Aviation In Canada

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Slippery Runways

One morning in late winter while I worked in the tower at CYHZ, there was a warmer airmass over our region while the ground was still snow covered. This often leads to fog, and this was characteristic of the region being dense enough to prevent us from seeing the apron in front of us, let alone the runways. We had some freezing drizzle fall while the temperature remained around freezing. This left an ice covered runway in the middle of an inbound flow, and the ice was wet. The Dash 8's didn't say anything about braking action (they would rarely use brakes on the active runway which was 7,700 feet). Then a BAe-146 landed. I watched him drop off the radar, and gave him several seconds to get slowed down. I told him to take his first available right turn and report off the runway on my frequency, so the B757 behind him could get a landing clearance. He responded with, "Well, we're still sliding here, we'll let you know when we get stopped."

After what seemed like an eternity, a shaken voice came over the radio. "We're just getting it stopped about 75 feet from the end of the runway now. We'll call braking action 'nil'." He confirmed that he touched down about 1,000 feet along, typical for an ILS. He used 6,700 feet of an uphill runway while landing into wind. Now a larger, heavier aircraft is on final. I reported this to the B757, anticipating that he may not want to land. He asked for a landing clearance, which I gave him.

Upon landing, the 757 reported braking action "fair" and turned onto a taxiway about 1,500 feet from the end without a hint of panic in the voice. What a difference thrust reversers can make.