FAA Requires Automated Icing Systems On Transport Airplanes

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The FAA on Tuesday changed its certification standards for transport category airplanes to require either the automatic activation of ice protection systems or a method to tell pilots when they should be activated. "We're adding another level of safety to prevent situations where pilots are either completely unaware of ice accumulation or don't think it's significant enough to warrant turning on their ice protection equipment," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. The new rule requires that airplanes must have an effective way to ensure the ice protection system is activated at the proper time. The FAA has previously required the activation of pneumatic deicing boots on many aircraft models at the first sign of ice accumulation, a rule that has been controversial among pilots, some of whom believe they should wait for ice to form before activating the boots. Dan Hubbard, spokesman for the National Business Aviation Association, told AVweb: "NBAA supports efforts to increase a pilot's awareness of hazardous weather conditions and to alert the flight crew of necessary corrective action to prevent the degradation of aircraft performance." The new certification standard avoids relying on the pilot alone to observe whether the airplane is accumulating ice, the FAA said, and it applies to all types of ice-protection systems, not just the boots.

The new rule applies to new designs. There is no requirement to modify existing airplane designs, unless they undergo significant changes. However, the FAA is considering a similar rulemaking that would cover aircraft not affected by this rule. Under the revised standards, new transport aircraft designs must have one of three methods to detect icing and to activate the airframe ice-protection system: an ice-detection system that automatically activates or alerts pilots to turn on the ice protection system; a definition of visual signs of ice buildup on a specified surface (e.g., wings) combined with an advisory system that alerts the pilots to activate the ice protection system; or identification of temperature and moisture conditions conducive to airframe icing that would tip off pilots to activate the ice protection system. The standards further require that after initial activation, the ice protection system must operate continuously, automatically turn on and off, or alert the pilots when the system should be cycled. Click here for the full text of the new rule.