There is a big difference between runway ice, and an ice runway.
New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee has frozen over again. This is not an uncommon experience for New Hampshire residents who usually hit the frozen lake for ice fishing and hockey during the winter months. But this year it has one extra attraction that brought another type of outdoorsmen to the frozen waters, an ice runway.
The ice runway located on Lake Winnipesaukee is usually home to the Alton Bay Seaplane Base, but the cold weather this winter has enabled the lake to freeze thick enough for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to approve it as a safe landing strip. It is currently the only ice runway that has been approved by the FAA in the lower 48 states.
The big difference between runway ice and an ice runway is how the pilot of the plane maneuvers the plane to land. Paul LaRochelle, Alton Bay Airport Director, reminds pilots not to use their brakes when landing and parking on the ice surface saying, “You’ll just skid.” Pilots know this and have to use other methods to bring the plane to a controlled stop.
Landing on an ice runway is something not many pilots get a chance to do, so it was not surprising when the clear weather last weekend brought in over 50 pilots to try their hand on the ice runway.
Pilot Ken Ortmann summed it up well saying, “How many times can a non-amphibian plane land on water?”
Luckily there were no mishaps on the ice runway this weekend, which can sometimes be the case when you have a large number of pilots who have little experience with ice runways.
This is a great reminder of the large number of ways that we can get out and enjoy nature. If you never flown in a small plane like these, I highly recommend you go give it a shot. Seeing the lake you fish on and the land you hunt from above is a great experience, and one that you’ll never forget.Follow me on Twitter @Chrisbuck243