Here in the Northern Hemisphere airlines will just be preparing for winter operations. Pilots, engineers and ground handling staff will start to undergo their annual refresher training on winter operations.

Before taking off an aircraft will be cleared of all snow and ice on the important parts of its exterior. Very detailed procedures have to be complied with to ensure aircraft are free of contamination. Sometimes de-icing is done by a crew using a spray gun on a hydraulic lift while at other airports aircraft have to taxi through a giant archway which sprays it with de-icing fluid. Each type of fluid, according to the weather at the time has a period while it is effective…if a plane doesn’t take off within this time it has to be de-iced again. Safety is the only consideration.

We all appreciate the differences on the roads when they have either been gritted or not, and there’s no official advice on how slippery a road may be. Information about actual, as opposed to forecast conditions are just not available to road users.

You’d expect me now to say that it’s completely different at airports. And of course it is. Snow clearance from runways and and taxiways is a given. Detailed information is available to pilots and flight planners about the runway conditions, the depth of any contamination so that weight limitations can be calculated if appropriate. And despite the enormous safety margins available almost all aircraft have to take of with maximum power.

The only dangerous part of flying in the winter is your drive to and from the airport.

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