Aviation In Canada

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Value of Thrust Reversers

In yet another story from my tower days, I learned the value of thrust reversers. Several years ago a weather system in late winter moved in providing us with freezing rain and near-zero temperatures. This "warmer" air over the snow meant a dense fog over the area, and the freezing rain that later joined in turned our runways and taxiways into skating rinks. With the temperatures near zero, it meant that the surface of the ice was also moist. Really good for the CRFI (then still called JBI), down at .16.

Runway 15 was active at Halifax this particular morning, with the winds 150@5-10 knots. Runway 15 has a 0.55% upward slope. A BAe-146 shot the ILS to 15. Several seconds after he disappeared off radar (we had no ASDE and the fog restricted visibility to the catwalk railing just outside the tower cab), I told the pilot to report off the runway on my frequency so I could clear the B757 behind him to land. The pilot responded with, "We're still sliding here. I'll call you when we get it stopped." I felt I had already given him enough time to slow down given conditions. Several long seconds later, a wavering voice came over the radio. "We're just getting it stopped about 75 feet from the end of the runway." I asked him where he touched down, and he confirmed the touchdown area, about 1,000 feet from the threshold, meaning he used nearly all of the 6,700 feet remaining.

I quickly informed the B757 of the preceding aircraft's experience when he called in, and was prepared to tell Terminal that he was going around, not willing to shoot the approach. He decided to try it anyway. He landed and turned off at the taxiway about 1,500 feet from the end, reporting braking action "fair". A heavier airplane with thrust reversers had no difficulty stopping while the lighter one without the reversers almost overran the end. What a learning experience working in aviation can be!