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What Are the Risks of Flying During Winter Weather?

Published on Jan 23, 2020 at 11:33 pm in Airplane Accidents.

Flying in the wintertime can seem like a hassle. Trudging to the airport in the snow and slush in a heavy coat and winter gear while toting luggage is difficult enough. The situation can seem even worse if you arrive at the airport to learn your flight has been canceled.

While canceled flights cause stress, more often than not the right decision is being made. There’s no reason to take a risk in the air in the event of inclement weather. When a commercial airline fails to necessarily cancel a flight or a pilot is unaware of how to properly operate the aircraft in poor weather conditions, the consequences can be devastating and result in serious injuries or death to passengers on the plane. It’s important for pilots, flight crews, airlines, and passengers to be aware of the risk of flying during winter weather, so airplane accidents can be prevented.

The Dangers of Icy Runways

While the colder temperatures in winter allow for improved takeoff and climb performance, high winds, unpredictable blizzards, and decreased visibility create a dangerous environment for pilots. Landing can be particularly challenging, especially if the runway is covered in ice or snow.

In November 2019, a plane slid off the runway as it was landing at O’Hare Airport. On the morning of November 11, an Embraer 145 regional jet arriving from Greensboro, NC, began to slide on the snow-covered tarmac as the main landing gear collapsed. Fortunately, no one was injured. Passengers, however, reported noting the visibility was bad in Chicago and the plane slid on the second landing attempt. At the time of the incident, a winter weather advisory was in effect for the city, and more than 1,000 flights were canceled.

This incident brings to light the risks of flying during winter weather. Even if the sky is clear during takeoff, there’s no guarantee weather conditions won’t change during the flight. While no one reported being injured on the Greensboro, N.C. Flight , the accident could have been worse. Pilots need to take into consideration the possibility of a safe landing and make an educated call as to whether to land or proceed to a potentially safer airport.

How Pilots Control Planes in the Snow

In order to prevent incidents like the one discussed above, there are a few things airlines, flight crews, and pilots can do. First, it’s important for the airport to keep the tarmac as clear as possible. This may mean having a cleanup crew work continuously so the planes have safe surfaces to take off from and touch down on.

In addition to keeping the runway clear, it’s important to be aware of the location of the plane. If the flight crew becomes disoriented because of low visibility, there’s a chance they could become uncertain as to their location in the sky. This can restrict a controller’s ability to identify and follow the plane visually. As a result, runway incursion can happen. This is why an aircraft lands on an incorrect runway or in an incorrect location. To prevent this, some planes are equipped with Surface Movement Radar (SMR), which presents a plane’s image on a radar indicator in the control tower.

How to Plan for Winter Airplane Travel

While you have to rely on the skill, experience, and knowledge of a pilot once you’re in the air, there are steps you can take prior to boarding a plane or planning a trip that can make the experience of traveling in the wintertime a little easier.

Because the weather can be unpredictable, it’s a good idea to pad your schedule. If you have a meeting you can’t miss or a celebration to get to, schedule your flight earlier than you usually would. Depending on the weather projections, this could mean traveling an entire day earlier.

It’s also a smart idea to try to arrange nonstop flights. Avoid connections, as it’s more likely to run into delays or cancellations if your flight isn’t nonstop. Also try to book your flight as early in the day as possible, as it’s more likely for afternoon and evening flights to get canceled. Keep in touch with your airline. It’s easier to proactively change a flight than it is to reschedule a canceled one.

Even if you’ve planned for inclement weather, there’s still the possibility of getting into an accident once you’re on the plane. If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one as a result of an airplane accident, you’re likely feeling out of control and confused about where to turn. Fortunately, our lawyers have extensive experience helping crash victims recover compensation – particularly when the accident was the result of negligence on behalf of the pilot or commercial airline. To learn more about taking legal action, contact us today.

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