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De-ice Your WingsDe-ice Your Wings


Taking off with snow or ice covered wings is a gamble pilots shouldn't risk. On December 6, 2003 the pilot of a Socata TBM-700 proved this point crashing shortly after takeoff from Reading Regional Airport in Reading, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, the pilot was not injured.

During the preflight, line personnel informed the pilot the airplane was topped off and placed in an open, unheated hangar two hours earlier. The pilot indicated that, because it was snowing, he paid close attention to ice and snow during the preflight. He also claimed the airplane was free of all contamination.

The pilot elected not to de-ice the wings because he thought all the snow was blowing off the top of the wing. He started the aircraft, taxied to the runway, and completed a normal run-up just prior to takeoff. Because the runway was covered in snow, the pilot followed the recommendation in the POH and used zero flaps for the takeoff. Shortly after rotation, the airplane began to shake violently although all the engine instruments were indicating normal. The pilot attempted to hold the airspeed at 110 knots, but realized the airplane was not climbing. He then increased the pitch angle to attain an airspeed of 80 knots, and the stall horn sounded. The aircraft came to rest about 1 mile southeast of the airport.

Weather at the time of the accident included snow and freezing fog. The temperature was minus 3 degrees Celsius and the dew point was minus 4 degrees Celsius.

The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's improper decision to not apply de-icing fluid to the wings prior to takeoff, which resulted in snow/ice contamination of the wings, and a subsequent stall.

When preflighting in conditions that could cause wing contamination, it is imperative that pilots thoroughly inspect the wings of their aircraft, and ensure that they are free of snow, ice, and frost. If they are not, either de-ice or don't go. Even a little frost can cause enough degradation of lift to prevent an airplane from climbing. The AOPA Air Safety Institute has published safety advisors on both icing, and the equipment used to remove or prevent it. Aircraft Icing and Aircraft Deicing and Anti-Icing Equipment are both available online. Also, look for more information about wing contamination in the latest AOPA Air Safety Institute's safety brief Cold Facts.

This accident report as well as others can be found in the AOPA Air Safety Institute's Online Database.