Aircraft Deicing at Small Regional Airports by Paul Ritchi
by Paul Ritchi
Effective aircraft deicing is a challenge no matter the size of the airport. The consequences of not deicing an aircraft correctly can potentially result in the loss of life, an aircraft write-off and unwanted attention from press agencies the world on over.
Smaller airports often struggle to cover their costs while working with the local community and airport users to build a viable, credible, and reliable airport. Profit margins are frequently razor thin along with the lack of efficient and readily available deicing equipment. Can airports work together to develop a cost effective process to meet their joint needs rather than dealing with other agencies or suppliers as individual business units?
The deicing and anti-icing process is not a simple task; staff need to understand how the deicing process works along with the specific characteristics of the aircraft as to spray no-spray zones. Working with the flight crew ground crews also need to recognize when the plane needs to be deiced ideally just before or at the scheduled aircraft departure time.
Ground crews need the latest procedural deicing information as processes and information change from year to year as the deicing industry continues to evolve and more operational data is being gathered to help identify trends, better technology, and changes to deicing/anti-icing fluids.
Small airport operational teams are limited in numbers of available ramp staff while also wearing multiple numbers of hats of which de-icing is yet one more. Annual aircraft de-icing training needs to be the norm and not the exception irrespective of the local circumstances or available resources.
Airport staff at these airports often live in remote communities whereas travel to larger airports for training is often not financially viable or operationally practical as the local airport operational needs still need to be looked after.
Airports including private flight strips supporting services in remote Northern Canada need to undertake a needs assessment in conjunction with local aircraft operators and any air carriers that are using the airport to confirm that they have a cost-effective, robust deicing operation. Among other things, this assessment will validate that the type of deicing equipment utilized that have the necessary reach to safely and effectively deice aircraft that operate into their airport.
It is critical that training of staff before the deicing season gets underway along with ongoing refreshers provides the operator with the required degree of safety, efficiency and better staff morale regardless as to the party responsible for deicing be it airport or ramp agency personnel.
Can the baseline knowledge training be obtained remotely through instructor lead training that includes specific testing to confirm staff understanding and information retention? Is there a current updated deicing manual that spells out aircraft specific deicing processes along with any local environmental procedures? Outdated information could also result in an SMS program failure or infraction.
The supply of deicing (type 1) and anti-icing fluid (type 4) brings its own set of challenges from a storage, disbursement and cost point of view. Is the fluid brought in as a concentrate and then mixed to the required freeze point before use or brought in at a set mixture based on typical winter weather history at the airport in question?
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