De-icing: Online options for icing training

Aviation International News » February 2009
January 29, 2009, 4:03 AM

Two new online icing education courses were released this winter, one from King Schools and the other by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Foundation (ASF). Both offer a useful introduction and refresher on preparing for icing conditions and dealing with ice-related problems. The ASF course is oriented more toward pilots flying light airplanes with limited anti- or de-icing protection systems, while the King course meets initial and recurrent training requirements for pilots flying commercially.

The ASF course uses animation to highlight the teaching. For example, a video shows the view from a light airplane cockpit while flying from an area of good visibility into a rainshower that cuts visibility to zero. Other graphics effectively illustrate frontal movement, as warm air pushes over colder air or vice versa and how that can cause icing conditions. One animation clearly captures de-icer boot inflation, while another shows how temperature inversions can cause icing problems as snow falls through warm then cold layers of air.

While much of the advice in the ASF course tells pilots how to avoid icing and to turn around as soon as they encounter icing, the King course recognizes that commercial pilots flying modern turboprops and jets have more options. Thus the King course delves into ground de-icing and in-flight ice-handling techniques in much more detail.
The King course consists of five labs, each of which employs primarily text instructions followed by questions that the viewer must answer correctly to continue. While the King course is lighter on graphics and animation when delivering content via computer, it is comprehensive and effective.

Certain points are re-emphasized in the King course, to make sure pilots understand. For example, pilots need to know that ground de-icing fluids are designed to blow off during takeoff and do not provide any protection after takeoff. The course provides a useful explanation of how de-icing fluid viscosity varies depending on the rotation speed of the aircraft and how to check for airframe contamination before takeoff.

The King course understands that commercial pilots often have to make a go/no-go decision that will likely involve flying in actual icing conditions. But it also advises that pilots not expect to continue flying too long in icing conditions and to plan an exit.

Neither course addresses the ongoing issue of ice-bridging, which suggests that ice forms a hollow shell over de-icer boots that are activated before ice builds to a sufficient level. The NTSB is recommending that pilots actuate boots as soon as ice is detected, but also tells pilots to rely on the aircraft manufacturer’s advice as published in flight manuals.

According to the ASF, 22 percent of fatal weather-related accidents are due to icing, so it remains a serious problem. Both of these courses offer training that can help any pilot deal with icing issues. The ASF course is free at www.aopa.org/asf. The King course–part of the professional/turbine online course series at www.kingschoolson
line.com–costs $249.  

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