Flying in Winter

In this article we will show you what our pilots need to be aware of when flying in winter and what challenges they are confronted with.

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How do pilots deal with slippery runways in winter?
Aircraft on the wintry apron

Slippery Runways in Winter

It is not just slippery on the roads in winter, but also on the runways. When planes take off for the next destination, slippery runways present a challenge for both pilot and plane. Car drivers can counteract the problem with winter tyres and snow chains. However, these aids are not available for aircraft. Therefore, pilots need to calculate the exact take-off and landing distances for each flight. Current runway and weather conditions are also included in these calculations.

It is important to brake the aircraft efficiently during landing. In addition to the wheels' brakes, aerodynamic braking options such as landing flaps, spoilers and thrust reversal in the engines are also used. Moreover, various safety systems such as the Anti Skid System are also in operation. This is comparable to the anti-lock brakes in a car, which prevent the tyres from locking.

Our crew is well prepared for the cold season due to their comprehensive training and the highly professional maintenance of our aircraft. Safety is always the top priority for Austrian Airlines and you will always arrive safely at your destination, even in winter.

Why is a plane being de-iced?

De-icing of Austrian Airlines Aircraft

Icy conditions are a common occurrence in winter. However, these conditions pose a challenge for aircraft: Ice can adversely affect flight characteristics and aerodynamics due to the additional weight. Depending on how severe the ice is, the cockpit crew decides whether only the wings or, for example, the fuselage also needs to be de-iced. Depending on size and airport, our aircraft are de-iced directly at the parking position or on a de-icing pad with a de-icing fluid to remove snow and ice. Special vehicles are available for this purpose, which spray the aircraft with a nozzle.

De-icing of an aircraft in winter

Depending on the weather conditions and forecast, a protective layer, the so-called anti-icing, is applied. This layer remains on the surfaces until take-off. During the take-off process this layer disappears due to the increasing speed and the aircraft starts its flight with clean surfaces.

The de-icing fluid and anti-icing consist of a mixture of glycol, water and additives - but in different mixing ratios. Due to the different mixing ratios a certain time window can be calculated. If the take-off is delayed, the aircraft has to return to its parking position for a new protective layer.

Once the aircraft is in the air, on-board systems take over de-icing. Hot air from the engines is used to remove ice from the aircraft's frozen leading edges. Other parts of the aircraft are not affected by icing due to the high flying speed.

Discover the World of Flying with Austrian Airlines

So many exciting insights about travelling in winter! We would like to thank our pilots for their detailed answers.

Do you feel like looking at the snow-covered peaks from above? Then book your next flight with Austrian Airlines right here:

Cover picture: © alexcheban

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