A Cautionary Tale

While reading some of the updated news about Colgan Air 3407, I was reminded of a harrowing incident recounted on an aviation blog.  I include it here not as prognostication on what happened to Colgan 3407, but as a reminder that when flying into inclement weather, it is critical that the aircrew work together professionally and keep flight safety front of mind at all times.

runny_vortilons[The captain] has spoken to the boss, and they have decided that we will continue on and get back to our base. That means at least 1.5 hours in the ice, instead of the 30 min we have just completed. I am not happy about this, and we get into a screaming match in front of everyone. Classy. Eventually I give in and get into the plane. Though I am NOT happy about it. It is my leg to fly, but I refuse, stating that since my input was not required while making the decision to do this leg, I will not fly. I am a passenger. What else can I do, besides stay there, alone, cold, with no where to go.

We take off.

We start picking up ice.

Lots of ice.

We change altitude.

Still more ice.

We are now unable to maintain altitude.


The captain comments that it ‘doesnt’ look as bad as the last leg’. I point out that we have an ever lower airspeed that before, and are using a higher power setting on the engines. In fact, we are at max power.

We are now drifting down towards the ground, the windshield caked in ice so bad we can barely see out. The ice on the wings extends back a foot and a half back from the boots. I feel ill imagining what the tail is looking like. We are inching closer and closer to a tail stall, I can just feel it.

— Anonymous pilot, “The Night of Ice“, Sulako’s Blog, April 8th, 2008.

Read the whole thing.  That particular aircrew is lucky to be alive.

Image “Runny Vortilons” from Fiveholer’s Flickr stream.

RELATED: Neptunus Lex presciently points to a 1998 NASA video describing the tailplane icing phenomenon.

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