The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued a seasonal appeal for pilots and ground crew to not underestimate the dangers posed to aircraft of ice and ground frost this winter.
As temperatures continue to drop, commercial aircrew, maintenance staff and general aviation pilots are urged to take the job of de-icing aircraft very seriously. Ultimately, an aircraft should never take off with any form of contamination on its wings, particularly ice, snow and frost (although some types may be permitted some frost on lower wing surfaces).
The CAA advises pilots in particular to take the free online course available on the NASA website. The course has been developed by an international team of professional pilots and experts in de-icing fluids and training applications.
It discusses the risks of contamination, cues to alert the pilot to ground icing hazards, and actions to help ensure safe operations. Imagery, case studies, pilot testimonials, and interactive elements are used to inform the pilot and help him or her make better operational decisions.
"We want to ensure that staff who have anything at all to do with de-icing an aircraft take the task very, very seriously. Flightcrew and ground staff need to work together as a team and training needs to be delivered properly," says the CAA.
The authority cites as an example the crash in January 2002 of a Bombardier Challenger 604 business jet on take-off at Birmingham International airport. The investigation later that year identified an iced-up wing as the cause.
"The Air Accidents Investigation Branch [in December 2002] concluded that the aircraft's fatal roll moments after take-off 'had resulted from the left wing stalling at an abnormally low angle of attack due to flow disturbance resulting from frost contamination of the wing'. All five passengers and crew were killed," says the CAA.