Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Punk Plane

This is a little belated now but still worth writing about.

Last Thursday I went on my first client visit in my new role. This was a day trip from Zürich to Münster and back via Düsseldorf airport. Not only was it a long day in terms of time and distance but trying to concentrate throughout a four-hour meeting conducted exclusively in German was exhausting. It turns out I did understand some of it but there was an awful lot I didn't.

However, most notable in the day was the journey from Zürich to Düsseldorf in the morning.

I left the flat around seven and it was starting to snow. By the time I got to the gate it was snowing quite heavily (think the weekend before Christmas in the UK) and a couple of inches of snow had settled on the tarmac. More was to come and by now Heathrow (and, to be fair, Schipol, Düsseldorf and Charles de Gaulle) would have shut down for the foreseeable future.

There was a sense of nervousness amongst the awaiting passengers but the word was 'delay' not 'cancellation'. Indeed, when the delay to my flight was put on the departures board it was set at five (yes, 5) minutes. I can't remember being in a airport where a five minute delay was even announced as such.

We boarded the plane a little late and, once the departure protocols had been completed, we got underway.

Now, I've never flown in such conditions before and so what came next surprised and fascinated me. Sorry if this is old hat for some (especially any previously Swiss-resident aeronautical engineers!?!).

The plane taxied not to a runway but to a de-icing pan. At this point a vehicle loomed into view out of the window that looked like a cross between a transformer, a giraffe and a dragon. On a truck was mounted a platform with a cab containing a driver and controls a bit lit a crane. On the front of the platform was a hose on extending tracks. A bit like the ones in this article

First the de-icing truck sprayed the wing with orange liquid to remove the ice that had formed. Then a second spray, this time a green liquid, to prevent new ice forming. Imagine being in a car wash but sitting in a plane, minus the rollers. The outcome looked a bit like a dodgy dyed mohican.

After the spraying had finished there wasn't much to see out of the green/orange window. A surreal experience though. And one that lead to only a forty minute delay by the time we landed in Düsseldorf.

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