Aircraft Accident Investigations – Storm Related

Among the investigation reports listed on the National Transportation Safety Board’s (“NTSB”) website since January 1995 involving fatalities, 49 mention icing as a factor. Based on these accident reports, 105 people have died within the last five years in incidents related to aircraft icing.

Icing, the accumulation of super cooled liquid water on an aircraft, continues to be a persistent problem for aviation. An aircraft flying through a cloud containing super cooled droplets accumulates ice on the front portions of the airframe including, but not limited to, the wings, tail plane, and air intakes. Ice deposits on wing and tail plane surfaces can cause increased drag, decreased lift, and control problems. Ice accumulations in engine air intakes may result in power plant failure.

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The purpose of this paper is to provide the reader with an overview of aircraft icing and the problems associated with this phenomenon, and to review current information on relevant topics such as meteorology, new products, icing accidents, safety recommendations, and airworthiness directives.

Conditions conducive to aircraft icing may exist in two locations: (1) on the ground prior to departure and (2) in the air after departure. Each location presents a unique scenario which the pilot in command (“PIC”) must recognize, evaluate and deal with responsibly. The PIC bears the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the aircraft can be operated safely. Therefore, especially in weather conditions conducive to icing, safety begins with the PIC’s pre-flight actions.

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