So there we were, heading home in the Great White Hope after a Quick overnight in Texas. My co-captain (I’ll call him Viking because he’s from Norway and looks nothing like a Viking) and I had dropped our passengers off already and were making the short 15 minute flight back to our home base. I could already taste the beer.
Then Minneapolis ATC decided to throw a wrench in our plans.
“Citation November 4 Yankee, the runways at your destination are closed. State intentions.”
CRAP. The weather had pretty shitty over the entire area for most of the day due to moderate to heavy snow and low ceilings. But we’d gotten into the last airport just fine and hadn’t anticipated any problems on our last leg of the day. I told ATC to standby while the Viking reduced power to conserve fuel. We both noticed that ATC had said that the “runways” were closed not the airport, which led us to believe that it might be something temporary.
When we asked the controller if he knew how long the runways might be closed he said he’d check. Something he should’ve done in the first place. “The tower said they should be open in 20 minutes. They’re experiencing heavy at the moment and are currently working on snow removal.”
What followed was a frustrating and confusing back and forth between us, ATC the the airports control tower. first they said we couldn’t land and should head to our alternate airport. Then Tower said that if we slowed down the plows should be out of our way in time for us to land. Then ATC said we had to go to our alternate agan. ARGGGGGG!
Then they put us in a holding pattern on the approach while they figured it all out. Not a big deal because we had a little extra fuel, but tons, so get it sorted out hey?
Finally tower came back and told us that the plows had cleared us a path 60 feet wide and would that do? It would indeed. The man in the tower then proceeded to tell us that this was all very not normal. That they could not guarantee us their standard level of breaking action, runway width, wing clearance on the snow banks and, you know, overall safety. And if we decided to land against everyone’s better judgment it would “be at your own risk!” DUNN DUNN DUNN! I actually had to say “Cleared to land at our own risk.” when he gave me the landing clearance. Apparently they use this phrase whenever the runway isn’t cleared up to normal FAA standards but some dumb, cocky pilot (but I repeat myself) thinks he can pull it off anyway.
One last thing, would you like to wait for the trucks to make a pass to spread some sand for the gription that’s in it? We would not.
The approach and landing were uneventful. We picked up some ice in the clouds and broke with dozens of feet to spare and when tower inquired as to how the braking action was the Viking’s response was “POOR.” I guess it was a little slippery after all.