KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Deadly wing-icing will remain a problem at night for commuter airline pilots even after the Federal Aviation Administration introduces new regulations, a University of Tennessee pilot-aerospace professor said Friday.
The icing problem, blamed for a 1994 commuter crash in Indiana, can be avoided if pilots learn to recognize the danger in time, the FAA said.
“It is possible to detect this (ice) in the daytime visually. At night, it is a much tougher problem,” said UT-Knoxville’s Dr. Mancil Milligan.
“The planes have lights directed at the de-icing boots, but seeing ice at night is a lot like trying to see during a hard rain. It’s a lot harder at night.”
Following the 1994 crash of an American Eagle ATR-72, killing all 68 people on board, de-icing boots on the plane’s wings were enlarged. The FAA said tests revealed other types of commuter planes do not need design changes.
However, the FAA said it wants to make sure pilots know how to recognize dangerous icing and how to avoid it.
“They’re (FAA) trying to raise the awareness significantly. It’s really easy to get complacent and say ‘well, we’ve got de-icing boots on this airplane,” Milligan said.
“It’s just that this kind of icing can put buildups that the boots can’t get rid of.”
Turboprop commuter airlines are more vulnerable to wing icing than are jet airliners because the smaller planes operate at lower altitudes where ice forms and their engines do not produce the high heat that jet engines do.
Milligan said the icing problem encountered by commuter planes is a buildup of tiny water droplets which turn to ice.
Anthony J. Broderick, an FAA associate administrator, said commuter pilots in a few weeks will receive instructions on how to recognize dangerous icing.
Contact: Mancil Milligan (423-974-5052)