Improving de-icing facilities takes 2 to tango

The long-range weather outlook for Calgary next month is for temperatures to be in the mid-20s, probably under mainly sunny skies, but de-icing will be on the minds of many delegates at the July 9 to 11 Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) annual convention and trade show.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau asked operations to confirm by June 30 how they will tackle the issue before next winter and said there will be an official
Transport Minister Marc Garneau asked operations to confirm by June 30 how they will tackle the issue before next winter and said there will be an official “inspection campaign” to ensure compliance. Eric Dumigan Photo
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That’s thanks to a recent call by Transport Minister Marc Garneau for the industry to take “urgent action” to address any “locations where there is inadequate de-icing and anti-icing equipment.”

His letter to operators evidently was prompted by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) review of a December 2017 crash of a West Wind Aviation ATR twin-turboprop shortly after taking off on a scheduled flight in northern Saskatchewan to Stony Rapids from La Ronge. The 22 passengers and three crewmembers initially survived, but one passenger subsequently died.

Garneau said the TSB’s conclusion that ice on the wings was a key factor had echoed the report on the the March 1989 crash of an Air Ontario Fokker F28 twin jet near Dryden, Ont. That killed 21 of the 65 passengers and three of the four crewmembers, sparking a judicial inquiry which concluded, among other things, that de-icing was inadequate.

“While almost 30 years apart, both accidents pointed to the same cause — aircraft taking off with ice on their wings,” wrote Garneau, pointing out that Canadian Aviation Regulations Subsection 602.11.(2) specifically states that no aircraft should take off with “frost, etc. adhering to any of its critical surfaces.”

The minister asked operations to confirm by June 30 how they will tackle the issue before next winter and said there will be an official “inspection campaign” to ensure compliance. He also said Transport would set up a working group with operators, airports, pilot association and communities to “help direct further steps to be taken.”

Part of the process will be a closed-door session at the Calgary event for operators to discuss the de-icing situation. That will feed back into a plenary session on the final day, when Transport, Nav Canada and the TSB are expected to participate. TSB Chair Kathy Fox is set for what’s billed as a panel on “government and agency updates.”

However, any improvements to de-icing facilities, especially at remote airports and strips, will clearly come at a cost.

“That’s exactly the point,” said Anthony Norejko, CBAA president and chief executive officer. “If Transport wants us to help them achieve whatever safety goal, they need to understand that they play a role in ensuring that the infrastructure is there.”

That means not only the equipment but also adequate and effective de-icing fluids.

Another challenge for private operators is that they generally don’t have the corporate clout to enter into commercial relationships with some of the big de-ice providers which would allow them “preferential pricing and . . . access.”

Norejko said it doesn’t matter whether it’s a major hub or a smaller regional airport, infrastructure and fair access are the two main issues for the CBAA’s membership.

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“The airport funding that Transport undertakes or the airports – and safety and security is part of that – is really a safety element. . . Transport needs to play a role to ensure they have the dollars to meet the needs of all operators that use that airfield,” explained Norejko.

A transport pilot with more than 5,500 hours who headed the Walmart flight department before joining the CBAA in August 2018, Norejko said the West Wind crash prompted an anonymous survey of pilots’ experiences with de-icing facilities in the North. The consensus fed back to Transport was that there are deficiencies.

That aside, he said the business aviation community’s record is good with no losses due to de-icing. “Look at the stats. . . . Nobody wants to be in that situation. Very often, in private operations, the principal is either onboard the aircraft . . .or they’re actually flying the aircraft.”

In a subsequent email exchange with Skies, Norejko said that “on balance, business aviation operators are distinctly different from their commercial counterparts. One area of difference is the profit motive. In other words, [business aviation] doesn’t have a profit motive in their aviation operations. . . . That doesn’t mean cost isn’t an issue, it’s that we don’t feel concerned about razor-thin margins being impacted by an expensive de-ice spray event. . . .

“There isn’t anything to suggest that [business aviation] operators are unduly pressured to make unsafe decisions. The whole point for a flight department is safe, reliable and efficient transport of their employees.”

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