B.C.'s experimental jet-powered snow plow that failed to take off | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C.'s experimental jet-powered snow plow that failed to take off

B.C.'s highways ministry experimented with a jet-powered snow plow for a few winters in the 1960s.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / BC Transportation
February 09, 2021 - 12:00 PM

Maintaining British Columbia’s mountain highways in winter has never been an easy task, and that was as true years ago as it is today.

TranBC, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s web portal, recently recalled their story about the province’s efforts to develop a new and innovative snow plow by powering it with a jet engine in an experimental program the ministry conducted in the 1960s.

With the amount of snow falling on the Coquihalla these days, it sounds like something that might even be a good idea today. Indeed, TranBC says the experimental jet-powered plow is believed to be the only example of its kind in the world.

A standard ministry snow plow was outfitted with a Pratt & Whitney ST6A - a jet engine built by the American aerospace manufacturer, and utilized in the ministry’s experimental program, which took place over an unspecified period of time the 1960s.

The engine was mounted on a 31,100 pound plow truck, the engine weighing in at 285 pounds.

It could run on virtually anything that burned – furnace oil, diesel fuel, gasoline – but diesel was generally used.

To the casual bystander, it looked like an ordinary snowplow, but that misconception only lasted until it started up.

The jet engine produced 320 horsepower, compared to 250 horsepower produced by the diesel engine commonly used in this particular plow truck.

Test results indicated the snowplow had some great performance characteristics, but there were others that weren’t so great.

According to TranBC, it could accelerate from 0 to 50 km/h in 10 seconds and come to a complete stop from that speed in 5 seconds.

The truck could climb 16 kilometres of 6 per cent grade, at a constant speed of 65 km/h, but had a nasty habit of consuming an inordinate amount of fuel.

The truck wasn’t very agile, either, working well for long, straight stretches of highway but very poor at maneuvering tight curves or around obstacles.

The experimental jet-powered snow plow was used for several winters but the vehicles' shortcomings outweighed the advantages, and the project was cancelled.

— This story was originally published at 7 a.m. Feb. 9, 2021.

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