FAA Finalizes New Ice Protection Rule


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FAA Finalizes New Ice Protection Rule

By Mike Mitchell

August 22, 2011 - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a new rule to enhance aviation safety by requiring scheduled airlines to install ice detection equipment in their existing fleets or to update their flight manuals to make sure crews know when they should activate their ice protection systems. 

This comes after the deadly crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407. Colgan Air Flight 3407, marketed as Continental Connection under a codeshare agreement with Continental Airlines, was a daily U.S. regional airline commuter flight from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York State. 

A Bombardier DHC8-402 Q400 operating as Flight 3407 departed late from Newark on February 12, 2009, at 9:20 p.m. EST. Shortly after the last communication by the flight crew with approach control at 10:17 p.m. (03:17, February 13 UTC), the plane stalled.

The stall occured less than a mile northeast of the locator outer marker while on an ILS approach to Runway 23 and crashed into a house in the northeast Buffalo suburb of Clarence Center, about 9.3 kilometres (5.0 nmi) short of the runway threshold.

A total of 50 people were killed including the two pilots, two flight attendants, 45 passengers (including one off-duty pilot), and one person in the house into which the plane crashed. It was the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since the crash of Comair Flight 191 in August 2006 which killed 49. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that cause of the crash was pilot error in icing conditions. 

?We want pilots to have the best technology available to detect icing conditions so they can take the steps necessary to ensure passenger safety,? said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. ?This rule incorporates the latest research on aircraft icing,? said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. ?Making sure protection systems are turned on when icing conditions are detected will help eliminate accidents that can occur if pilots fail to turn on the ice protection soon enough.? 

For aircraft equipped with an ice-detection system, the new rule mandates that the system alert the crew every time they need to activate ice protection. The system can either automatically turn on the ice protection or pilots can manually activate it. For aircraft without ice-detection equipment, the crew must activate the protection system based on cues listed in their airplane?s flight manual during climb and descent, and at the first sign of icing when at cruising altitude. 

The rule applies only to in-service aircraft that weigh less than 60,000 pounds because studies show smaller planes are more affected by undetected icing or late activation of the ice protection system. Larger commercial aircraft already have ice detection equipment.

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