HomeGeneral TravelOk … so this was new!

Ok … so this was new!


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If you fly with any kind of frequency, you’ll eventually encounter most situations that you’ll read about in the frequent flyer forums online. Missed connections, unplanned overnight layovers, aborted landings, violent turbulence (keep your seat belts fastened!) and storms closing airports are just some of the things that you’ll probably experience at some point during your travels.

The other day, however, I had a new experience that I wasn’t really expecting.

I was flying into Oslo airport on a British Airways A319, and because I was working, I wasn’t really paying attention to anything other than the screen in front of me.

It was only when I heard the captain announce that we were 10 minutes away from landing that I looked up and, before I started to put away all my belongings, I noticed that we were descending through very thick cloud.

A few minutes later, we were still descending, and I heard the landing gear being deployed, but there was still no visibility past the aircraft wings and no sign of the ground below us.

a plane's wing in the snow
The view 3 minutes before we landed

A few more minutes passed and still … just whiteness.

Seconds before we touched down was the first time that there was any indication that we weren’t 32,000 ft in the air …

a plane wing in the snow

…and that was odd.

I’ve flown through thick clouds before and I’ve landed in thick fog, but on all those occasions there has always been some kind of reference on the way down (a glimpse of some buildings or a small break in the weather) to give me an idea of where (in the air) we were.

On this occasion that reference point never materialized.

Throughout the final minutes of the flight, all I could see was whiteness … whiteness … and more whiteness, until very suddenly, we were ~ 100ft or so above some trees (which were barely visible) and then just as suddenly, we were on the ground after what felt like a superb landing.

What I had assumed to be clouds, was, in fact, some kind of snowstorm, and Oslo airport was in the middle of it. Fun!

That, however, wasn’t the end of the experience.

Shortly after landing, our aircraft exited the runway as normal and started moving down a parallel taxiway on its way to the terminal. A minute or so later we came to a stop (in the middle of nowhere) and I assumed that we had been told to hold our position to give way to another aircraft.

A few minutes passed by, and I could hear power being put to the engines (is that even the right terminology?) but we didn’t move.

A few more minutes passed without any movement, and then the captain made an announcement to tell us what was going on – the front landing gear had driven into a snowdrift on the taxiway and the aircraft was now refusing to move. We were stuck.

In the movies, this would be the point at which the hero captain would put a hand on the throttle(s), push them to full power, and the aircraft would bust out of the snow to the sound of cheering passengers.

That, however, is not how real life works because that, apparently, wasn’t an option.

Instead, we had the rather amusing experience of watching as some heavy machinery was called out to push away all the snow that was imprisoning the landing gear…

a tractor on a snowy field a tractor in the snow

… before we were then towed to the gate.

From landing to getting to the gate took over an hour and, approximately 30 minutes after we landed, Oslo airport was closed to all traffic for a little over 2 hours.

Bottom line

Sometimes, just when you think that you’ve seen most things that flying will expose you too, something new comes along to remind you that you probably haven’t seen very much at all.

I don’t do much flying into and out of cities where snow and snowstorms are commonplace, so that’s probably why I’ve never experienced such a low visibility landing before (if you fly in and out of Buffalo or Green Bay you probably see this twice a week in the winter).

But how many people have their aircraft get stuck in a snowdrift?! 🙂

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