Increase in icing accidents prompts safety campaign

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Operators urged to check critical surfaces while FAA and NTSB launch initiatives

Industry associations representing business aviation have launched an icing-awareness safety programme following a spate of icing-related accidents. A joint letter to operators urges tactile checks of critical surfaces before flight.

Separately, the US Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a re-evaluation of the de-icing/anti-icing programmes of US Part 121 commercial operators, and Part 125 and 135 private and charter operators with similar programmes. The US National Transportation Safety Board, meanwhile, has recommended that the FAA require recurrent weather-related training for all pilots.

“A review of the 2004 and first half of 2005 accident data for commercial and private business aircraft is troubling,” says the letter sent to aircraft and fixed-based operators by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), National Air Transportation Association and National Business Aviation Association. While the accidents are still under investigation, “it is believed that in-flight and ground icing may have been a factor in some”, says the letter.

Failure to de-ice the wing caused the fatal crash of a Bombardier Challenger 604 at Birmingham, UK in January 2002, and icing is suspected in the November 2004 fatal crash of a Challenger 601 at Montrose, Colorado; the February fatal crash of a Cessna 560 Citation at Puelbo, Colorado; and the March fatal crash of a Pilatus PC-12 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Icing is also suspected in the November 2004 fatal crash of a Bombardier CRJ200 at Baotou, China.

Transport Canada and the FAA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) in February requiring visual and tactile checks of the Challenger and CRJ wing leading-edge and upper surface for contamination by frost, ice, snow or slush. This was followed by an AD requiring tactile checks of Cessna 208 and 208B wings, prompted by a series of icing-related accidents.

“Operations in a winter environment require extra attention from the flightcrew prior to take-off as well as in flight,” says GAMA president Pete Bunce. “Tactile inspections of the critical surfaces help ensure safe operation in a cold climate.” The letter also urges operators to avoid smooth or polished frost on lifting surfaces.

Other elements of the programme include reviewing and refreshing cold weather operating procedures and providing them to all flightcrews; ensuring crews are familiar with aircraft flight-manual limitations and procedures for dealing with icing on the ground and in the air; and protecting the aircraft while on the ground.

GRAHAM WARWICK/WASHINGTON