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How Chilly Is It? Cold Enough to Land Planes on an Ice Runway

"How many times can a non-amphibian plane land on water?"

Planes are parked after flying in on frozen Lake Winnipesaukee Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Alton, N.H. Dozens of pilots flew in to the the only ice runway in the Lower 48 states approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. (Image source: AP/Jim Cole)

Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

ALTON, N.H. (AP) — Winter on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee means ice fishing, hockey tournaments and, if the ice is strong enough, airplanes.

After being grounded by bad ice and worse weather for most of the winter, the Alton Bay Seaplane Base and its ice runway are open.

Planes are parked after flying in on frozen Lake Winnipesaukee Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Alton, N.H. Dozens of pilots flew in to the the only ice runway in the Lower 48 states approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. (Image source: AP/Jim Cole)

Dozens of pilots from all over the Northeast took advantage of a rare, sunny, storm-free Saturday to touch down on the frozen lake, the only ice runway in the lower 48 states approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"How many times can a non-amphibian plane land on water?" asked pilot Ken Ortmann of Rochester, New Hampshire.

Planes fly into the ice runway on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Alton, N.H. (Image source: AP/Jim Cole)

Another pilot, Angela Leedy, flew three hours from Pittstown, New Jersey, to try out the runway.

The 3,000-foot airstrip is popular with pilots, said airport director Paul LaRochelle, who keeps it plowed when the ice is strong enough.

A plane flies in as ice fisherman fish on Lake Winnipesaukee Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Alton, N.H. (Image source: AP/Jim Cole)

As he directs pilots to park he advises them not to use their brakes: "You'll just skid," he said.

Sometimes there are mishaps. Last March, an experimental plane clipped a snowbank and landed hard. The pilot was unhurt.

Here's a video taken inside a plane landing on the lake's ice runway about a year ago:

Follow Dave Urbanski (@DaveVUrbanski) on Twitter

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