De-Icing Deficiencies In Canada

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Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is calling on Transport Canada to tighten up enforcement of de-icing requirements after it discovered that pilots in the far-flung northern areas routinely take off with contaminated lift and control surfaces. “Our questionnaire results are clear: The lack of adequate de-icing equipment at remote northern Canadian airports and the frequency of flights taking off with contaminated critical surfaces constitute a widespread, recurrent issue that exposes passengers and flight crews to unnecessary risk,” said Kathy Fox, chair of the TSB, in a news release. “It is time that Transport Canada and the aviation industry give people the tools they need to adequately de-ice aircraft. There also needs to be better compliance with the regulations prohibiting takeoffs with ice, snow and frost contamination.”

The TSB is investigating last December’s crash of a West Wind Aviation ATR 42 in northern Saskatchewan in which icing could be a cause. Nine passengers were seriously injured and one passenger died two weeks after the crash. As part of its research the TSB polled pilots working for 83 carriers in remote areas about their de-icing habits and got 650 responses. The investigators were concerned enough about the survey results that they took the unusual step of reporting evidence in advance of the report. “Preliminary analysis of the data shows that pilots frequently take off with contaminated critical surfaces. Responses also indicate that aircraft de-icing equipment is often inadequate at remote northern airports,” the TSB press release said.

Earlier this year, the TSB issued a preliminary report in which it revealed that the only de-icing equipment available to the crew of the crash airplane at the departure airport of Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan, was a two-gallon hand pump garden sprayer. “The unavailability of adequate equipment increases the likelihood that pilots will conduct a takeoff in an aircraft that has ice, snow or frost adhering to any of its critical surfaces,” the news release says. “Additionally, the questionnaire responses indicate that, in the absence of adverse consequences, taking off with contamination on critical surfaces is a deviation that has become normalized.” The TSB is calling on Transport Canada to inventory de-icing equipment at airports across northern Canada and ensure compliance with regulations and industry standards. It notes that some federally regulated airports in northern Canada have a 10-month icing season.