Logbook Stories

from my "Standard Pilot Master Log"


An Icy Airplane Flops Onto a Snowy Runway

January 24, 1978

As one of my FBO's charter pilots who just acquired his ATP and his multi-engine ATCO checkout I was first in line for the icky trips in order to build hours. On this occasion, my FBO outsourced its Aztec and me to another nearby FBO to take one of their trips. It was a typically miserable winter day. The deadhead over to the other FBO's field wasn't that far so was flown at a fairly low altitude in solid IMC all the way. Which turned out to be just perfect all the way around for one hell of a load of ice.

Sometimes one bends the rules just a little simply because there is no other choice. I knew I was not going to miss the approach into that airport because I knew that at the rate the ice was accumulating, I would have only one shot to get that airplane on the ground, and it wasn't going to keep flying for much longer than that. I don't remember what the DH on the ILS into that airport was. I'm thinking it was a little higher at 250 feet because they had one of those abbreviated approach light systems. With no weather reporting who knew was the official visibility really was. Unicom was just guessing. At least they told me there weren't any plows on the runway. Because they hadn't plowed it yet. At the DH I vaguely had some lights but virtually no forward visibility due to the heavy snow, and anyway I was peering forward through a little heated square on the outside of the cockpit window. I had to follow the glideslope down and I never really saw a runway, but I was centered between the runway lights, so at some point, just guessing the ground was near, due to those lights in my side vision, I began reducing power. The Aztec shuddered, quit flying, and flopped the last few feet down into several inches of snow, probably cushioning its touchdown on the runway.

When I taxied into the FBO the mechanics came out to push the airplane into a heated hangar, and I could tell by the wide eyes on their faces that they'd never ever seen an airplane with that much ice on it. Seeing as how the weather was moving east, and the trip was for someplace out east, and figuring that I'd end up having to fly through the same icing conditions again, I cancelled the trip. Resulting in many pissed-off people at both bases. But all survived to be able to get pissed-off yet again on many future occasions, thanks, I do believe, to my good decision cancelling that trip.



References for Non-Pilots: