Slip and slide, airline edition

Brent, Tammy, and I flew back Monday after two previous flight cancellations. The flight was plagued with turbulence most of the way back, especially once we were nearing Raleigh. We also couldn’t see anything for much of the duration in the air as we were traveling in clouds most of the way.

Our landing, however, was the big deal. We were barely over the runway when visibility returned. Everyone was staring out the windows to see what was below. Underneath us was the landing strip, but directly above the runway was a thick layer of solid ice.

People were panicking — there were a few screams and a several people’s hearts raced as we made our approach. The aircraft touched down to the start of a bumpy landing, only to be followed up by a long slide as the plane lost control and began rotating towards the left as we slid down the icy runway. After it started sliding sideways, it began to roll to the left as well. People were panicking even more.

Thankfully, the pilots were able to regain control of the plane and set it upright and straight, but in stopping, we continued to skid with loss of control.

It was very a very stupid thing for American Airlines to fly (and land) in those conditions. Our plane almost crashed thanks to the airline’s irresponsible decision to fly in such severe weather.

I’m glad we all were fine after such an event. I know for a fact that several people on that plane were earnestly praying, and I’m glad that our prayers were answered with a lucky landing (we were very close to a crash).

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11 Responses to “Slip and slide, airline edition”

  1. Heath Holcomb says:

    Glad it turned out OK

    Man, that certainly could’ve turned out a lot worse than it did. Doesn’t really give you a lot of confidence in American Airlines either. The ground conditions here in Raleigh have been horrible for the past couple of days – though I guess they’ve made enough landings in sketchy conditions that they didn’t even blink an eye at trying it again.

  2. Last flight

    They did cancel all the other flights from NYC to RDU after ours, however, so they did think it was serious enough, but didn’t seem to worry too much about taking a risk with us.

  3. Frank says:

    AA’s fault?

    Is that American Airline’s fault or the Airport / Traffic Controller’s for letting planes land in that condition? I might be missing something but I’d be more upset with the airport which can physically see the ice on the runway and still allows landings.

  4. Tom says:

    runway braking action

    I’m a flight dispatcher with a major airline, and while we operate in and out of Raleigh, I’m not with AA so I can’t vouch for anything they did. Many factors could have been at play, the previous a/c landing could have given a report of fair or good braking action. "Braking Action" is very subjective and one crew’s "fair" is anothers "poor". New York to Raleigh takes some time and all could have been well and good at departure time, and conditions changed(freezing rain quick shower 15 minutes before arrival for example) ….as far as a diversion, other airports nearby could have been even worse.Our airline won’t operate in braking action "nil" and we can legally go with "poor" braking action and a 15 knot direct crosswind. Last but not least, the crew really might have been a couple of nitwits who were taken by surprise by something another crew could have dealt with….BTW I do enjoy your site, even though I don’t have Linux yet.

  5. Kreg Steppe says:

    Glad you made it alright.

    Who was flying that plane? Bo and Luke Duke? I will say that Toms comment about the Braking Action is interesting. I have never though of any legal guides for Landing. *Mod him up for being Interesting* BTW Tom, get linux. 😉

  6. Ryan Collier says:

    OH MY! I’m glad you’re OK

    Something similar happened to myself while flying to Houston from Atlanta. I’m not sure why, seeming conditions were fantastic, on our landing the plane dipped to the left and as I looked out the window, the tip of the wing was hitting tall grass. After the plane righted itself we sort of swayed down the runway from left to right before we came to a stop. Needless to say, as someone who is afraid of flying to begin with, I fly even less now. I still wonder just how tall that grass really was. You and your neighbors are in our prayers; it’s been a very dangerous season and I am glad that it has not been worse.

  7. Tom says:

    braking action…

    Braking action….One way it’s determined is through a vehicle with a meter. A vehicle cruises the runway after plowing or treating and the brakes are applied. A meter gives a numerical reading for stopping power. When I worked in Hyannis years ago, it was a machine on gimbals on the front seat. You would see how far it swung when the brakes were applied and get a reading. Before the machine, we’d count how many times we spun!! LOL.The vehicle reading applies right after plowing before anything lands. Aircraft reports take precedence, and they really are subjective. There are 4 offical braking actions: "nil" "poor" "fair" and "good". A 757 is going to have a different experience than a small FEDEX turboprop in the same conditions. We look for a similar type aircraft’s report. You wouldn’t believe how different pilot’s skills are. Flying "talent" isn’t uniform really at all. Pretty much all aircraft are clumsy on the ground, they are meant to fly really.

  8. Micah says:


    I’m an Air Traffic Controller, and the decision to land is placed firmly on the pilot. All I can do is advise him of the conditions.

  9. Frank says:

    This doesn’t sound right

    Sounds like an ATC didn’t do his/her job advising on the weather conditions then. I don’t think any pilot would risk their life if they knew how bad the ice was on the ground.

  10. Yin Cheng says:


    An incident like that could have injured many, or even could have proven fatal. Just glad no one was hurt.

  11. slider says:

    similar event

    i was on AA flight 1420 to Little Rock Arkansas and we landed on a wet slippery runway and skidded along to the end of the runway.unfortunately we crashed at the end of the runway. luckily i was sitting near and exit that was utterly useless because the plane had split in 2 pieces crushing he exit so we ran out of the HUGE hole in the side of the aircraft. AA is not my choice of airline now.