Just one pilot's attempt at taking an interesting picture every trip, often with a story to go with it. Come along for the ride.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Saint Thomas Turn "Snow, sand, snow"

Going to work on December 13th, I KNEW that our trip down to Saint Thomas (STT) and back that day would be interrupted. I packed my bag with the knowledge that we'd be staying on the island overnight.

It wasn't because of the weather we were seeing prior to departing Boston. In fact, it seemed like a normal overcast day there. But the reports were of 6 to 10 inches of snow starting about an hour after we left in the morning. By the time we got down to Saint Thomas, the computer showed more than half of the flights in and out of Boston were cancelled. I was digging through my bag for the sunscreen. While we waited, the flight attendants offered us some cookies. Needless to say, we didn't eat them all:

At least we had cookies

Somehow, our flight was still planned to go back to Boston. It all hinges on whether or not the Logan airport could keep up with plowing the runways and keeping them open. Since this was one of the first snow storms of the year, and the largest by far up to that point, I was still thinking we would be lounging at the beach while everyone up north had to dig their cars out of the snow and fight the afternoon rush hour traffic. But we wouldn't be spared.

Captain Paul M. and I both came to life on this trip. It certainly broke up the monotony of the normal, on time trips we usually fly. Instead, we were curious what would happen next. Would we cancel in Saint Thomas? Divert into Washington Dulles or maybe Norfolk, VA?

Off and on while flying north we heard reports that the airport was open, then closed, then open again. Finally we were on the Boston Approach Control frequency. We asked about the delays getting in and they told us that there would be no delay for us at all. They had just opened runway 4 right again and we were cleared for the approach.

We mad an 'autoland' which is required when the visibility is as low as it was for us. That went without a hitch and we taxied in slowly since the snow covered the runway turnoff points and some of the signs. I let the tower know that we had a loss of 10 knots of airspeed while on final approach at about 1000 feet so they could pass that along to the airplanes behind us, as well as our braking action which we thought was "Fair."

Ruthann told me later that she was listening to the Boston frequencies at www.liveatc.net and after our arrival, only one more flight made it in before the runway was closed again. This caused quite a debate on the radio, mainly from some JetBlue pilots, since they had just finished de-icing and now the airport was closed again. They would have to start the process all over again when it opened up again. We weren't paying too much attention to them, as we would have to avoid an outbound United flight that was in our way.

United we wait

We both thought we were SO lucky to be coming in and not going out. You see, one of the biggest concerns for pilots during these snow days hinges on our outbound flight canceling. If that happens, then we don't get paid for that trip, which can mean a loss of up to a quarter of your monthly pay. Bidding reserve, where you're guaranteed at least 73 hours starts to look like a good idea in December and January.

Approaching the gate, we saw where all the snow is taken. A huge machine that melts it by the truckload and puts out a huge plume of black smoke. The melted snow then goes down through a drain and out to the ocean.

I call it "Fried Snow."

Snow Fryer at the Logan Airport

When we got to the gate, I first took a picture outside the airplane. According to the time stamp on my camera, this was 20 minutes after we landed.

Snow day on the Boston Ramp

At the top of the jetbridge, I looked back and saw Paul still gathering up his stuff in the cockpit. Worthy of another picture.

"Won't you guide my sleigh tonight."

We dodged a bullet on this trip. We weren't even late getting in. But there was a 'Noreaster' snowstorm forecasted for my next trip. Stay tuned...


Neil said...

A bit of a posting bonanza Kent! Those pictures of the snow are fantastic. A really enjoyable and interesting read. Thanks

Kent Wien said...

Yeah, I finally caught up. I only do these when I'm on trips for the most part since I'm a bit busier at home. Thanks Neil for all of your comments this year. You never fail!

Ethan/Tphai said...

Heh, wow i like the snow fryer :)
thats a lot of cookies too! Wheres all the ground crew? that one guy does not look happy. hehe

neil said...

Thank you for giving me something to comment on! Here's to another year of blogging.

(written with my new toy- an iPod Touch!)

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Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Grew up in Alaska, went to high school and college in Washington State. Commercial pilot since 1990.

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