MEMORIES STIRRED BY TRAGIC CIRCUMSTANCES
In July 1999, we departed Norfolk, Virginia (KORF) and headed northeast out over the Chesapeake Bay. It was a hazy day. The sky and the water were the same washed-out blue gray; there was no discernible horizon. I was flying our Cessna340, my first twin. I’m guessing by that time I had about 2,500 hours of flying experience.The weather surprised me. I fought hard to trust the instruments. I had not been prepared for IFR flight. It was just hazy, that’s all. My thoughts immediately turned to the recent crash of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s airplane. He must have had the same feeling, but he had less experience and it was dark. And he was a Kennedy.
Fifteen years later, I was headed to Pittsburgh (KPIT) in the left seat of a CJ3. The weather was OK — 1,000 overcast, good visibility, light snow. The runway was reported as snow-covered, braking action good. Our onboard computer factored in the runway conditions and our Part 135 runway requirements. No sweat. The landing was smooth and the braking surprisingly effective. The taxi to the FBO was slow; we had to apply power to move the airplane across the contaminated ramp. An hour later, the big surprise came on takeoff. With both Type I and Type IV deicing fluid application, flaps zero takeoff configuration and almost 2 inches of snow on Runway 28R, our required takeoff distance (factoring in an engine failure at a critical speed) approached 9,000 feet. The runway is 10,502 feet long, but breathtaking was the effect of the weather on our computed performance. With both FJ44-3As at takeoff thrust, we needed only a few thousand feet to get airborne, but I was forever impressed.
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