Frontier Flight Narrowly Avoids “Catastrophic” Deicing Incident

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A few days ago I wrote about how a Frontier Airlines flight attendant’s quick thinking avoided what could have been a “catastrophic outcome” on a recent flight out of Nashville. We now have some more information, including statements from the airline and deicing company.

Frontier Airbus deiced incorrectly

The always knowledgable @xJonNYC has a note that was written from Frontier Airlines to the Air Line Pilots Association Safety Council outlining what happened:

  • A Frontier Airlines plane was supposed to be deiced prior to takeoff from Nashville
  • The deicing company informed the crew that the aircraft was deiced and clear of contaminants
  • Upon reaching the runway, a flight attendant noticed there was still a significant buildup of snow and ice on the wings, and informed the pilots
  • The plane returned to the gate, at which point it was discovered that there was about a foot of snow on the wings
  • Apparently the deicing company had run low on deicing fluid, and suffice to say the agreement with the deicing company was terminated
  • The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now investigating this incident

It’s no exaggeration to say that this could have very well avoided a catastrophe.

The note regarding this incident

Here’s the note that was allegedly sent regarding the incident:

“Greetings Air Safety Organization and ALPA Safety Council,

Earlier this week during the massive snowstorm throughout the Central and Eastern States, we had a DEICE incident that could have led to a catastrophic outcome.

We (FFT) had an aircraft request and receive type 1 and type 4 deicing. The Vendor (Trego Dugan) stated to our flight deck crew that the aircraft was deiced and clear of contaminants.

Upon reaching the runway, and preparing for departure, an alarmed flight attendant called the flight deck stating that the wings were covered with snow and ice still. The flight crew visually inspected and retuned tot he gate. Both wings had about a foot of snow and ice still covering the wings with some fluid sprayed throughout the wing area. We found out the vendor was running low on fluid. They have since been terminated from our operations.

We are letting everyone know, as a safety precaution, about our experience with Trego Dugan Deice in BNA.”

What Frontier & the deicing company say

Following this incident, a Frontier Airlines spokesperson has confirmed this incident and stated the following:

“Safety is our foremost priority and we are very proud of our flight crew for identifying the issue and ensuring the matter was addressed before takeoff.We are no longer using the deicing company in question.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Trego Dugan Aviation has stated the following:

“There was a breakdown in the detailed and vigorous de-icing process in Nashville. An aircraft that had remained overnight during the storm was not fully de-iced. TDA applauds the efforts of the Frontier flight crew for detecting the issue before initiating flight. Nothing of this sort has happened in the past 50+ years and we have vigorously attacked the underlying circumstances to prevent anything like this in the future.”

How could deicers allow this to happen?

It can’t be overstated how major this issue could have been — several fatal plane crashes have occurred over the years due to deicing, so huge kudos to the flight attendant who was so observant (or perhaps a passenger who informed the flight attendant, with the flight attendant relaying the information to the pilots).

One has to wonder how exactly this could have happened, given that it should have been obvious to any onlooker that the deicing wasn’t done correctly:

  • Did the deicers not know what they were doing?
  • Or did the deicers realize they were out of fluid and figured it was just easier to send the plane on its way, rather than informing the pilots of the situation?

Regardless of what the explanation is, this is ridiculously negligent — if the deicers weren’t properly trained then shame on the company for that, while if the deicers did know what they were doing, shame on them. Someone needs to be held accountable here beyond just Frontier cutting ties with the company.

I’ve seen some people suggest “well shouldn’t the pilots by held accountable, since they are the ones flying the plane?” No, not really. There’s no practical way for pilots to check on the deice status, especially if the deicing isn’t done at the gate. It’s common practice for pilots to trust deicers, just as they’d trust other people integral to the operation. In this case the deicers failed the pilots (and passengers).

Bottom line

A recent Frontier Airlines flight had a near catastrophe due to a deicing incident. While the deicers informed the pilots that the plane was clear of contaminants, that wasn’t the case. A flight attendant noticed this as the plane got onto the runway. The plane returned to the gate, where it was discovered that there was about a foot of snow on the wings.

What do you make of this Frontier Airlines deicing situation?

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  1. Abey

    Is Deicing regulated by NTSB/FAA ? Should be

  2. Sung

    This is no simple mistake or accident, it is criminally negligent. The people deicing LIED that it was free of contaminants. It is obviously that a marginal visual check would have seen that was not the case, so they willfully lied, ie they had intent to lie.

  3. dan

    Someone messed up and good thing for the flight attendant or maybe a few passengers that tole him/her

  4. Cmorgan

    Great job to the alert FA. I hope Frontier gives the FA some sort of recognition!

  5. Super VC10

    Another superb example of the value of Crew Resource Management.

  6. Bill

    I would think it was the pilots responsibility to observe and make the final decision

  7. MKLDH

    This brings a question I have for long time: do pilots need to visually confirm the results of deicing before take of? I thought the answer is yes, but in my experiences deicing can take place after the aircraft leaves the gate, which I guess makes cockpit observation more difficult. And also this Frontier incident, where the pilots didn't seem to check the decing carefully enough. Should they be held accountable too?

  8. David

    This is one of the many reasons why plane windows should be kept open for takeoffs and landings.

  9. Peter Brown

    Pilots should have looked around the plane. Gross negligence.

  10. Dov Isaacs

    Unfortunately, this type of situation probably happens more than you can imagine.

    I was personally involved with such a situation over 30 years ago. I was on a Piedmont Airlines flight from BWI to (I think) ROC. I was seated in an exit row window seat. After we pushed back from the gate and started to taxi to the runway, I saw something that I didn't like. There was already ice buildup on the wing....

    Unfortunately, this type of situation probably happens more than you can imagine.

    I was personally involved with such a situation over 30 years ago. I was on a Piedmont Airlines flight from BWI to (I think) ROC. I was seated in an exit row window seat. After we pushed back from the gate and started to taxi to the runway, I saw something that I didn't like. There was already ice buildup on the wing. I immediately pushed my call button, an FA arrived, she saw what I was pointing to, alerted the flight deck, and we immediately returned to the gate for a complete deicing which of course delayed the flight by about 45 minutes IIRC. The flight crew did immediately thank me!

  11. JD

    What about the pilots? Were they asleep in the cockpit? Seems like they were negligent in not doing a thorough inspection before pushback.

  12. D3kingg

    @Peter Brown

    Agreed. Cockpit windows appear to be somewhat panoramic aren’t the wings visible from the cockpit if the captain looks over his shoulder?

  13. Kathi White

    Can't blame the pilots for not noticing at the last moment. They can't see the wings very well from the flight deck. No side view mirrors! The flight attendant did her job well and should be commended.

  14. EJC

    @Peter Brown, it is not at all common practice for pilots to visually verify de ice application. We trust that the de icing crew have done their jobs when they verbally confirm to us they have. The plane is already under its own power normally at this point so we stay on the flight deck.

    I suspect it is gross negligence on the part of the deice company if the story played out as told.

  15. JonNYC

    I’m told authoritatively; pilots not to blame here— not routine for them to inspect after deicing

  16. Matt

    Why don’t planes have cameras along the exterior with visibility by the cockpit? Seems like such a simple solution for a ton of flying issues (engine catastrophe, landing gears, deicing...)

  17. Jim Spaeth

    Airline employees should be doing the deiceing. An airport the size of BNA should have a dominant carrier that can handle the job for any carriers without the personnel and equipment to do it themselves.

  18. Marty

    Just curious, what's in the de-icing liquid/gas? Anyone?

  19. Marvin

    Go to Trego-Dugan's website and click on Airline Ground Handling. Their motto: "Winging. It." I guess they were just winging it when they ran low on deice fluid!

  20. Michael

    Marty, its a mix of propylene glycol (antifreeze) and hot water.

  21. DTaylor

    As someone who has de-iced for a living...Thats SCARY!
    It is gross negligence period. Either they weren't trained at all, or said to hell with it. Looks closer to an inch of snow, not a foot...but that could still bring that Airbus down.

  22. Tim Dunn

    Absolutely frightening given that the contract crew didn't realize why they were doing what they were doing and why there is no room to do less than perfect.

    I should note that deicing is a sensitive subject for me because I took off from JFK airport about the same time as the USAirways flight took off from LGA years ago and crashed because of poor deicing.

    Well done to the FAs that jumped in...

    Absolutely frightening given that the contract crew didn't realize why they were doing what they were doing and why there is no room to do less than perfect.

    I should note that deicing is a sensitive subject for me because I took off from JFK airport about the same time as the USAirways flight took off from LGA years ago and crashed because of poor deicing.

    Well done to the FAs that jumped in when they knew the job was not done right.

    And, this would be a good time to thank the numerous crews that have professionally deiced my flights this winter - which we all hope is coming to an end.

  23. UWS_T

    I flew from YUL to LGA several years ago. We were de-iced but we sat for at least 30 minutes before we stared to taxi while it was snowing. I was alarmed when I noticed there was snow and slush still on the wings and rang for an FA. The co-pilot came to my seat to tell me that all would slide off as we took off. It did.

    When we arrived at LGA we had to do a go-around in a really low ceiling with wind. It wasn't my favorite flight.

  24. Robert J Fahr

    Many moons ago, AA #90 ORD LHR. Flight attendants notified the Captain of fluid leaking off the wing whole on taxi. Flight cancelled, everyone safe.

  25. Mary

    I don't understand why it is not mandatory for window shades to be open on take off and landing.

  26. MD

    Deicing is one of the most heavily regulated things that a ground handling company does - from daily fluid checks to scripted handoffs with the crew. I am surprised this could have happened (aside from the really poor culture in contract ground handling companies). The place I worked at had a strict schedule for holding on to deicing documentation - always getting rid of it as soon as it was not required, as deicing penalties...

    Deicing is one of the most heavily regulated things that a ground handling company does - from daily fluid checks to scripted handoffs with the crew. I am surprised this could have happened (aside from the really poor culture in contract ground handling companies). The place I worked at had a strict schedule for holding on to deicing documentation - always getting rid of it as soon as it was not required, as deicing penalties were very expensive (ironically they got a $50k fine shortly after I left)

    If I recall correctly, when I did deicing, we would stop in between type 1 and type 4 and give the holdover briefing (I mostly did type 1 for defrost purposes). We would always physically inspect the wing with our hands to ensure the surface was smooth and was a required part of the briefing to the pilot at the end of deicing.

  27. TM

    I understand it's not SOP for one of the pilots to give a visual check after deicing, but would it be asking too much of the FAs to require them to check the wings and confirm with the flight deck? After all, they always say they're primarily here for our safety.

  28. UpperDeckJohnny

    ALL Crew Resource Management wins

    Autocratic training Captains please note.

  29. dave

    When I leave my house after a snow storm or any other "event", I check my vehicle to make sure I will be safe drive to wherever I am going. Just saying.

  30. Michael

    Dave, I'm guessing you also perform a "de-icing" also.

  31. Evan

    Failure to properly deice (or deice at all) unnerves me more than anything else on a flight. I was once on a SWA flight from PIT-BWI on a snowy day where other AC were deicing at a remote pad by the end of the runway. Our plane cruised past the pad without deicing and took off without delay... one of those rolling starts to the takeoff roll without stopping at the end of the runway....

    Failure to properly deice (or deice at all) unnerves me more than anything else on a flight. I was once on a SWA flight from PIT-BWI on a snowy day where other AC were deicing at a remote pad by the end of the runway. Our plane cruised past the pad without deicing and took off without delay... one of those rolling starts to the takeoff roll without stopping at the end of the runway. No problems, but if some planes are contaminated, aren't all? (I'd be happy for someone to explain why there was no issue with this.)

  32. Dick Bupkiss

    Despite what you may have been "assured" it is the pilot's responsibility to ensure that the plane they are flying is safe and properly prepared for every flight. Every time. Even if it's cold out. No exceptions. Period.

    Yes, there's blame to go around. The de-ice crew screwed up bigtime. But it's the pilot's responsibility to check that. Without exception. Should the pilot depend on the flight attendants to verify there's enough fuel on board...

    Despite what you may have been "assured" it is the pilot's responsibility to ensure that the plane they are flying is safe and properly prepared for every flight. Every time. Even if it's cold out. No exceptions. Period.

    Yes, there's blame to go around. The de-ice crew screwed up bigtime. But it's the pilot's responsibility to check that. Without exception. Should the pilot depend on the flight attendants to verify there's enough fuel on board to reach their destination? Ask passengers if they noticed whether or not the tires looked OK?

    Pilot in command should be terminated. With great power comes great responsibility. Take a quick walk around the damn airplane before closing the door and firing up. It's too much of a bother to take a look at the wings and see if there's a foot of snow on them? Then it's time to find a different line of work, because the person up front in the left seat was just along for the ride, s/he was not pilot in command.

  33. Allen

    Ironically the vendor states this on their own website's home page: "Trego-Dugan delivers business vision, a midwest work ethic and unparalleled integrity."

  34. Redman

    Dick, you are clueless and need to stay in your lane, No other way around it.

    We don’t do a type 1 (snow ice removal) and type 4 protective coat that sheds any accumulated snow on take off while parked at the gate. Type 4 is time sensitive and to have it applied at the gate would be pointless as the hold over time for the solution would expire 9 out of 10 times...

    Dick, you are clueless and need to stay in your lane, No other way around it.

    We don’t do a type 1 (snow ice removal) and type 4 protective coat that sheds any accumulated snow on take off while parked at the gate. Type 4 is time sensitive and to have it applied at the gate would be pointless as the hold over time for the solution would expire 9 out of 10 times prior to reaching the runway.

    There are times when the de-Ice procedure is done at the gate of frozen precipitation occurred overnight and the weather is not clear. It helps speed up the process for us to get the plane boarded and on our way. Other times we can push back and have the deice procedure done 50 feet back from our parking spot, or you have mega facilities like Denver that have a battle station for deice.

    Unless a holdover time is going to be exceeded, a “wing check” by the pilots is not common or required under most circumstances. Past practice has relied on deice doing their job and we also do a “nose check” to get an idea for how much frozen precip has fallen to help us judge our condition prior to takeoff.

    There is a lot of trust but verify pilots have to deal with. We aren’t going to be out their verifying maintenance has done their job correctly, because we verify our Maintenance Release Document is valid and trust the work was done right.

  35. Ronald Redden

    Many times deicing is done on deicing pads. Personel exiting the aircraft is not only impractical it is prohibited. Even if a person does want to visually look it is impossible to see the top of wing or tail. A pilot has to trust the professional to do their jobs and that they have the equipment to do so.

  36. Walter Sobchak

    For the people outraged that the pilots don’t inspect the plane post deicing, you’re out of your element. You realize that type of deicing is done on the way to the runway with engines running. Sure, we’ll just shut down the plane out there on the taxiway and open the cabin door, blow the slide and hop down for a closer look. Do you realize how many hundreds of aspects of every flight you have...

    For the people outraged that the pilots don’t inspect the plane post deicing, you’re out of your element. You realize that type of deicing is done on the way to the runway with engines running. Sure, we’ll just shut down the plane out there on the taxiway and open the cabin door, blow the slide and hop down for a closer look. Do you realize how many hundreds of aspects of every flight you have ever been on rely on the pilots taking someone’s word for something? We don’t inspect every component on the plane. We don’t inflate the tires. We don’t load the cargo. We don’t close the panels below after they’ve loaded everything. We rely on the tower to clear us for takeoff in lousy weather when we can’t see the entire runway is clear. We fly in the clouds and do what ATC says when we can’t see. We believe the flight attendants when they say everyone is ready in the back. The same people who want to blame a pilot here would be wanking nonstop at the slightest inconvenience any of these things would cause if the pilots had to check them all.

  37. UpperDeckJohnny

    @Dick Bupkiss

    That's far too harsh.

    First. The plane was de iced, and confirmed to the cockpit crew. The only time, as I understand it, when the crew need to take a second look is if they are held on the taxiway and takeoff is delayed, thereby causing a second build up of ice, which would need a gate return for secondary de icing.

    Secondly, cockpit crew are frequently unaware of exactly what...

    @Dick Bupkiss

    That's far too harsh.

    First. The plane was de iced, and confirmed to the cockpit crew. The only time, as I understand it, when the crew need to take a second look is if they are held on the taxiway and takeoff is delayed, thereby causing a second build up of ice, which would need a gate return for secondary de icing.

    Secondly, cockpit crew are frequently unaware of exactly what is going on behind them, in respect of unusual flap, mounting, engine problems, only aided recently by tailcams. So whilst is does not fall upon the FA's to monitor the plane for take, as in your ludicrous suggestions, it is important for them to report anything unusual, as in this case.

    An equally ridiculous suggestion would be for the cockpit crew to get out on the runway just before take off to make an inspection.

    This is not a blame game. It's correct allocation of responsibility; de-icing operators, either company or crew.

  38. Steve

    As a de-icer, I can say based on the information provided, this was entirely the fault and negligence of the deice crew. The pilots did everything right. The FA went beyond their responsibility to look out the window and call in the situation. Good for the FA; saved everyone on board. The deicer is responsible to ensure there are no contaminants (snow or ice) on the plane. There is not time or any safe way...

    As a de-icer, I can say based on the information provided, this was entirely the fault and negligence of the deice crew. The pilots did everything right. The FA went beyond their responsibility to look out the window and call in the situation. Good for the FA; saved everyone on board. The deicer is responsible to ensure there are no contaminants (snow or ice) on the plane. There is not time or any safe way for the pilot to check the plane; the engines are already running when the anti-ice fluid is applied, and the plane must take off within minutes after application. The pilot trusts the de-ice team when they say the plane is free of contaminants.

  39. Hodor

    EJC and Redman, perhaps you should accept the principle that the PIC bears ultimate responsibility, and maybe your accepted/past practices aren't good enough. Why bother doing a preflight inspection, if you can just presume that other people did their jobs right? Thanks.

  40. derek

    Airlines should copy TWA, which had black lines painted on the wings.

  41. Always Flying Somewhere

    Echoing @David's comment that seems to be lost amongst all the finger pointing. I have seen so many comments on this blog from people claiming it's their God-given Constitutional right to keep the window shades down in all phases of flight. Hopefully this serves as a lesson to those of you who think that way.

  42. UpperDeckJohnny

    @Hodor

    I've seen some barmy comments on blog but yours beats every one of them - hands down.

    Just exactly what are you suggesting of pre-flight check. The crew ensures every wheel nut is tight, every door seal intact, every fan blade inspected with an ultra violet instrument prior to departure.

    At some point everyone has to rely on the word of another, and documentation goes a long way to proving that. The maintenance...

    @Hodor

    I've seen some barmy comments on blog but yours beats every one of them - hands down.

    Just exactly what are you suggesting of pre-flight check. The crew ensures every wheel nut is tight, every door seal intact, every fan blade inspected with an ultra violet instrument prior to departure.

    At some point everyone has to rely on the word of another, and documentation goes a long way to proving that. The maintenance logs, together with overall checks provide this information.

    I assume that we will never see you on a plane because checks are insufficient prior to take off.

    And by the way, how do you know your fuel gauge is correct prior to embarking upon a car journey?

  43. Ryan

    The motto on Trego Dugan's website is, I kid you not:

    "winging it"

    LOL

  44. Jim

    doesn't the pilot walk around the plane before flight?

  45. Steveb

    These replies are laughable. The aircraft generally taxis to an offsite facility to have deicing completed. If the process is completed at the gate, which only happens at a few airports, the jet bridge is off the airplane. The certified deicers are trained to clear the aircraft of contaminants, apply an anti-icing solution, and report back to the pilots with the types of fluid used and when the time started for the effectiveness of the...

    These replies are laughable. The aircraft generally taxis to an offsite facility to have deicing completed. If the process is completed at the gate, which only happens at a few airports, the jet bridge is off the airplane. The certified deicers are trained to clear the aircraft of contaminants, apply an anti-icing solution, and report back to the pilots with the types of fluid used and when the time started for the effectiveness of the anti-ice. Do you expect pilots to shimmy down the escape rope from the flight deck to go walk around the aircraft? Much like there is a trust that the fuelers are putting the proper fuel onboard and that the mechanics have bolted the engines on correctly, there is a dependence on the de-ice crews being trained and completing their jobs properly.

  46. Donato

    @ Evan
    Some aircraft are on the ground 70 minutes between flights, some are there 24 hours. there might have been a snow squall 6 hours prior which only affected aircraft sitting on the ground at that time.

  47. C.G.

    What happened to this flight was criminal.

    That said, the outboard fourth of an Airbus wing is visible from the cockpit. This is not true of all airliners. Additionally there are procedures in place for wing inspection after deice if required, at the PICs discretion.

    The FO inspects the wing from the cabin, just as the FA did in this case. On the Airbus the best window for this inspection is three windows forward...

    What happened to this flight was criminal.

    That said, the outboard fourth of an Airbus wing is visible from the cockpit. This is not true of all airliners. Additionally there are procedures in place for wing inspection after deice if required, at the PICs discretion.

    The FO inspects the wing from the cabin, just as the FA did in this case. On the Airbus the best window for this inspection is three windows forward of the exit row, and the window is marked with a small triangle above it for just this purpose.

    There are specific times that require this post deice, in cabin inspection. Not enough detail in this story to know if this event entailed one of these times or not, but the pictures look as though they did not deice prior to anti ice, which does not work.

  48. D

    I currently work in the airline industry and what others have posted above is harsh and for the most part a skewed perception. Yes, the captain is responsible for the safety of the flight, however you also have to understand that there are many components that go into this. The captain is not a mechanic and would be unable to make as thorough of an inspection as a mechanic is trained to do. The captain...

    I currently work in the airline industry and what others have posted above is harsh and for the most part a skewed perception. Yes, the captain is responsible for the safety of the flight, however you also have to understand that there are many components that go into this. The captain is not a mechanic and would be unable to make as thorough of an inspection as a mechanic is trained to do. The captain reviews the maintenance log before the flight and can see what the mechanics were up to. Sure, the captain does a pre-flight inspection of the aircraft, however that is meant to check major parts such as the landing gear, wings, flaps, etc. It is during this pre-flight inspection that the captain will observe any contamination and based on their observations make the decision for what kind of deicing/anti-icing they will request. Deicing/anti-icing is typically performed while the aircraft is under its own power. Depending on specific airline procedures, either the mechanic will communicate with the cockpit crew or a deicing coordinator will. They are responsible for informing the captain that the deicing/anti-icing procedure was performed, the aircraft is clear of contamination, and they provide the times of application of fluid so the crew is able to calculate what their holdover time is.

    I will make an analogy perhaps that will explain better... In the US the TSA is responsible for checking passengers as well as their luggage and making sure that no prohibited items are present. Although the captain is responsible for the safety of their flight, you don’t see the captain checking each and every single luggage and every passenger to make sure that there is nothing prohibited coming onto the aircraft. They trust that the TSA did their job and make a decision based on that information. Similarly in this instance, inspecting the aircraft post deicing is neither practical nor possible in many cases, so they trust that the deicing was performed correctly and go on the information they have been provided.

    I prefer when the mechanic communicates with the cockpit crew during the deicing procedure, however this is also not typically possible when deicing is performed away from the gate area. I say this because the mechanic is typically an airline employee and is more inclined to report that deicing was performed incorrectly as they are separate from the deicing team. It’s just another set of eyes and another “check” to ensure proper procedure is followed.

  49. Hernan palomeque

    The deicing company in question and the deicers should receive monetary fines AND jail sentences

  50. Mark S.

    This has been an engaging post. It's great that so many Pilots and Airline professionals are reading and weighing in. As an aviation nut and very frequent traveler, I am glad there are truly trained eyes on the comments raised herein. My opinion of the value and integrity of this forum has gone up as result.

  51. Big Eric

    An aggressive prosecuting attorney would have the de-icing company and the involved company employees up on attempted murder charges. Depending on additional circumstances, the company's training and supervisory employees may also qualify for reckless/negligent endangerment charges (or whatever Tennessee charges correspond).

  52. Jetjock 64

    All you snipers and back-benchers out there, I mean you, Bill, Peter, JD, Dick B., and Hodor, you're showing off your ignorance of a profession you know very little or nothing about. You'd be a lot better off trying to ask intelligent questions rather than pretending to know answers--which you mostly do not. It's ok to give an opinion, but take care not to base it on analogizing from your experiences of driving a car...

    All you snipers and back-benchers out there, I mean you, Bill, Peter, JD, Dick B., and Hodor, you're showing off your ignorance of a profession you know very little or nothing about. You'd be a lot better off trying to ask intelligent questions rather than pretending to know answers--which you mostly do not. It's ok to give an opinion, but take care not to base it on analogizing from your experiences of driving a car because the tasks, problems, and environments are not in any way analogous! Getting a plane off the ground under snowy or icy conditions is a ballet where all players have to know their roles, be at the right place at the right time and doing the right thing under tight time constraints and according to a time-honored, well-established script. That broke down here by deicer wilfull misconduct, period. ex-captain, attorney.

  53. TM

    It seems quite obvious that many readers here have never been on a plane while it is deiced. Pilot jumping out onto an active deicing pad to visually check the time-sensitive fluid was applied correctly? How do you suppose they check the tail? Pull out a really tall extension ladder and climb up there to check it up close?

    @Evan

    Most likely, especially since you were on Southwest, your plane was only in PIT...

    It seems quite obvious that many readers here have never been on a plane while it is deiced. Pilot jumping out onto an active deicing pad to visually check the time-sensitive fluid was applied correctly? How do you suppose they check the tail? Pull out a really tall extension ladder and climb up there to check it up close?

    @Evan

    Most likely, especially since you were on Southwest, your plane was only in PIT for a quick turnaround and the flight crew determined that snow/ice buildup wasn't an issue in the short time that aircraft was on the ground there. Other aircraft getting deiced likely had been there for several hours/overnight.

  54. Dave

    I don’t think that jobs in an industry that hold the lives of people in their hands should be outsourced! As a person that works for an airline I have some skin in the game to make sure the cargo/other doors are closed, the aircraft is free from contaminants, the de icing fluid freeze point is within limits, my crew trained and my truck/ storage tanks are full. I check every plane as if my...

    I don’t think that jobs in an industry that hold the lives of people in their hands should be outsourced! As a person that works for an airline I have some skin in the game to make sure the cargo/other doors are closed, the aircraft is free from contaminants, the de icing fluid freeze point is within limits, my crew trained and my truck/ storage tanks are full. I check every plane as if my own family is on board. Stop sourcing jobs to save the small amount of money that you think you are saving. A disaster would have been much more costly monetarily but most importantly in human lives.

  55. Flieger

    Happened to me in FRA maybe 10y ago. A guy in Economy alarmed the FA that the wing is still full of ice, who then went to the captain, who then went back to deicing. Might happen more often than you think.

  56. Juan

    Reading the comment section it's just incredible the amount of people commenting on something they obviously know nothing about. Everyone talking about the pilots the walk-around it's laughable. The power of social media it has given everyone a tool to express themselves about everything they know nothing about.

  57. Mark

    People need to understand a few things about aircraft deicing.
    1) it’s not done at the gate
    2) most large jets, pilots cannot see the wings from the flight deck
    3) if you’re on a cargo only aircraft, there is no way to inspect the wings
    4) pilots have to rely on other professionals to do what they say they are doing...pilots must rely on the deicing crews to do what...

    People need to understand a few things about aircraft deicing.
    1) it’s not done at the gate
    2) most large jets, pilots cannot see the wings from the flight deck
    3) if you’re on a cargo only aircraft, there is no way to inspect the wings
    4) pilots have to rely on other professionals to do what they say they are doing...pilots must rely on the deicing crews to do what they’re trained to do.
    Pilots rely on load planners that the aircraft is loaded according to the paperwork they have given the captain for final approval.

  58. regis

    Deicing ops is all about trust, if everyone perform his job right, in this case the deice crew, they were supposed to first removed the snow with type 1 and then apply a type 4 to protect it before take off. it is their responsibility to check if deice procedures have been well follow and that all contamination is removed, when they give the post contamination check to the crew, it is their responsibility, the...

    Deicing ops is all about trust, if everyone perform his job right, in this case the deice crew, they were supposed to first removed the snow with type 1 and then apply a type 4 to protect it before take off. it is their responsibility to check if deice procedures have been well follow and that all contamination is removed, when they give the post contamination check to the crew, it is their responsibility, the crew had to trust the deice crew as there is no way for them to check physically what's going on around the wings and tail section. That's what deicing ops is about a total trust between the deicers and the crew, if this case it is obvious that the deice crew failed.
    the crew responsibility is to ensure the holdover time is meet prior take off. The only people to blame is the deice crew and the deice coordinator who is supposed to supervise the ops by standing in front of the A/C in view of the crew. That's what i know about deice ops...

  59. UpperDeckJohnny

    @Steveb

    Exactly. And very well put. Especially the knowledgeable escape ropes from the flight deck!

  60. UpperDeckJohnny

    @Juan

    Yes. Most have forgotten about the adage "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing"

  61. Randy Hudson

    They ask "how did this happen?" and I roll my eyes. I worked for a major airline 15 years. This was in the 80's and early 90's when we were making $35 to $40k a year on the ramp. That translated to $70 - $80k today. We were highly trained and properly motivated, people making good money seem to have a vested interest in keeping people safe and retaining their job. I once had a...

    They ask "how did this happen?" and I roll my eyes. I worked for a major airline 15 years. This was in the 80's and early 90's when we were making $35 to $40k a year on the ramp. That translated to $70 - $80k today. We were highly trained and properly motivated, people making good money seem to have a vested interest in keeping people safe and retaining their job. I once had a Jr part time agent tell me one am around 5:30 a F28 which had landed the night before in semi freezing rain conditions had zero ice on the wings "no need to de-ice". I knew better and checked myself to find a t least 1/4 inch smooth ice coating the entire wing bottom surface due to cold soak. We knew what to look for, followed FFA window recs' and knew who to supervise. Many working for FBO or outsourced services today make a fraction of the salaries paid when the airline was a great industry and job. I don't think they are trained very well nor motivated towards safety. You get what you pay for.

  62. JD

    The old saw applies here.. you get what you pay for. I am betting this vendor gave Frontier a low bid for deicing, and especially in this fiscal climate the airline went with cheap versus credible. Kind of like buying that "Gucci" bag at the flea market for $25 and it falls apart in a month.

  63. Jillian Kuti

    I have always had a great experience when flying Frontier! But when reading this i fell the piolets are at fault also. They didn't inspect the plane for safety! Whenever i fly Frontier from long island, i always see the piolets out side inspecting the plane! One time our flight was even delayed because one of the piolets didnt like what the air pressure was on a wheel.

  64. Evan

    @Juillian Kuti

    I think you're misunderstanding the situation. Yes, pilots do visually inspect an aircraft at the gate before a flight. However, at most airports (including BNA), deicing is not done at the gate. Deicing is done on a pad just before the runway. The advantage of this procedure is to minimize the time between when an aircraft is deiced and departure.

    The downside is the pilot cannot visually inspect the aircraft after a deicing....

    @Juillian Kuti

    I think you're misunderstanding the situation. Yes, pilots do visually inspect an aircraft at the gate before a flight. However, at most airports (including BNA), deicing is not done at the gate. Deicing is done on a pad just before the runway. The advantage of this procedure is to minimize the time between when an aircraft is deiced and departure.

    The downside is the pilot cannot visually inspect the aircraft after a deicing. The pilot has to rely on the deicers in this situation.

  65. SubwayNut

    A year ago in the middle of a snow storm I some how lucked out and was on the one "chosen flight" by American to fly out of ORD to LGA (all other flights to the East Coast and most other destinations were canceled). The evening started with mayham at the gate including a man who was arguing with the gate agent saying his travel agent had just bought him a first class ticket on...

    A year ago in the middle of a snow storm I some how lucked out and was on the one "chosen flight" by American to fly out of ORD to LGA (all other flights to the East Coast and most other destinations were canceled). The evening started with mayham at the gate including a man who was arguing with the gate agent saying his travel agent had just bought him a first class ticket on the oversold/miles long standby list flight. I thought the police might be called.

    Once we got on the plane, it took about 90 minutes to take off, first to brush off all the snow and ice on the plane at the gate so we could safely taxi, followed by a very thorough dicing at the runway, after a long wait before we took off. There would have been no possible way for the pilot to leave the plane at that point.

    I don't know if anyone's aware of the giant Easy-Bake oven that used to exist for dicing at JFK, it was literally a hanger like building with lots of heating elements to use heat instead of chemicals to deice planes, airlines didn't like using it because it took more time than regular dicing fluid. I got to see it once on a runway tour in 2016 and found it fascinating right as they were planning to tear it down.

  66. neil

    @Ben:
    A suggestion when you post an update to a previous post. Could you somehow indicate what the new content is eg by using a different font or style. That way your readers could identify the updated content immediately. I could not tell what was updated in this post.

    Thanks

  67. Levi

    I operated that flight and the story is a little inaccurate. The real story is we were cleared for takeoff. I had briefed a dead heading first officer at the gate before we left that I would ask him to check the wings before takeoff. So we took the runway and I called back to get a thumbs up from him, he said he couldn’t see the wings they were covered in ice. Thats when...

    I operated that flight and the story is a little inaccurate. The real story is we were cleared for takeoff. I had briefed a dead heading first officer at the gate before we left that I would ask him to check the wings before takeoff. So we took the runway and I called back to get a thumbs up from him, he said he couldn’t see the wings they were covered in ice. Thats when I opened the cockpit window and leaned out to get a better look and saw all the snow and ice. I never had a flight attendant call me to tell me there was still ice on the wings. One of the flight attendants took that picture but none of them called me.

  68. EB

    A lot of uninformed comments here about what is feasible for pilots to do when de-iced.

    It does seem, though, that adding a visual check after de-icing and before takeoff, possibly by a flight attendant, would add some level of extra protection. Of course you can't 100% guarantee by looking out the window, but it would catch something like this. It could be the break in the accident chain that saves lives. Reading Levi's comment...

    A lot of uninformed comments here about what is feasible for pilots to do when de-iced.

    It does seem, though, that adding a visual check after de-icing and before takeoff, possibly by a flight attendant, would add some level of extra protection. Of course you can't 100% guarantee by looking out the window, but it would catch something like this. It could be the break in the accident chain that saves lives. Reading Levi's comment above, it appears that's exactly what happened (except a dead heading pilot vs. flight attendant).

    I am a private pilot who tends to sit in exit row window seats and I absolutely look out over the wing after de-icing just for my own peace of mind.

  69. Josh

    This airline, in my opinion, should have it;s operating certificate SUSPENDED over this situation! RIDICULOUS!!

  70. BM

    As a deicer myself, I pretty much bet a lot of money that the truck was pretty much empty of deicing fluid (type 1&4). The crew was lazy and did not fuel up there truck with fluid. The other possible scenario is that they may have been low on fluids, told the supervisor and the supervisor may have told them, finish off what’s left and when your done, fuel up.

  71. Richard Pomerantz

    And I thought there were only 1,000 reasons NOT to fly on Frontier. Make that 1,001 -
    MY MISTAKE!

  72. Aaron

    Seems like it'd be pretty easy to install a pinhole camera on the port/starboard sides of the aircraft directly overlooking each wing with a direct connection to the flight deck. It just gives the pilots visual verification as well as a redundancy check.

  73. Steve

    Trego Dugan Aviation - not a detail oriented company. I just looked at its website - a 2013 copyright. I guess no updates for 8 years!

  74. Greg

    Memories of Palm 90 tragedy, Washington National to Tampa, January 13, 1982

  75. IN

    We’ve worked with Trego Dugan for almost 2 years now. The vendor is continuously cutting corners and things they’re contracted to do don’t get done. Not to mention the people who work for TD always seem miserable. I’d imagine that doesn’t help improve the service or product. Not surprised to read this about the deicing. Pretty sickening considering.

  76. John Selden

    I don't buy the excuses and also don't agree that the flight deck crew wasn't partially at fault. Even though the aircraft was allegedly deiced at a remote (non-gate) location, it's the pilots' responsibility to ensure the aircraft is safe for flight operations. In the good old days I recall vividly that pilots would typically walk back in to the passenger cabin and visually inspect deiced wings. I suspect that modern flight deck security protocols...

    I don't buy the excuses and also don't agree that the flight deck crew wasn't partially at fault. Even though the aircraft was allegedly deiced at a remote (non-gate) location, it's the pilots' responsibility to ensure the aircraft is safe for flight operations. In the good old days I recall vividly that pilots would typically walk back in to the passenger cabin and visually inspect deiced wings. I suspect that modern flight deck security protocols have trumped the act of pilots conducting a post-deicing visual inspection. As we all now agree, tragedy was barely averted in this case.

  77. C.G.

    No, the security protocols are in place for a post deice in cabin inspection by the operating pilots.

    What has changed is the trigger for the inspection. In the past any precipitation after deice required an in cabin visual inspection. Now a visual check of the nose in front of the cockpit, combined with not exceeding holdover time suffices. If the nose check fails and/or holdover is exceeded the flight may still depart, but only...

    No, the security protocols are in place for a post deice in cabin inspection by the operating pilots.

    What has changed is the trigger for the inspection. In the past any precipitation after deice required an in cabin visual inspection. Now a visual check of the nose in front of the cockpit, combined with not exceeding holdover time suffices. If the nose check fails and/or holdover is exceeded the flight may still depart, but only after in cabin inspection by an operating pilot.

    All of this assumes a proper deice and post deice inspection by the deice crew, which did not happen here.

  78. Diksum

    Anyone remember the Air Florida accident?

  79. James787

    No excuses. The entire airline, deicing company, city, state, and county should be held accountable. Everyone should not only be terminated but taken out to the de ice pad and drawn and quartered using tugs and belt loaders.

    It is the responsibility of the pilot to not only make sure every nut and bolt is correctly torqued both inside and outside the cabin but also all weather at departure, destination, and in between is...

    No excuses. The entire airline, deicing company, city, state, and county should be held accountable. Everyone should not only be terminated but taken out to the de ice pad and drawn and quartered using tugs and belt loaders.

    It is the responsibility of the pilot to not only make sure every nut and bolt is correctly torqued both inside and outside the cabin but also all weather at departure, destination, and in between is sunny and 75°.

    It is also. the pilots responsibility to make sure traffic is clear for your drive to and from airports of departure and destination

    How do I know this you ask? I am a pilot as well for mother U!

  80. Richard Isbell

    Actually the crew IS responsible. There are numerous regulations to this effect. I wouldn’t take off without visual confirmation from a crew member or he company that the aircraft I’d free of contaminants. I also brush the snow off the aircraft before device thereby making the device fluid more reliable and effective.

  81. Raffles

    From the picture apparently taken by a flight attendant, it looks to be about an inch of snow on the wings, not a foot. Of course, 1 inch is 1 inch too much.

  82. KDA

    As a private pilot and deicing operator/driver at BDL (Bradley airport, Windsor Locks, CT) we spray HOT Type I for frost at the gates on overnight aircraft before they're loaded for the first flight approximately 1-2 hours before their departures in the wee hours of the morning. Snow, ice, freezing rain, sleet and freezing fog are sprayed with HOT Type I in the deice pad adjacent to rwy 6 allowing for a quick departure after...

    As a private pilot and deicing operator/driver at BDL (Bradley airport, Windsor Locks, CT) we spray HOT Type I for frost at the gates on overnight aircraft before they're loaded for the first flight approximately 1-2 hours before their departures in the wee hours of the morning. Snow, ice, freezing rain, sleet and freezing fog are sprayed with HOT Type I in the deice pad adjacent to rwy 6 allowing for a quick departure after being sprayed with Type I and occasionally Type 4 if the precipitation is still falling. Like others have said, the cockpit view of the wings is limited if not impossible. Certainly the freight operators don't have any windows on the fuselage to be able to look out let alone being able to get in the back with all the containers there, so they're not checking for contaminants. And I promise you flight crews on passenger carrying aircraft aren't coming out of the secure cockpit to wander down the aisle to have a looksy out the emergency row exit to check the wings. They all trust the word from the driver of the deicing truck on the radio that "Your aircraft and engines have been inspected and found clean". Shame on that deicing operator/company.

  83. 34 years Airline pilot

    Richard, your so out of your depth here, you don’t even know what you don’t know.
    Typical weekend amateur, you brush the snow off of your a-320?
    Captain smith this is your CERTIFIED deicer Initials T.S. employee number 123456, your aircraft has been deiced with type 1
    deice fluid and anti ice fluid type 4, I certify YOUR aircraft is clean and clear of ice, followed by times to calculate holdover (you...

    Richard, your so out of your depth here, you don’t even know what you don’t know.
    Typical weekend amateur, you brush the snow off of your a-320?
    Captain smith this is your CERTIFIED deicer Initials T.S. employee number 123456, your aircraft has been deiced with type 1
    deice fluid and anti ice fluid type 4, I certify YOUR aircraft is clean and clear of ice, followed by times to calculate holdover (you don’t know what that means but that’s ok) That Communication is the report we receive from a CERTIFIED deice anti ice person.
    IF there is still precip occurring that kicks in the visual inspection criteria.
    But maybe you missed all that in groundschool or while you were “brushing” the 152’s wings off.

  84. John Shearer

    I add my considered and experiential opinion: The flight crew and specifically the captain is responsible for all aspects of the flight INCLUDING visually inspecting the de-ice procedure before, during and after the de-ice operation is complete. As a well worn airline PIC and SIC of over 30 years in the saddle, we always looked and in most cases if able, went outside to inspect the job done by the de-ice crew. At the very...

    I add my considered and experiential opinion: The flight crew and specifically the captain is responsible for all aspects of the flight INCLUDING visually inspecting the de-ice procedure before, during and after the de-ice operation is complete. As a well worn airline PIC and SIC of over 30 years in the saddle, we always looked and in most cases if able, went outside to inspect the job done by the de-ice crew. At the very least, I sent the SIC or F/E back to visually inspect the wings and outboard nacelles of the B727's and DC9's we were flying.

  85. Nathan Eberhardy

    Wow, my first thought was Air Florida, was that flight 90? I'm so glad that someone decided to speak up and not let the takeoff happen.

  86. Dan Salvetti

    I am a flight attendant, had similar incident on night flight.
    At deicing area near taxi way our aircraft was deiced, Captain made PA prepare for take off. My jump seat located forward of over wing exit, using flashlight, I noticed ice on left wing and frost build up on right wing. Notified cockpit. Informed captain I previously worked on the ramp and had deiced aircraft in the past.
    First officer walked back...

    I am a flight attendant, had similar incident on night flight.
    At deicing area near taxi way our aircraft was deiced, Captain made PA prepare for take off. My jump seat located forward of over wing exit, using flashlight, I noticed ice on left wing and frost build up on right wing. Notified cockpit. Informed captain I previously worked on the ramp and had deiced aircraft in the past.
    First officer walked back to confirm.
    Aircraft deicing truck sprayed glycol second time.
    Again captain made PA prepare for take off. Once again I called cockpit informing captain left wing still had ice. Aircraft wings deiced third time. Captain called me to confirm deicing satisfactory, I replied yes. Flight continued.
    I have confidence in all departments of airline industry, however , it is up to all employees to do there part to ensure we are all safe.

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Dan Salvetti

I am a flight attendant, had similar incident on night flight. At deicing area near taxi way our aircraft was deiced, Captain made PA prepare for take off. My jump seat located forward of over wing exit, using flashlight, I noticed ice on left wing and frost build up on right wing. Notified cockpit. Informed captain I previously worked on the ramp and had deiced aircraft in the past. First officer walked back to confirm. Aircraft deicing truck sprayed glycol second time. Again captain made PA prepare for take off. Once again I called cockpit informing captain left wing still had ice. Aircraft wings deiced third time. Captain called me to confirm deicing satisfactory, I replied yes. Flight continued. I have confidence in all departments of airline industry, however , it is up to all employees to do there part to ensure we are all safe.

Nathan Eberhardy

Wow, my first thought was Air Florida, was that flight 90? I'm so glad that someone decided to speak up and not let the takeoff happen.

John Shearer

I add my considered and experiential opinion: The flight crew and specifically the captain is responsible for all aspects of the flight INCLUDING visually inspecting the de-ice procedure before, during and after the de-ice operation is complete. As a well worn airline PIC and SIC of over 30 years in the saddle, we always looked and in most cases if able, went outside to inspect the job done by the de-ice crew. At the very least, I sent the SIC or F/E back to visually inspect the wings and outboard nacelles of the B727's and DC9's we were flying.

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