De-Icing Opinions Vary

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The Colorado crash of a Challenger bizjet that killed two pilots and the son of NBC executive Dick Ebersol a month ago has reignited the debate on when and if aircraft should be de-iced. The Rocky Mountain News polled a range of experts on the topic and got a range of opinions. And while the decision to de-ice is always the pilot's, some have some pretty direct guidance on how that decision should go. The newspaper's research found that major airlines serving the area de-ice as a matter of course if it's snowing, something endorsed by the Flight Safety Foundation. But both the National Business Aviation Association and the FAA give much more leeway to the pilot. NBAA spokesman Joe Hart told the paper that if it's warm enough that snow is melting as it hits the wings, or if it's cold enough that the accumulation will simply blow off, then de-icing isn't necessary. The FAA leaves it up to the pilot, saying, in an e-mail to the newspaper, the pilot has to "determine whether or not contamination has adhered to the aircraft surfaces." But Roger Rozelle, of the Flight Safety Foundation, said there are too many variables that can lead to the pilot making an incorrect assessment. "The accident reports speak for themselves," he said. "If you've got snow falling, you need to put something on that wing."