Aviation In Canada

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Another Winter Storm

Another winter storm is getting ready to slam the maritime provinces of Canada where I live. (the maritime provinces, for info sake, are New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia) The neat thing about this one, from an aviation standpoint, is the wind forecast. We often see a change of winds of around 60-90°, but this one is forecast to start blowing from the southeast, change to the northeast (where most of our nasty winter storm winds come from) and then to turn to blowing from the northwest, all with high winds upwards of 25-35 knots before the gusts are factored in.

The great issue surrounding this is the high winds dictate the runway usage, whereas most operations in our region are dependent on the pilot's desires and traffic. In calm winds, even the busier Halifax International uses all the pavement to get airplanes off and on as quickly as possible (the beauty of a great control staff and no noise abatement procedures or other restrictions). No, this way the winds will have it. Which runway do the plow drivers clear? Take Halifax, for example. Initially, with the winds out of the SE, they'll likely plow runway 15. It has an ILS and points the right way. With budget cuts all over the country, what happens when the winds change to NE? 06 will be needed, but it'll have snow on it and be very slippery. Can you still have airplanes landing with a 90° crosswind in slippery, snowy conditions? The good news is that when it clears off, the winds will be from the NW, looking right down the reciprocal of runway 15. But then, did they take the plows of 15 and start working on 06 before the snow stopped falling? This could mean both runways are now slippery. What a challenge for the pilots!