Air- Mitchell airport, airlines keep flying in face of extreme cold

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

Jan. 5, 2014

Several flights in and out of Mitchell International Airport either were canceled or delayed Sunday, but the blame goes to snowy conditions elsewhere — not the wicked polar chill descending on Wisconsin.Aircraft generally are adept at navigating the cold. Think about how cold it gets at high altitudes, even on a warm day, Mitchell spokeswoman Pat Rowe said.Some aircraft may be plugged in to power units on the ground to make sure they start if they\’re out of service for a few hours. Aircraft can be de-iced if there\’s a combination of moisture and near-freezing or below-freezing temperatures.But the tugs that haul luggage and push aircraft away from or to gates are just as susceptible to not starting in cold weather as cars. And the ground crew has to be on the tarmac to move luggage around and direct flights in and out of the airport, no matter how dangerously cold it is.Then there\’s the wind, which potentially could be a factor in travel late Sunday through Tuesday. Airplanes generally take off and land facing into the wind, Rowe said. If the wind is strong, large airports that use a couple of runways simultaneously may have to limit arrivals and departures, she said.What travelers may not remember this time of year is to check whether it\’s snowing elsewhere before leaving for the airport, even if the skies are blue in Milwaukee.There has been plenty of snow in Milwaukee recently, and Mitchell ground crews were kept especially busy pushing snow off runways and keeping them clear of ice.But it\’s not like keeping a freeway clear. Airport crews can\’t put salt on runways — that would corrode the metal on aircraft. A specific grade of sand that won\’t get sucked into aircraft engines must be used. They also can\’t use a salt-based de-icer on aircraft, and the liquid spray must be environmentally friendly, Rowe said.Sensors on the airport\’s two main runways constantly monitor both surface temperature and moisture to determine whether they are bare and dry for safe takeoff and landing.\”It\’s quite a science,\” Rowe said.Based on readings from sensors, runways may have to be closed for 20 minutes for clearing with plows or blowers, which backs up flight schedules, Rowe said. That happened a lot over the past few weeks because of continuous snowfall.Safety has to come first. Imagine a 737 — a typical aircraft at Mitchell — taking off or landing at 150 to 175 mph. It can\’t slow down because of hazardous runway conditions like a car can on a snowy highway. Speed is a requirement for aircraft to function.It snowed Sunday in Chicago, so all flights in and out of Milwaukee involving O\’Hare were canceled, Rowe said, and several early evening and late evening flights into Milwaukee from other cities around the country were canceled.

via Mitchell airport, airlines keep flying in face of extreme cold.


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