Perilous Ice Storm Takeoff at JFK
At 6:30am, the Jet Blue flight crew quickly ushered everyone onto flight 755 to Turks and Caicos. “Everyone take your seat and let’s see if we can get out of New York before they change their minds,” the flight attendant beckoned stragglers to sit as quickly as they could.The snow was picking up, and it seemed unlikely that the flight would be able to take off in such white-out conditions. The tarmac was not visible; all the passengers could see out the windows were the lights of utility vehicles moving toward the aircraft.
“We had a front row seat for this show,” said Andrew Orlander, passenger on the flight. “I had my ipad against the window, snapping some of the most unusually beautiful photos I’ve ever taken.” The de-icer trucks came with men attached to bird’s nests, spraying antifreeze all over the wings. The sight was surreal, like an airport disaster, except the smoke in the air was snow, mixed with de-icer fluid, shot in sharp spray along 3 aircraft that intended to beat the weather.
The only question was, should this flight really be taking off right now? And, why am I on it?? The passengers all wanted to leave New York before 18 hours of snow fell; everyone had white knuckles as they held the arm rests.
The plane began to move.
The jet taxied quickly, reached the runway and revved the engines. Just as the plane was about to take off, the aircraft stopped. The pilot came out of the cockpit and walked back to the exit row. He seemed to be chatting with a passenger, but his real motive was to give the wings one last look to make sure they weren’t too icy to take off.
“Once the captain came out of the cockpit, everyone stopped smiling,” Orlander recalls, “that was the end of it; we’re not getting out of here.” But then the captain went back inside, and unbelievably, the engines roared and the plane took off. The white-out outside the windows made it impossible to tell if the plane was going up, down, right or left.
“No one was clapping, we were too nervous. But we sure were happy to be on our way.”