A snow plow fitted with a Pratt and Whitney ST6A turbine turboprop engine removes snow from the Kootenay Pass on Highway 3 between Creston and Salmo in the mid-1960s. (BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photo)

A snow plow fitted with a Pratt and Whitney ST6A turbine turboprop engine removes snow from the Kootenay Pass on Highway 3 between Creston and Salmo in the mid-1960s. (BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photo)

Jet-powered snow plow once deployed on B.C. highways

Powerful truck was fitted with a Pratt and Whitney ST6A turbine turboprop engine

It might sound like a harebrained Homer Simpson creation, but a jet-powered snow plow once existed and was temporarily put to work on B.C. highways.

According to a bit of local highways maintenance history, recently re-shared by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on its Facebook page, in the early 1960s, the province experimentally fitted a 285-lb ST6A turbine turboprop engine, manufactured by Pratt and Whitney Canada, into a snow plow. The result was a 31,100-lb (unloaded) truck that ran on diesel (but could also run on furnace oil and gasoline), and put out 320 horsepower.

By comparison, the typical truck used weighed 2,000 lbs and put out 250 horsepower.

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The jet-powered plow could go 0-50 km/h in 10 seconds without gear changes, and come to a complete stop from that speed in five seconds. According to the ministry, it could also climb 16 kilometers of six per cent grade while keeping a constant speed of 65 km/h – all under actual working conditions.

While powerful and good for long, straight stretches, the vehicle didn’t handle well on tight curves or easily go around obstacles. It also burned through a lot more fuel than the typical diesel-powered truck. These factors lead the province to discontinue the vehicle’s use a few years after its debut on B.C. highways.

Asked what became of the plow, the ministry suggested it may have been dismantled and used for parts in other machines.

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