A ground crew member sprays deicing fluid on a passenger jet before takeoff.

NTSB Bears Down on Pilot Fatigue, Icing

Flying in icing conditions remains a "most wanted" safety improvement on the agency's list with a "red" classification indicating an unacceptable FAA response. NTSB investigated 69 accidents involving U.S.-registered aircraft and runway or surface icing in 1998-2007.

The National Transportation Safety Board's chairman, Deborah A.P. Hersman, told Congress Feb. 25 that "we must establish a system that minimizes pilot fatigue and ensures that flight crews report to work rested and fit for duty." A week earlier, the board kept flying in icing conditions as a "most wanted" safety improvement on its list with a "red" classification indicating an unacceptable FAA response. The topic has been on the list since 1997.

Hersman discussed both topics while testifying before U.S. House and Senate aviation subcommittees. Her Feb. 25 testimony before a House panel concerned the state of U.S. aviation safety since the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., in which pilot performance and training were important factors. She noted the board's final report on the crash contained 25 new recommendations for FAA and reiterated three previous recommendations. "If we are serious about aviation safety, we must establish a system that minimizes pilot fatigue and ensures that flight crews report to work rested and fit for duty," she said. "We must also have a system in which we are steadfastly confident that all of our commercial pilots are proficient and well trained."

A 1981 NTSB report, "Aircraft Icing Avoidance and Protection," urged FAA to review icing certification criteria, and the board in the 1990s decided the icing certification process was still inadequate. FAA has addressed some of the recommendations, but 11 of them have not been satisfactorily addressed, according to her testimony. From 1998 through 2007, NTSB investigated 200 accidents involving aircraft icing and 68 involving runway or surface icing that involved U.S.-registered aircraft, she said.

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