Transport Canada to Look at De-Icing Recommendations

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has recommended that the Department of Transport collaborate with air operators and airport authorities to identify locations in remote northern areas of the country where there is inadequate de-icing and anti-icing equipment and take urgent action to ensure the proper equipment is available.

Marc Garneau, Canada's Minister of Transport, has ordered Transport Canada to review the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's two recommendations made during its investigation of the West Wind Aviation accident that occurred on Dec. 13, 2017, at Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan. The safety board said urgent action is needed to prevent flight crews operating in remote northern areas of Canada from taking off with ice and snow contamination on critical surfaces of their aircraft.

The TSB's investigation into the West Wind Aviation ATR-42's collision with terrain showed that the crew took off from Fond-du-Lac with ice contamination on the aircraft's critical surfaces. The operator had some de-icing equipment in the terminal building, but it was not adequate for de-icing an ATR-42, according to the safety board. Ice or snow on critical surfaces such as wings, stabilizers, and propellers can lead to difficulty controlling an aircraft.

TSB wanted to know how frequently this happens in Canadian aviation, so it sent a questionnaire to pilots at 83 Canadian operators that fly out of remote northern airports. More than 650 responses came in from pilots flying a wide variety of aircraft in all northern areas. Preliminary analysis of the data shows that pilots frequently take off with contaminated critical surfaces and that aircraft de-icing equipment is often inadequate at remote northern airports. "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. "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."

Many remote northern airports have an icing season of 10 months or longer, and thousands of flights take off every year from these airports, according to the safety board. It has recommended that the Department of Transport collaborate with air operators and airport authorities to identify locations where there is inadequate de-icing and anti-icing equipment and take urgent action to ensure the proper equipment is available. Because 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 safety board also recommended that the Department of Transport and air operators take action to increase compliance with Canadian Aviation Regulations subsection 602.11(2) and reduce the likelihood of aircraft taking off with contaminated critical surfaces.

Garneau thanked the TSB for its ongoing work on this investigation and said Transport Canada will provide a formal response within the required 90-day period. "Given the seriousness of the issue, I took immediate action and I have instructed the department to look at the de-icing situation on an urgent basis," he added. "Transport Canada takes recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board very seriously, as the department shares the board's goal of enhancing aviation safety. Transport Canada suspended West Wind Aviation's Air Operator Certificate on December 22, 2017. After several reviews of the company's operations demonstrated West Wind Aviation could operate in compliance with aviation safety regulations, the department reinstated the company's Air Operator Certificate in May 2018. Transport Canada continues to closely monitor West Wind Aviation."

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