know whether that happened during takeoff or during landing. The takeoff was rough enough I don't think we'd have noticed. Thank goodness for dualies. But, there it was, a small price to pay for getting back home and not getting stuck in the "Blizzard of '93" that dumped 30-plus inches on Worcester.

Clickable link for the blizzard story: 1993 Storm of the Century.



References for Non-Pilots: