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).
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?