AOPA: FAA Better Defines Known Icing

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The FAA has released a new letter of interpretation intended to better define "flight into known icing conditions" that, according to AOPA, "could benefit many GA pilots." According to the FAA, while known icing conditions are "not defined by regulation," the term has been "used in legal proceedings involving violations of FAA safety regulations." Where regulations already require that pilots not operate an aircraft in a "careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life of property of another," the letter now states that with regard to icing, "reasonable and prudent" decision-making will be considered. Specifically, if the available information "indicates to a reasonable and prudent pilot that he or she will be operating the aircraft under conditions that will cause ice to adhere to the aircraft along the proposed route and altitude of flight, then known icing conditions likely exist." AOPA's interpretation of the letter is that the FAA will now judge each encounter with ice by whether a "reasonable and prudent" pilot would have taken similar actions when faced with similar available information and circumstances. AOPA believes that the specific wording describes a break from its previous interpretation of the FAA's position that any situation of below-freezing temperatures and visible moisture would constitute known icing conditions.

The FAA's stated goal within its new letter is to encourage proper flight planning that avoids "unwarranted risk-taking." According to AOPA government affairs chief of staff, Randy Kenagy, the letter's wording "brings us much closer to an operationally prudent definition" of known icing.