Winter is Here and ALPA Pilots are Ready

As cold weather ensnares the majority of North America, some passengers may find themselves experiencing a flight delay or cancellation—at times even in a city without snow. Your flight in sunny California may be delayed due to the fact that the aircraft is coming from a colder climate. Or, your order from that online retailer might be stuck at a cargo hub for a bit. So why the delays?

As professional airline pilots who are Trained for Life, we take many things into consideration when preparing aircraft for a safe, on-time departure. However, factors outside of our control may force a delay, especially in the winter months, and the delay in the cold-weather locations will ripple through the airline network as a result. When calculating performance requirements for every takeoff, we take variables like temperature, altitude, and precipitation into consideration. In the winter, we must ensure that the aircraft is free of snow and ice, which involves deicing and anti-icing the aircraft.

As the aircraft accelerates down the runway, the airflow over the wings generates the lift necessary to take the aircraft airborne. To maximize the wings’ lifting capabilities, the deicing and anti-icing processes ensure that the aircraft is free from frozen precipitation. Deicing involves using a heated fluid to melt and clear the frozen contaminants that may be adhering to the lifting surfaces of the aircraft, the skin on the wings and tail, and other critical areas.  After deicing, if precipitation and freezing conditions are expected to continue, we will also anti-ice the aircraft, which is a spray-on application of an additional, thicker fluid that inhibits ice or snow accumulation for a period of time based on temperature, type of precipitation, intensity, and time of exposure.

These important safety procedures take extra time and may cause a departure delay or cause your online order to be a little later than expected. Depending on how long the initial delay was for a single flight, it may cause delays for later flights scheduled on that same aircraft or other flights, even in a warm-weather city. Rest assured that professional airline pilots do our best to ensure each and every flight is operated safely, and we work with our fellow crewmembers and airline and airport colleagues to ensure you and your cargo’s travels are as smooth as possible.

Categories: Safety


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