The ice storm

Jan 20, 2011 | | |

I've been in Oklahoma over the past couple of days on business. We
were warned last night of an ice storm today and when we went out to
the car this morning, it was cocooned in a layer of diamond-hard ice.
The ice filed down the plastic scraper it was so hard. But it got more
interesting when it came time to fly home. We had finished early so I
bumped my flight for an earlier one. When I got to the airport, that
flight was oversold so they put me on a 2pm flight in order to give me
an upgrade. That flight was a filler. The plane had been grounded in
the morning because is the ice storm but it needed to get back to Salt
Lake City. So two other passengers and three deadheading aircrew were
put on it along with it's assigned crew to get it home. Problem:
during the storm they had de-iced the plane thinking it was going to
be used. When I wasn't, it was parked on the ramp and the de-icing
fluid settled in the bottom of the engine cowls. It was so cold that
the de-icing fluid then froze, cementing the engine turbine to the
inner ring of the engine cowl. We only discovered this when the pilots
tried to start the engines after pushback. So back to the gate we
went, everyone off, and the engineering crew were sent out to thaw the
engines. It took them nearly two hours using a heat pump to unstick
the turbines. By the time we were ready to go, it was only 45 minutes
before the departure time of my original flight. Our plane still
needed everything else to be de-iced. It took them 40 minutes to get
the diamond-ice off the wings and as we finally left, the later SLC
flight was next in line behind us for takeoff. The difference? I'm
effectively in a business jet. There's six of us up front and
steerage is curtained-off and dark. So it took a while but we finally
got in the air.
Oh - and the temperature during all of this? -15F or -26C. With
supercooled ice suspended in the 30mph wind, the "feels like"
temperature was an impressive -36C.
For those in England, do you think Heathrow would be able to operate
at that temperature?

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