Captain Becker, how do pilots cope with dense fog during an approach?
There are certain procedures the cockpit crew have to follow in order to fly an approach in snow, where there’s a danger of icing up, as well as in fog, when visibility, which is measured electronically, may well be below 100 meters. That said, we approach at speeds of 250 km/h and more for aerodynamic reasons. On “sharp” approaches, pilots are assisted by automatic flight-guidance systems because they are unable to see the runway lights until they have touched down.
What precautions must be taken when temperatures fall below freezing? Do airplanes ever skid?
The runways are mostly cleared of ice and snow to enable airplanes to land and take off safely. If this cannot be done in time, pilots must make sure that the maximum snow depth has not been exceeded. After being notified of the runway friction measurements, they have to decide whether to land in a crosswind or on a shorter runway. In such circumstances we make a “more positive,” in other words harder, landing to ensure immediate contact with the ground and facilitate fast braking.
How is an airplane deiced? Who makes sure that this is done in good time?
The captain is responsible for ensuring that the aircraft is free of ice and snow at takeoff. The actual deicing is performed at the airport by the airline’s technical crew, either at the gate or shortly before we reach the takeoff runway with the engines already running.