New De-Icing Regulations Could Help Prevent Aviation Accidents | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing new guidelines for de-icing airplanes which weigh less than 60,000 pounds. The new rules would require planes to initiate de-icing the moment they encounter conditions “conducive to ice buildup,” according to

The current guidelines state pilots should start de-icing when buildup is between a quarter- and half-inch thick.

The new proposal is in response to the 2005 airplane crash involving a Cessna Citation 560 owned by Circuit City which resulted in the death of eight people. The FAA investigation indicates the pilots let ice build up on their wings and failed to maintain proper airspeed.

This isn’t the first time de-icing was the culprit of an airplane crash. Many reports suggest icing was the problem in Continental Flight 3407, which resulted in 50 deaths.

As a licensed pilot, I think this new guideline makes sense. The logic is clear: prevention is paramount. If you get a jump on the de-icing process, it’ll deter aviation accidents stemming from over-icing on the wings.

However, the FAA also needs to look into expanding de-icing mechanisms to cover the back of wings. This is where super-cooled droplets build up and can cause major problems for pilots.

“Supercooled large droplets can result in very rapid ice accumulation,” said William R. Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation.

Hopefully, the new de-icing policies will prevent fatal airplane accidents. Currently, bad weather accounts for 14 percent of fatal plane crashes, according to the Air Safety Foundation. This number needs to go down.