How pilots change their takeoff preparation when it snows

This week, the Met Office has forecasted that there could be up to 25cm of snowfall across the U.K. in the days leading up to Christmas. Whilst the idea of a white Christmas would put a shine on what has been a thoroughly depressing year, for those of us flying aircraft, the snow provides a different challenge.

Snow on the wings, ice in the engines and slush on the runway can all pose hazards to aircraft and must all be considered and evaluated by pilots before each takeoff. Changes to how we prepare the aircraft for departure, how we taxi to the runway and how we takeoff must all be incorporated into the flight to ensure we get the aircraft, and its occupants, safely off the ground.

At the Gate

Preparation for a flight in snowy conditions begins long before we make our way out to the runway. Even whilst sitting at home or in the hotel before heading to the airport, most pilots will be watching the snow coming down, thinking ahead to how it will affect the flight. If I haven’t flown in snowy conditions for a while, I’ll normally take this opportunity to refresh my knowledge of the winter operations specific to the 787 Dreamliner and the airport I’m flying from.

As we board the aircraft, we take advantage of windows on the jetty to get a good look at the surface of the wing and conditions on the ground. We’re looking for signs of ice or snow contamination, which could affect the takeoff performance.

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