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Snow Clearance

Old 5th Jan 2010, 20:42
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Snow Clearance

Given the volume of white stuff currently circulating around the UK, and during the idle day in the crewroom that resulted, conversation moved to discussing the (lack) of snow clearance capability. So, does your airfield have any? How about the Q bases or MEDAs? Anyone else remember those jet engine contraptions that were all noise, mesh guards and clouds of snow that used to sit in the MT yard for 362 days a year? Should we spend money on a clearance capability? (I mean proper chewers and blowers, not a plastic plough on the front of a fuel bowser) or is current perceived policy of waiting for it to thaw the best?
Thoughts welcome, dits/photos about pirouetting your jet down icy runways and getting snowed into the mess for a week even better. I am that bored.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 20:51
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I think those of us in the frozen north are quite happy to let it thaw; especially as it'll take about 2 weeks, and there's nothing to do in the meantime but go ski-ing!
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 20:56
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Let it melt. Saves money on kit and fuel. By the time most Runways and Taxiways are suitable for AC running the surrounding snow has started melting anyway. (thats after trying to clear it for 9 hours(with proper kit))
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 21:05
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....Anyone else remember those jet engine contraptions that were all noise, mesh guards and clouds of snow that used to sit in the MT yard for 362 days a year?...
MRD - Mechanical runway deicer .... 2 Derwent engines strapped to the front of a fuel bowser ... and for some reason Lyneham decided in the 70's that only an Air Eng could operate them ... so you sat between these two extremely noisy things .. with a bolt through the thottle mechanism to stop you putting too much power on and blowing your self backwards .... a MAJOR warning from OC Ops about not melting the runway ... and a piece of string that went back to the bowser as the emergency fuel shutoff ....

For some reason it was the secondary duty of a new Air Eng on the Sqn .... and you just prayed that it didn't snow before the next guy got posted in !!
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 21:11
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There is still a level of clearance capability. However, the lords and masters have decided that, in the big scheme of things, waiting for the melt is fine for most - the cost of maintaining large fleets of little-used specialist equipment compared to a few down days. Despite not having what we used to, it is a lot more than just a plough on a bowser and to do it properly takes real teamwork from Ops, ATC, Met & MT.

Certain capabilities are always able to take off and sufficient operating surface is maintained for them.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 21:17
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The wire brushes associated with the trailer mounted jet engines represent a massive FOD problem, and in fairness, the 'let it thaw' routine is wholly appropriate for normal UK winters.

Last edited by Tiger_mate; 5th Jan 2010 at 21:40. Reason: spulling brain dump
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 21:27
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Snow clearing! The best fun ever! (only if you were an amateur). Topcliffe, in the early '80's, an ATC Landrover and a Landrover size blade. Wow, snow flying the way you want it! Two of us (one professional MTD and me, the amateur) had a blacktop and RNEFTS flying before the big boys at Leeming (with MRD's) had a JP call for start.

The Bulldog Boys really rubbing it in by asking for talkdowns to overshoot at a 'Black' Leeming MDA.

The Doc (JJ) helped by issuing (the duty) rum.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 22:34
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MRD = Machine, Runway, De-icing, surely? Also good at destroying bowser clutches, peoples' hearing, runway lights, friction courses.....

Rumour hath it that at one large AT/AAR base in British West Oxfordshire, the last serviceable aircraft de-icer finally packed up. So urgent moves were taken to hire one from BA. "Certainly, sir, but the minimum rental period is 3 months". "OK, that's fine...."

In March? They probably used it maybe twice.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 23:12
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The MRD was very good at melting the snow and helping to form vast patches of ice, also removing the black gunk sealant between the concrete slabs!

As OO at Waddo it was my remit one night to supervise the snow clearance operation. While sitting in MT, complete with mukluks and parka I made the mistake of reading the relevant documentation and discovered that if the temperature was low enough, after a specified time period the snow clearance teams were entitled to a rum ration!

I felt it my duty to comply with these instructions and made suitable arrangements.

The next day I had to give OC Ops a good listening to; luckily I had the document reference to hand as well as the met office temperature readings and the MT duty logs.

I understand the instructions were amended soon afterwards; shame!

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Old 5th Jan 2010, 23:40
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"Let it melt" is fine if the only cost is the odd down-day. How far do you let that argument run, though? What about a down-week? Or a down-fortnight? What if that down-fortnight is at a crucial period of work-up training for a deploying unit? Perhaps that unit could send a detachment to an airfield with better weather or better clearing equipment - but being away from home just before a deployment would obviously not be popular!

Whilst on this subject, could someone with knowledge of "Clearway" please explain how major airports are able to use it to maintain operations in all but the heaviest snowfalls, whilst most RAF airfields seem to use it to create a surface worthy of Torvill and Dean!
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 06:22
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At Wittering in the 'old' days putting a harrier or two in a hover down the runway worked a treat! Pity they will be going the same way as the MRD's! Whilst on the roads a lot of the Landrovers had blades fitted so everyone was a snow clearer................ H&S has done what the Russians never could.
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 07:50
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Most civ airfields have more experience and better equipment to use Clearway - and Ops staff who are more experienced in the whole process. Clearway is very good, if applied and managed properly. Unfortunately, many of the young duty ops types don't have the experience and see taking advice from a Flt Sgt or WO from MT as failure. Being told to lay it when you know it will just snow on top is pointless, but I've seen it done many times. I've seen too much laid as well 'just in case' which doesn't work either.
MT hasn't got the experience it used to have - more dets to hot places, less to MPA and no Germany presence (coupled with a 'let it melt' mentality) means skill fade.
If your Ops staff let you fly off it, and you think it unsafe, you best speak to Ops.
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 08:02
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Urea thats the answer - plenty of that around
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 08:06
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... and then there was the occasion when a mil a/f laid its annual allocation of urea in the space of a very few days!! Result: beautifully clear movement area but embarrassing questions from the Senior Medical Officer of Health from the local City regarding the quality of the water supply (usually taken from the river) and a recent epidemic of 'the trots'!!
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 08:16
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Well, not just for the military but to be honest, I cannot see how it could be/should be beyond the wit of the 21st Century UK to be able to deliver some sort of solution so that as soon as we see a flake of snow falling that the whole country doesnt grind to a halt. Its bloody ridiculous, to put it bluntly.

I recall last year, working at Corsham, where the only people to turn up for 3 days in a row during one week were one DE&S civil serpent and three of us contractors... the cs on foot, the rest of us crawling along in cars... Nobody else even bothered.

I'm sure that the 800million GBP we're giving to a certain country in the east who already have a space programme, nuclear weapons and are thinking of buying one of our carriers could go some way towards giving us a national capability to clear the dratted white stuff...
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 08:47
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Never mind the MRD to clear the runway, I visited Moscow in a C130 in the 90s (carrying the chaps who counted tanks). If you asked for a deice there the locals offered a similar machine, a Mig 15 engine on the back of a truck which parked in front of you to blow the ice off your airframe.

It was politely declined.....
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 10:01
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which parked in front of you to blow the ice off your airframe
- reminds me of watching a C-130 blow start another!

Yonks ago I was watching the MRD (Mobile Runway Destroyer) at Linton doing it's stuff. I was in local at the time rubber-necking with the great and good and someone said 'wow, thats a really good piece of kit, look at the slabs of black ice it's blowing off!' Quoth Satco as he bounded downstairs 5 at a time 'that's not black ice, it's the bl00dy taxiway!!!!'
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 10:13
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After returning from embarkation leave in '69, instead of "clearing", my last duty day at Waddington in '69 was spent operating a Mobile Runway Destroyer. That job was always given to a "gash hand"

I arrived at Changi shortly afterwards where it was 32 in the shade (if you could find any) so "Up Yours" Flight Sergeant Thompson!
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 10:45
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In the days when R/R Dewents were used to power Meteors, aircraft were quite handy. A couple of Vampires positioned by tractors could blow of a fair amount of snow. IIRC we cleared a one aircraft wide strip on Oakington's runway in a day from 3 inches. In the V Force days it was imperative for the runway to be clear enough for our nuclear deterent to get airborne. The MRD was invented for that. To many aircraft tugs were being overturned by Victors when the pilot was a bit clumsy on the throttles.

People cause the difficulties.
After a snowfall the duty crew drive around the perimeter tracks and runway and announce that it is covered with snow.
The O/C ATC drives around the perimeter track and the runway and announces that it is covered with snow.
The O/C Operations drives around the perimeter track and runway and announces that it is covered with cnow.
The Station Commander drives around the perimeter tracks and runway and announces that it is covered in snow.
Various other personnel who apparantly have an interest drive around the perimeter tracks and runway and announce that it is covered in snow.

It isn't covered in snow. It has a lot of snow but is now covered by all the ice created by vehicle tyres driving over the snow.
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 10:47
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Another Linton on Ouse story: Winter of '77/78. A Shackleton had diverted in from an SAR incedent, but overnight snow prevented its take off. Although the runway was clear, the snow banks at the edges were too high for it to take off. Several hours of wielding a shovel later by us poor students (cheap labour) filled in the black flag day. However, once we had finished the Shack promptly went U/S (Brake Sack leak). The thaw had set in before it finally departed!
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