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Jet Hits Snowplow On Landing

The first snowstorms are moving across the USA. That means you'll start seeing heavy snow removal equipment at airports you're flying into. Here's what happened to a flight crew just a few years ago...

Denver Post

Report 1: Hawker Crew Hits A Snowplow On Landing

In the winter of 2015, a Hawker Beechjet 400 hit a snowplow on landing at the Telluride Airport, Colorado. All 5 passengers and 2 crew left the airplane uninjured. In addition, the plow driver (who was hit from behind during landing) was uninjured. Talk about luck.

So what happened?

The pilots were conducting an international chartered flight in the small, twin-engine jet with five passengers onboard. Since the weather at the destination was marginal, the flight crew had discussed an alternate airport in case weather conditions required a missed approach at their destination. As the airplane neared the non-towered destination airport, the flight crew received updated weather information, which indicated that conditions had improved. Upon contacting the center controller, the crew was asked if they had the weather and NOTAMS for the destination airport. The crew reported that they received the current weather information, but did not state if they had NOTAM information. The controller responded by giving the flight a heading for the descent and sequence into the airport. The controller did not provide NOTAM information to the pilots. About 2 minutes later, airport personnel entered a NOTAM via computer closing the runway, effective immediately, for snow removal.

Although the NOTAM was electronically routed to the controller, the controller's system was not designed to automatically alert the controller of a new NOTAM; the controller needed to select a display screen on the equipment that contained the information. At the time of the accident, the controller's workload was considered heavy.

About 8 minutes after the runway closure NOTAM was issued, the controller cleared the airplane for the approach. The flight crew then canceled their instrument flight plan with the airport in sight, but did not subsequently transmit on or monitor the airport's common traffic advisory frequency, which was reportedly being monitored by airport personnel and the snow removal equipment operator. The airplane landed on the runway and collided with a snow removal vehicle about halfway down the runway. The flight crew reported they did not see the snow removal equipment.

Denver Post

Report 2: Incidents Can Happen While Taxiing, Too

The following NASA ASRS report was published by a flight crew flying a corporate jet into Portland, Maine. They took evasive action during taxi when airport snowplow drivers weren't aware of their location:

We flew aircraft on a revenue flight to PWM. I was conducting IOE duties, and the PIOE Captain was in the left seat taxiing into the FBO at PWM after landing on runway 29. We were eastbound on taxiway A, and we observed two snow removal vehicles (snow blowers) and an SUV that looked like a supervisory vehicle way in front of us. One snow blower vehicle pulled off of taxiway A onto the closed taxiway D and started removing snow. The supervisory vehicle drove past taxiway D and stopped on the right side of taxiway A between taxiway D and C. As we approached the snowblower on taxiway D we noticed that he was backing up fairly quickly. We expected him to stop prior to entering taxiway A, but he kept coming right in front of us onto taxiway A.

The captain in the left seat anticipated the problem and veered to the left, slowed down, and avoided the collision. The driver of the snowblower seemed unaware of our presence until his head turned right, he saw our right wingtip, and he abruptly stopped. I notified Ground Control of the incident, and he gave me a phone number to call after we had parked at the FBO. We discussed the incident with him then notified the ACP. Even though aircraft have the right of way over snow removal equipment, you can't assume that they see you and will stop. Always be ready to take evasive action if you're near them.


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Snow Removal At Controlled Airports

When you're taxiing around airports, it's relatively unusual to share a taxiway with normal ground vehicles. In snow season, you'll deal with many more potential conflicts with snow/ice removal equipment and their support crews. In 2016, the FAA updated the "Airport Winter Safety and Operations" manual. Here's what the introduction has to say about snow removal equipment:

Operations of snow removal equipment and support vehicles must be conducted to prevent runway incursions and interference or conflict with airplane operations. This safety responsibility is shared by airport personnel, airplane operators, and any contract service providers.

Additionally, if the snow removal unit is operating in an aircraft movement area (taxiway, runway, etc), they should be in communication with the control tower (either directly or through a supervisor). That doesn't take the responsibility away from you, the pilot, to see and avoid ground vehicles. Additionally, airports often publish NOTAMs or ATIS notes about when snow removal is occurring.

Wikimedia

What About Non-Towered Fields?

The FAA recommends that NOTAMs for runway closures, snow removal operations, and any other lengthy maintenance activities at non-towered airports be directly coordinated with the overlying air traffic control facility (TRACON or ARTCC) when the operation will begin in less than 60 minutes.

That being said, even if you don't see a NOTAM, you should always been on the lookout for snow removal equipment on and around the runway if there's snow on the ground.

Have you ever performed a go-around due to snow equipment on the runway? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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