Snow Day
Flying|June 2018

The Trials And Tribulations Of Dealing With A Snowstorm

Les Abend

About an hour away from JFK I pressed my truck’s radio button and listened to the XM traffic and weather station. No major traffic issues. Good news. A snowfall was predicted for the return home, but only a couple of inches. Again, good news.

Via internet notification I had been unceremoniously assigned the early evening three-day London trip the day prior. I had flunked our new schedule bidding process (the scheduling app requires a Ph.D.) and been awarded a month of reserve. Perhaps my lack of computer acumen set the stage for what was to come.

The evening began with a mechanical problem that involved the left electronic engine control (EEC). The EEC is the equivalent of a fadec system on a GA airplane with slightly more sophistication. Before my co pilot Pete and I arrived in the cockpit, the mechanics had been attempting to troubleshoot the problem.

Even after completely powering down the airplane (the 777 is a giant computer with wings) and then starting the engine, the EEC fault message wouldn’t clear, which was untypical. My concern was that we really didn’t have a firm understanding of the problem. An inoperative EEC was not a major operational issue, but there were some engine limitations that would not have the normal safeguards.

A mechanic supervisor got involved. He eventually determined that an actual fault existed. Now, with a definitive understanding of the problem, the appropriate minimum equipment list procedure could be utilized. Good deal. Unfortunately, the troubleshooting process delayed our departure nearly an hour and a half. The tardy departure would put our heads on the hotel pillow around 0400 body time, a long day for a two-man crew.

During the delay, Pete informed me that the updated New York forecast was looking nasty. A major snowstorm loomed. I preferred my own reality and remained in denial — at least until we reached cruise altitude, anyhow. I was on the back side of a head cold recovery, so I found it inconsiderate that Mother Nature had other plans.

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