When it comes to ice or frost, a “try it and see” approach never works: Once you see the effect, it’s too late to recover.
“In several fatal accidents this loss of lift and controllability was not apparent until the aircraft climbed out of ground effect; at that time the aircraft began un-commanded roll and/or pitch movements from which the pilot could not recover,” explains the FAA’s recently released Information for Operators Bulletin, “Identifying Small Amounts of Frost, Snow, Ice, or Slush on Aircraft and the Effects on Aircraft Control and Performance”.
In order to avoid that tragic scenario, “any amount of contamination, no matter how spotty or thin in feel and site, nor its location, must be removed from all aerodynamic and control surfaces prior to flight,” the bulletin warns. “Even the feel or appearance similar to ultra fine sandpaper on the airfoil is not acceptable.”
The release last week served as a reminder to pilots just before the nor’easter blew through the New England states. But it’s a warning that all should heed.
The bulletin suggests detecting frost, snow, or ice by scraping a fingernail across the aircraft’s surfaces and removing anything that looks or feels different than it does when the aircraft is dry or wet. Furthermore, the bulletin encourages pilots to become familiar with the way the aircraft surfaces feels when it is dry or simply wet and not contaminated with frost, ice, snow, or slush.