Winds, Ice, and the naked woman
Well what can I say, there are times when you know things will be more memorable than others and this last weekend of flying was one of them. Started out with a redeye from Lax to Tampa on Friday the 13th (should have given me a clue). We landed in a high wind conditions that were on the inner edge of the aircrafts crosswind limits. All day long the winds got worse. We went back out to the Tampa airport in the late afternoon to fly to Atlanta and on to Windsor Locks in New England. The gate agent working my flight informed me that Orlando was out of wind limits, four airplanes were diverting to Tampa, and my flight was delayed. An hour and a half later we got a jet and started our preflight. I did the outside exterior check and when I entered the Jetway, the boarding process was in progress. Upon reaching the cockpit I saw that there was a woman halfway in talking to the copilot. She was friendly enough and I told her to get her camera and I would be happy to take a picture of her sitting in my seat. This is a common occurrence and we just had a visit with a father and young son. After taking her picture I asked her to view the photo to see if it was what she wanted. She was happy with it and told me she had a great photo to show me. After clicking through several photos she said, “Here it is, what do you think?” She turned the camera towards me and there I was looking at a photo of her completely naked lying on a bed. She then proudly showed it to the copilot. I wanted to tell her that I was glad she wasn’t my daughter but said “wow those sheets look expensive”. I told her we had to get to work and she left never to be seen again. Weird. We departed and flew to Atlanta where the winds were again on the edge of the aircrafts limitations. We turned the aircraft and headed up to Windsor Locks. On our descent we turned on all of our anti ice equipment. The system uses hot air from the engine and heats up the forward part of each engine and the leading edges of the wings. At night it is hard to see any part of the nose of the airplane to observe if ice is building up. It was obvious we were descending through icing conditions as an indicating “icing” light illuminated on one of our panels. We broke out of the clouds at about 1000 feet above the ground. The winds were gusting to the edge of the crosswind limit for the airplane. It was raining hard and there was something odd about the rain that I could not put my finger on. The autopilot disconnected as it was incapable keeping up with the rapidly changing wind conditions. There is a saying amongst us pilots that we use when adding extra speed to our final approach speed which comes off of a computer at our fingertips. We use the expression “adding 10 for mom” which means the final approach airspeed will be increased by 10 knots to give us an extra margin of safety against stall speeds as our mothers would of course insist upon. I added 15. About 2 feet above the ground I cut the power to idle and the airplane dropped like a rock. It wasn’t unsafe but it wasn’t the smoothest landing I have made either. Taxiing in I noticed again that the rain looked odd. We finally realized we were seeing drops of rain going from the liquid state to the solid state (ice) before it hit the ground. There were small patches of ice pellets on the ground. There is a rule that prohibits us from flying through areas of known or forecast icing. When we left Atlanta there was no icing reported or forecast. It was also late at night and there were just a few arrivals at that time. When you find yourself in icing conditions the only thing you can do is to get out of it as quickly as you can. At the gate in Windsor Locks I stepped into the Jetway to help a young mother open a stroller. I glanced out the Jetway window and saw that the fuselage of my airplane was covered in a thin layer of ice. I now had an explanation as to why the airplane dropped those last 2 feet. Ice adds weight and diminishes the aerodynamic efficiency. I have never seen that before and I don’t want to see it again. I called the dispatchers and let them know they now had an area of known icing which would prohibit other airplanes being dispatched through that airspace until it cleared up. I am sure that somewhere down the road for who knows what reason flyguy will be adding 10 for mom.