Looking for a winter adventure in your airplane? how about landing on the sole ice runway charted by the Federal Aviation Agency in the lower 48? Here’s what you need to know.
During the winter months, the Alton Bay Ice Runway and Seaplane Base (B18) in New Hampshire open up Runway 1/19 for general aviation use. It’s the only airport within the lower 48 that has an ice runway registered with the Federal Aviation Agency.
It appears on your sectional chart! “During the winter, Runway 01/19 is plowed and is usually marked as one hundred feet wide and 2,600 feet long. A parallel taxiway and aircraft parking apron is additionally provided”
When consistently open, the airfield sees well over 600 operations throughout a single winter season. It’s not unusual to find over fifty airplanes and even some helicopters flying in on a good day. Volunteers manage the day-after-day operations of the airfield and maintain it through the winter season.
With wind direction typically from the North, Runway one is the most popular runway. “Markers are used to outline the operational surface of the runway. The runway, parallel taxiway, and also aircraft parking aprons are plowed throughout the season, providing a clear ice surface for aircraft to operate.
As a result of its unique nature, the airport attracts pilots from all over New England and beyond who fly to the airport to experience landing on an ice-covered lake without the help of skis”
The best part regarding flying into this airport is the additional level of scrutiny provided by Federal Aviation Agency registration. Officials check the airport to make sure it’s properly marked and safe before opening.
Airport manager Paul LaRochelle systematically checks numerous points along and around the runway to ensure that ice thickness is at least twelve inches.
FLEXIBLE RUNWAY LENGTH
Snowfall and ice conditions determine the length of Alton Bay’s runway. Volunteers verify how long the runway can be based on plowing capabilities. Due to this, the Alton Bay ice runway might vary in length from 2,300 to 2,700 feet from year to year, or even in the few hours after a major snowfall.
LANDING ON ICE RUNWAY
If you plan to land on ice, you must bear in mind a few things. The foremost ideal condition for landing is after a light snowfall when the runway is coated by a thin layer of snow. The snow provides traction and allows your aircraft to decelerate naturally.
Once the ice looks black or deep blue, it’s probably to be most slick and has the worst braking action.
Pilots who have flown into Alton Bay when the runway has a dusting of light snow describe the landing as a similar feeling to landing on a grass runway. Due to that, using a soft-field landing technique is a great way to approach the landing
As you approach the runway, make you’re flying the right final approach speed, and hit your touchdown point. Don’t slam on the brakes, because skidding can cause you to lose directional control.
Allow the airplane to decelerate with aerodynamic braking, and use light braking to slow and stop. Use caution in crosswind conditions, as limited traction will make it not possible to keep the wind from pushing your aircraft horizontally across the ice.
SEASONAL AND DAILY CHANGES
By nature, the availability of the Alton Bay ice runway changes with the seasons. The earliest it’s opened was Jan 10th, once ice thickened to an acceptable level. In 2016, the ice runway never opened because of warm temperatures and reduced ice thickness.
The airport usually shuts down in March thanks to rising temperatures and deteriorating ice conditions. Temperature changes and weather fronts have a big impact on this airport, so you need to check NOTAMs before you depart to make sure it’s open.