New Safety Brief Focuses On Wing Contamination
It's that time of year again. Frost,
snow, and ice are in the forecast, and pilots need to know how to
handle these hazards. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's new Safety
Brief — Cold Facts: Wing Contamination — gives pilots a
quick lesson on the effects of wintry wing contaminants and what to
do about them.
The brief notes that in the past 10 years, there have been more
than 30 general aviation takeoff accidents caused by snow, frost,
or ice on the wing. The issue has caught the attention of the NTSB
as well. Last week it issued an unusual "alert to pilots" advising
that any frost or ice on the upper wing surface could be hazardous
for takeoff. The NTSB recommended a "visual and tactile" wing
inspection, noting that frost or ice sufficient to cause
aerodynamic performance problems might not be visible to the eye
and could be detected only by touching the rough surface.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Aircraft Icing Safety Advisor
explains that frost or ice no thicker or rougher than a piece of
coarse sandpaper can reduce lift by 30 percent and increase drag up
to 40 percent.
"That's a performance penalty that could prevent many light GA
aircraft from ever getting airborne," said Bruce Landsberg, AOPA
Air Safety Foundation executive director, "and if you did manage to
get in the air, you'd likely encounter a much higher stall speed.
And if the frost isn't evenly distributed across the wing, there
could be asymmetrical stalls on the wing, leading to roll control
An Air Safety Foundation study of general aviation accidents
found that 8 percent of fatal icing accidents were due to ground
accumulation of ice, snow, or frost on the wings. Icing accidents
represent 12 percent of all weather-related fatal accidents.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has a wide range of resources to
help you avoid becoming a statistic. A recent video produced
jointly by the Air Safety Foundation, the FAA's Flight Safety
Research Section, and the Icing Branch of NASA's Glenn Research
Center focuses on "Icing for General Aviation Pilots." You can view
the 47-minute video online (broadband connection recommended) or
purchase the DVD for $5 plus shipping through Sporty's Pilot Shop.
The video includes an in-depth look at tail ice, and in-flight
footage and interviews with NASA pilots explain recovery techniques
that could save your life.
Pilots might also checkout the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's
online icing quiz, and the Aircraft Deicing and Anti-icing
Equipment Safety Advisor.