Would you take off with this much snow on the wing?

Snow pic.jpg

This picture taken by someone who says they were an off-duty flight attendant is causing considerable consternation in UK regulatory circles. And it’s being energetically discussed on Pprune.

It was sent to the UK’s greatly respected CHIRP operation which is a confidential safety reporting system in which incidents are disidentified.

The F/A says (s)he told the senior F/A about the snow before take-off but the aircraft departed anyway. This picture was taken during the ensuing flight.

I’m not sure what type it is – no obvious sign of a nacelle, but maybe it’s out of frame. If it’s a hard-wing type though then this is really not a great situation.

In the Flight office we several times discussed what we would do if we found ourselves on an aircraft which appeared to be about to take-off with something amiss. I mean even if you knew you were right, what do you do exactly to stop the take-off going ahead? Imagine you’re just about to roll on an MD-80 with no slats/flaps deployed.

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10 Responses to Would you take off with this much snow on the wing?

  1. Karl November 9, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    Yikes! I’d scream and talk about things that would cause me to get thrown off the plane… and perhaps an incident report with ‘unruly passenger onboard’ as the cause.

    It’s amazing how many accidents were attributed to icing on the wings, but we still never learn.

    Would be great to know what type of a/c that was. Doesn’t look like a wing of a 737 to me.

  2. Steve November 9, 2009 at 8:00 am #

    This picture is a fake.

  3. Ben Kolbeck November 9, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Erm Steve, no it isn’t.
    and WOW! I would have spoken up about that – I was once on a Swiss A320, had a lot of snow on the wings, we were taxiing for the runway and one of the FA’s was just walking past so I asked her if we were being de-iced – of course, we were, but better to be safe… so many accidents could be avoided if people spoke up.

  4. 121 Pilot November 10, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    Lets assume for the sake of argument the picture is real. My comments below are based on that assumption. I do question the photo’s authenticity but the story seems to lend an offical credence to the photo and the question Mr. Daly asks is based on the photo being real.

    If you try to take off with that much snow on the wings the odds are very high that you’ll end up somewhere off the end of the runway in a burning aircraft. Your life quite literally is in very serious danger.

    Consequently If a quiet word to the FA didn’t work I’d stand up, scream, yell, do whatever I had to do to stop the takeoff. Even charge the cockpit door and pound on it. Because if I let the airplane roll the odds are I and everyone around me will shortly be dead or very seriously injured. That being said you have to be SURE your right on this because if you make such a scene and it turns out you were wrong you’ll be in very serious trouble indeed.

    That this aircraft managed a takeoff with that much snow on the wings must be considered nothign short of a miracle.

    I’ll add one other thought. As a professional airline pilot I was appalled and angered by the accident in 2004 where a chartered Challenger attempted takeoff in snow without de-icing and crashed killing 14 year old Teddy Ebersol. The lack of professionalism demonstrated by those two idiots (and I use that word deliberately) is utterly mind boggling. The wing in the picture looks rather like an A320 wing to me and if the photo is real and if its on an airliner then the guys flyign this aircraft make the Ebersol clowns look like Chuck Yeager.

    How many people do we have to kill before the “clean aircraft concept” truly takes hold?

  5. Faker November 17, 2009 at 7:20 pm #


    Know a fake when you see one people! Jeez… Take a look at this:


    30 mins with Google Images and Photoshop 7.

  6. Ben Kolbeck November 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    I totaly agree. And yeah, it also looks like a 320 to me.
    maybe the snow built up in-flight? I certainly hope so.

    Any of us remember that Air Ontario F28 crash in Canada? Or the Air Florida 737-200 after takeoff from Washington?

    Dear oh dear. We don’t learn from mistakes, do we?

  7. Phil Alford December 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

    This photo is distrubing at least, if it was actually taken in flight. However, after witnessing a C-17 take off from SLC with a few inches of snow on the wings as if it was a non event I wonder about a lot of things that we as pilots are told.

  8. Mandy Kachinko December 2, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    Faker, the image you’ve submitted is the Photoshopped one. Your faked image was created from the original which Kieran used to accompany this post.

  9. sara vaughn coleman December 4, 2009 at 4:37 am #

    I was on a jet that took off from SLC last winter
    with more snow on the wing than this. It built up
    in seconds after we were delayed for de-icing. As I began
    to panic during taxi the passenger next to me who said he was a pilot assured
    me that anti-freeze (or whatever airline equivalent is called)
    would be released from top of the wing just prior to take off.
    It did and then built up again. I’m here to write
    about it so that must be a good sign…

  10. Mutuelle santé October 4, 2010 at 5:44 am #

    Though the pho may be fake or not , the emergence is here and the appropriate task and help to prevent any abuse and neglection of the aircrafts should be reviewed.

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