Quick disclaimer: I’m very tired and stressed out and I know this may all sound a bit mad, but as I’m driving myself mad, why not share it?

It’s so icy here! And I’ve been reading about what airports do when it’s snowy and icy but I’m still scared about my flight (in 10 days.)  I keep checking the airport website, especially when it’s snowing heavily, to see if flights are still taking off. (Usually they're just delayed a lot.)

Every time it snows, it settles and builds up so quickly, and it’s too cold for it to melt! This bulldozer thing clears it from the road through the campus, but all it really does is skim off the fresh snow (i.e. the stuff you can walk on) and smooth down and compact the bottom layer leaving sheet ice. And that’s a sheltered road in the city. The airport is outside the city in exposed countryside. How can they possibly keep the runway free of ice? I’ve been wearing mini-crampons to be able to walk safely to work. Everyone’s got snow-tyres on their cars. What do planes do to keep from skidding off the runway and crashing when they accelerate for take-off?

And the de-icer, does it always work 100% of the time? Is it possible the wings could ice up enough that the plane couldn’t take off? And how do the pilots know?

I feel like I should be able to come up with my own answers and reassure myself, but it’s not working so I was hoping that someone here could be my voice of reason. I’ve not felt this anxious for months and months.

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Hi Sarah

The truth is you know the answers to the questions you pose.

Cars skid because the forces on the tyres when turning braking or accellerating exceed the grip of the tyres.

Planes travel in straight lines so there are no forces to skid the plane. When braking we brake in a straight line so if the wheels don't go round the plane will continue in a straight line.

There have to be lateral forces to make the plane do the things you fear.

my new website page will help you.    winter operations

There are other pages about the weather on the site.  Please tell everyone you know about the help you can get from the website.

Keith

Hi Sarah, I feel exactly the same about the weather so completely understand your concern. I was in Iceland a few years ago and it snowed on our way to the airport coming home. I was sat on the plane on the runway with snow building up on the wing in an absolute state of panic thinking no-one else would notice it and we'd try and take off with it there. Of course just before we took off they de-iced the plane and I felt very silly!

I don't know if it's true but the de-icer seemed like a coating that would repel any further ice from forming, it was so greasy looking on the window. And you know that there are so many monitors and sensors on the plane, the pilots will definitely know if any ice is forming and be able to deal with it. I now remind myself of all the planes taking off and landing all over the world every minute of the day, imagine all the different types of weather they experience and they still take off and land safely.

You say you are tired and stressed at the moment so it's difficult to reassure yourself when you feel like that, no wonder you feel anxious. So I'll be your voice of reason today and tell you that there's absolutely nothing to worry about with the weather! Try to stop checking the airport website, read the winter operations link that Keith has posted, and know that everything you are thinking about has already been thought of and a procedure put in place to deal with it.

I've been so terrified of flying in the past for all sorts of reasons, one being the weather, but I'd now say that snow and ice feels entirely normal and not a problem. If I can feel like that then I know you can!

Helen

Helen you're right

all this stuff has been thought about and is normal to those of us in the business.

I'd sooner be in a plane than with the loons on the road who scrape a tiny  bit of ice off their screens and try to see where they're going  as they drive along.

You can do a driving test in the sunshine and drive in the winter. Is that safer than flying?

Keith

Thanks guys.

I have no doubt that these things have been thought of already, and in much greater detail than I know. But it's the first time I'm thinking of them, which makes it harder to be objective. And I don't know if it's just cos I'm a bit burnt out from work, but I'm feeling disproportionately stressed about this flight and can't shake the feeling that something's going to go wrong.

Helen, thank you so much for the reassurance. It really means a lot to me.

Keith, I read the main site page on winter operations. It was interesting. The new site looks good and seems to have loads more info than the old one. Nice one.

Hey Sarah,

I've found my way to overcome my fears and its working. I always use fact. In your case:

1. There is always winter somewhere on earth and planes are still operating

2. Pilots never risk if they think its risky

3. Pilots are professionals, so let them do their jobs

4. Enjoy a glass of wine on board and forget about flying - you're not a pilot

So basically those things help me overcome most of my fears about flying. I was afraid of other things, but those rules help just well.

Sarah

What exactly do you think is going to go wrong?

Keith

Sarah said:

Thanks guys.

I have no doubt that these things have been thought of already, and in much greater detail than I know. But it's the first time I'm thinking of them, which makes it harder to be objective. And I don't know if it's just cos I'm a bit burnt out from work, but I'm feeling disproportionately stressed about this flight and can't shake the feeling that something's going to go wrong.

Helen, thank you so much for the reassurance. It really means a lot to me.

Keith, I read the main site page on winter operations. It was interesting. The new site looks good and seems to have loads more info than the old one. Nice one.

Hi Sarah,

I just flew from Germany to Romania in a fairly small plane in snowy conditions and everything went fine. Very little turbulence was the most noticeable thing.

Keith

I'm assuming it's more difficult to take off and land in snowy weather and that that increases the chances of something going wrong.

I've also never flown in conditions like this (that I remember), or really thought about it before, and my imagination's overloading, imagining the plane skidding off the runway, or snow and sleet getting into the engines or other controls and causing them to malfunction.

And well done, Farkas. Hope you're enjoying Romania.

Captain Keith said:

Sarah

What exactly do you think is going to go wrong?

Keith

Hi Sarah
Helen's right, try not to keep checking on the weather. Let the pilots deal with that. It's hard, because I'm flying from Tokyo to HK on Saturday and once in a while, I'll worry about the weather too. Just remember, we're in good hands.
Focus on the positive aspects of your trip home, you'll get to see family and friends, and get to spend Christmas together.
Keep posting and talking to us, hopefully that will bring some of your anxiety down. We're always here for each other :)
Take care, Lyn

Sarah

No it's not more difficult to take off in snow.  The chances of something going wrong are not increased. Snow and sleet does go into the engine, where it melts and evapourates immediately.

I think if snbow etc presented a problem we would have discovered by now.

Like my article says it's NOT like being on the roads. Using reverse thrust ensures that the plane is less likely to skid. And the runways are de-iced. 

The snow and ice will not settle in the controls because of the airflow over them.

Keith

I'd recommend to watch this short video http://youtu.be/5xlObdXF8VE

You'll see how much snow, water and hail engine can take and still have 100% of it's power.

Lyn. You're right I should think about where I'm going. I have to admit that when I saw the news reports of airport disruptions in UK cos of the weather, my first thought was 'oh no, I hope my flight doesn't get cancelled!' And I've stopped checking the weather. Mainly because it's 'Monday - snow. Tuesday - snow. Wednesday - snow' etc, etc.

Keith. Okay, if you're sure, I guess I believe you. Thank you for being so patient.

Darius. Thank you for sharing, that video is immense! I don't know how much hail a plane is likely to hit, but 3/4 ton in 30 seconds sounds like a lot, and that was ten years ago so I guess engines have improved since then.

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