Commuter-airline pilots must take additional steps to combat ice buildup on wings under rules released today by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
Prompted by a series of incidents, the FAA will require airlines flying planes weighing less than 60,000 pounds to install sensors that detect ice and warn pilots, or tell their pilots to automatically switch on anti-icing equipment sooner than has been the case.
The FAA said in the rule, which takes effect in 60 days, that there has been a series of cases in which pilots didn’t realize ice was forming on a plane’s wings and didn’t activate anti-icing equipment. Even microscopic layers of ice crystals can destroy wings’ ability to keep a plane aloft.
“This rule is meant to prevent that from happening again by giving flightcrews a clear means of knowing when to activate the airframe ice protection system,” the FAA said.
The rule will cost airlines $12.7 million while saving them $27.2 million by preventing crashes and deaths, the agency said.
Regional jets such as the Bombardier CRJ-100 and the Embraer ERJ-145 weigh less than 60,000 pounds. The majority of the 2,500 planes flown by U.S. regional airlines will have to comply with the rule, according to data from the Washington- based Regional Airline Association, whose members include AMR Corp. (AMR)’s American Eagle and Great Lakes Aviation Ltd. (GLUX)
“We want pilots to have the best technology available to detect icing conditions so they can take the steps necessary to ensure passenger safety,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
The FAA said its research into icing hazards began after the Oct. 31, 1994, crash of an American Eagle ATR-72 turboprop plane in Roselawn, Indiana, due to ice, killing all 68 people aboard.
U.S. and European regulators had not done enough to protect planes from ice, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board found in its investigation.
The NTSB, in correspondence between the two agencies, praised the new standards while asking the FAA to broaden the rule to larger planes such as Bombardier Inc.’s Q400 turboprop. The FAA declined, saying there was no evidence that these planes are susceptible to icing.
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