Director-general points to take-off incidents and potential problems as winter nears

Action to recertificate the use of thickened de-icing fluids is needed urgently because of the dangers their misuse poses – particularly for regional airliners – warns European Regions Airline Association (ERA) director-general Mike Ambrose.

He says that there have been several take-off incidents caused by hardened fluid jamming controls “that have come very close to causing the loss of an aircraft”, and now the European winter is approaching.

Emphasising his point at the ERA general assembly in Barcelona, Spain last week, Ambrose said: “If loss of life were to happen as a result of this problem, I want to be one of those pointing the finger, not one of those who are being pointed at.”

He explains the problem can affect all aircraft types, but regional aircraft are particularly vulnerable because many do not have powered flight controls.

Additionally, he says, regional airliners have shorter take-off runs and slower rotate speeds, so the fluid has not had as much time to be dispersed by the slipstream.

Ambrose says there is an additional problem that needs to be addressed, and it affects all aircraft types. This is the mixing of runway de-icing chemicals with the fluid shed by aircraft during the take-off run, because the combination is a corrosive mix that poses a serious threat, particularly to carbon brake discs and electrical connections in the landing gear.

Although he says regional aircraft face the most immediate threat, the large airlines are being supportive. The aviation authorities, however, have been slow to face up to the problem, he implies.

Ambrose says he has spoken to the European Aviation Safety Agency chief Patrick Goudou who has acknowledged the problem, and according to Ambrose, will look at the matter urgently. EASA is constructing a notice of proposed amendment regarding the certification and use of the de-icing fluids, with Ambrose expecting this by early next year.

The ERA is calling for a complete recertification of de-icing fluids and for de-icing service providers at airports to be licensed to ensure their competence in carrying out the task.

Meanwhile, Ambrose has welcomed assistance with the problem from the Barcelona-based Abertis airports and infrastructure group. The Abertis Foundation is to fund anti- and de-icing work by the ERA, which Ambrose says will enable the organisation to deploy more resources to ensure the issue is addressed, whether for statistical research on the extent of the problem or for lobbying of the authorities that have the power to bring about changes.

Asked about the extent of its assistance, Abertis says that it is “more than hundreds but less than millions [of euros]”.

Source: Flight International