To: (Separate email addresses with commas)
From: (Your email address)
Message: (Optional)



Tips To Handle Icy Runways and Taxiways

This story was made in partnership with AssuredPartners. Paying too much for aircraft insurance? Get your free quote from AssuredPartners today.

Here's how to anticipate the amount of snow or ice on a runway, and what to do if you need to land on a contaminated runway.

Preflight Planning

What makes a runway contaminated? According to the FAA, "a runway is considered contaminated when more than 25 percent of the runway surface area (within the reported length and the width being used) is covered by frost, ice, and any depth of snow, slush, or water" (AC 25-31).


As you look at the weather conditions, work big-to-small. Did a winter storm just come through? Is there a warm front passing through your route? Are there PIREPs for snow, or freezing precipitation?

Being well-informed about the weather at your departure and arrival airports is the first step.

Using Your Resources

As you get closer to your destination you'll be able to pick up the ATIS or AWOS frequency. You might hear something called a 'Field Condition Report' or FICON for short. FICON reports can also be included at the end of a METAR if manually augmented. These FICON reports give you a measure of how contaminated, slippery, or slushy a runway is. Knowing how to interpret these reports allows you to predict your braking action when you land.

FICON reports are given numerically, on a scale from 1-6, with 6 being the best braking action. FICON reports are not automated systems, and require input from airport management and pilots. Think of it as a PIREP system for the runway.


What happens if as you land you discover that the runway is slicker than you thought? While every situation is different, consider going-around and diverting to another airport. Ideally another airport with more thorough snow clearing equipment.

Landing On A Contaminated Runway

Once you've decided you can make a safe landing, here are tips to help you maintain directional control.

First, make sure you have enough runway to come to a complete stop. Reduced braking means your ground roll will be longer. Check your POH for specific guidance, but a good rule-of-thumb is to multiply your calculated distances by 1.5x.

As you roll out from your touch down, use aerodynamic braking. By maximizing the drag produced by your control surfaces, you can help slow yourself with reduced effort on your wheel brakes. If you do use your brakes, make sure to avoid locking your wheels up, as this will cause them to skid, and for you to lose directional control.

Finally, plan out your exit on a taxiway. Depending on the severity of contamination, slow to a crawl to avoid understeering your way off the taxiway into a snowbank.

Since winter weather can bring gusty conditions, be sure to apply a proper crosswind correction while taxing too.


What precautions do you take when landing on a snowy, slushy, or icy runway? Let us know in the comments below.

Paying too much for aircraft insurance? Get your free quote from AssuredPartners today.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a flight instructor from Southern California. He is currently studying aviation at Purdue University. He's worked on projects surrounding aviation safety and marketing. You can reach him at

Images Courtesy:

Recommended Stories

Latest Stories

    Load More
    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email