Aviation Safety:

New Regulations for Deicing Aircraft Could Be Strengthened

RCED-93-52: Published: Nov 18, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) progress in developing new regulations governing airlines' ground operations during icing conditions.

GAO found that: (1) FAA issued interim final regulations within 6 months after a major accident that may have been caused by icing; (2) the new regulations require more thorough procedures for inspecting aircraft and removing ice before takeoff, and incorporate guidance on the length of time deicing fluids are effective; (3) the regulations also detailed the training airlines should provide to their personnel on safety during icing conditions; (4) despite improvements, the regulations allow pilots to check for ice from inside the aircraft; (5) the new regulations do not apply to commuter airlines; and (6) FAA could more proactively verify that airlines have provided the required training.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FAA believes that its interim final regulations, in combination with required additional training for ground personnel, are sufficient to ensure that aircraft are free of ice before takeoff.

    Recommendation: To improve the safety of airlines' ground operations during icing conditions, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to amend the final interim regulations to require that, if the holdover time has expired, the critical surfaces for all aircraft be: (1) closely inspected from outside; or (2) deiced.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA decided to strengthen its existing regulations governing Part 135 deicing regulations. The interim final rule was issued in December 1993. The final rule is being drafted and will be issued during FY 1995.

    Recommendation: To improve the safety of airlines' ground operations during icing conditions, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to strengthen the existing regulations governing commuter airlines to ensure that their aircraft are free of ice on takeoff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA established a special surveillance program for the first winter season. Of the 1,800 comments received from inspectors, only 25 noted less-than-satisfactory compliance with the new regulations.

    Recommendation: To improve the safety of airlines' ground operations during icing conditions, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop a method to determine whether airline pilots and ground personnel have received and understood the initial training material explaining their responsibilities and develop more specific guidelines for monitoring the implementation of the regulations this winter.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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